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Thee Sinseers and Souldies: A band, a genre, a movement

Collage by Alfonso Marone

I consider myself someone who really enjoys older music. Music from the 50s through the 70s has been a mainstay throughout almost all my playlists. While I’ve also listened to a fair share of newer music, I haven't found a large amount that’s really resonated with my music taste. You can only imagine my surprise when I began to listen to a modern band, Thee Sinseers, with singles having been released as recently as 2019 sounding reminiscent of 50s-70s soul and oldies music. Surely this must’ve been a remaster of some kind. I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. However, upon further inspection, this was the real deal and exactly what I’d been searching for: A modern group with a familiar vintage sound. Furthermore, they were just one group of many, even having whole record labels, dedicated to recreating this sound.

Photo by Alfonso Marone

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to watch them perform live at a smaller performance venue, a club in Little Tokyo yet to open called “Hello Stranger”. I was curious, thinking about what they’d be like as I imagined the way their vintage sound and style of their music came from the analog recording tools used in the studio. However, their live performance was just as unique and they still managed to retain the sound and style of their music. They delivered a captivating and energetic performance. While they have a rather small discography as a group, they also performed pieces by some other members of the band. To see the band in such a personal setting was a truly amazing experience. The use of instruments and the powerful vocals all gave the music a very down-to-earth and natural sound, different from the often digital and computer-produced music of today.

Photo by Alfonso Marone

I also got the great opportunity to meet the lead singer, Joey Quiñones, outside the venue prior to the show.

Thee Sinseers is a part of a genre largely known as Souldies, Chicano Oldies, or Chicano Soul, and are one of the premier bands of the genre and scene. Souldies represent the popularity of genres like pre-Beatles rock and roll, Doo-Wop, and R&B music in Latino/Chicano culture, and a lot of modern bands are keeping the music’s style alive. The band comes from East LA where R&B music is a popular staple of car clubs, classic car and lowrider culture, and is enjoyed by generations of people partaking in the culture. I got into the music myself having enjoyed it at a young age with my grandfather who despite having been from Mexico, enjoyed a lot of the artists in this genre popular in the US and introduced me to a lot of the music from the oldies genre. I was particularly a fan of Ritchie Valens, an artist who is considered to be a pioneer in Chicano rock/oldies like this, and is still widely known in the oldies genre and truly embodies the spirit of Chicano oldies. He made slow ballads and uptempo dance songs that became popular hits and made him a trailblazer as a Latino artist making such achievements at the time. A lot of the music from the Souldies genre can be traced back to the music from the 1950s ranging from Rock and Roll to Doo-Wop, and most importantly a lot of the balladry found in R&B.

This group also started on a music label known for their work in the Souldies genre, Penrose records. Thee Sinseers released one of their first notable hits, Seems Like, on the Pennrose Records label. Pennrose was founded by Gabriel Roth, a record producer and co-founder of Daptone Records, another label with many modern artists releasing music with strong roots from classic R&B/Soul. It is currently the label that is a prime example of the Souldies genre and its spirit. It has many other prominent artists recording on the label such as The Altons, Thee Sacred Souls, and Los Yesterdays. All of these artists take inspiration from the oldies genre and keep it alive through their new modern tunes. While these artists aren't quite yet household names, they’ve established a large and loyal following with many sold-out shows for Pennrose records’ showcases. They play a modern take on a genre of music with many dedicated enjoyers who, even though they may have already or have yet to discover Thee Sinseers and other great groups like this, can resonate with the style and spirit of their music.

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