Artist Interview: Kam Franklin of The Suffers

The Suffers are an eight member Gulf-Coast Soul band out of Houston, Texas. We sat down with lead singer, Kam Franklin, after their set at Float Fest July 21st. Be sure to check out their newest record, Everything Here.

How did y’all decide on the name, The Suffers?

“Anybody that you know gets crazy with the grammar, they always like to correct us and say shouldn't it be,”The Sufferers”. We were called The Sufferers and that is not as fun to say over and over and over again.  It is a reference to a movie from the 70s a Jamaican movie called Rockers where in that movie the sufferers are the artists that want to do what we do for a living but they're not rewarded for their art, they are chastised, they’re robbed and berated and yet they still overcome because this is what they love so they keep doing it even though they’re suffering to do it.”

How did all of you meet?

“We met at different times in our lives. Some of the guys have known each other since they were children, some of them met in high school and some met in other bands. The common denominator for us all is that we all played in punk, ska, or reggae bands when we were younger and then we started this one, it was started by the bass player Adam Castaneda and the keyboard player, Patrick Kelly.”

If you could describe your style in one phrase what would it be?

“Gulf-Coast Soul deliverance of big band R&B.”

Was there a specific genre y’all were shooting for when forming the band? How did you end up settling on Gulf-Coast Soul?

Originally the whole point of the band was to do fun rocksteady covers of popular music. We started off covering Bobby Brown and David Bowie then we transitioned into original music. This was the first time they ever worked with me so trying to be a punk band would have never really worked when you would still have a soul singer singing over it. It’s just been this quiet evolution from what we thought we wanted to do as musicians to what makes the most sense and now we’re here and we’ve gone from branding ourselves as gulf-coast soul to now slowly realizing we are going to be this next generation of big band R&B.”

What’s your favorite song of those that you have out now?

“I will say my oldest favorite, from the first record,  is called “Giver” and it's really an immature song when I hear it now. I just wasn't really loving myself and I was giving all of myself to this guy at the time and he just wouldn't love me back no matter what I did and I just couldn't understand why. On this new record, my favorite song is called  “You Only Call When You Need Something” and it's only one lyric and it's super dramatic and has over-the-top background vocals, pedal steel, and organs, but the reason it’s my favorite is because its this proclamation of fuck you, you know, I'm tired of feeling like shit, I’m tired of losing all the time. It took me realizing while writing this last record that I don't have to lose. I  don't have to date bad men. I don't have to have a bad relationship with people that love me because I’m irritated with people that don't. It’s a very emotional thing where you punish those that love you because the people that you want to love don't return it and it's just a weird cycle and so I’ve been working on just overall programming myself and my mood and just trying to make better decisions overall with my life. I think a lot of it started when I turned 30, its weird, you know, they always tell you when you're younger that you'll turn 30 and all of these things are going to change. Then one day you turn 30 and you're like “oh whatever,” you know, and honestly it took me turning 31 to realize what turning 30 did to me and I’m so grateful for it and now I’m in this “I don't take no shit” headspace that i wish i could have had when I was 21 but I’m grateful that at 31 I am now approaching it.”

I know that y’all recently dropped a new album, Everything Here, but could you tell us a little more about it?

“The new record is called Everything Here on our label Shanachie out of New Jersey. It deals with every relationship that affects who you as a person and your growth as a person so it deals with romance, just calling your parents back while you have the opportunity to, it deals with setting boundaries, loving yourself,  telling people when to fuck off and being clear. There’s a song on there called “What You Said” that deals with the context of how you say things, you know, it's sometimes not what you say to a person that makes them upset, it's how you say it or how you did it and being clear and saying “Hey, you know, I have feelings” and I dont think a lot of people realize how valid their emotions are because so many people tell them that they are not worth that or that they’re overreacting and you know we don't always live the same way. Some of us feel very different things and take words a very different way and I always hated the saying, you know “sticks and stones.” yeah, fuck whoever came up with that. Whoever came up with that is a fucking pushover, you know, sometimes you need to defend yourself, not physically, but sometimes you need to be able to say “I don't like being spoken to that way. I don't appreciate being spoken to that way and if you’re going to be in my life that can't happen”

Who are your top 5 artists in the industry right now?

“Nick Hakim he just dropped an album Green Twins that I loved, Joey Dosik: he's affiliated with the band Vulfpeck but has own more soulful with a rock nerdcore vibe, Erykah Badu past, present, and future just because I feel like I learn something every time I listen to her music and she’s just so forward thinking and it makes me sick sometimes how good she is, my friend Lili K out of Chicago who was a former collaborator with Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa but she also works as a collaborator on our most recent record Everything Here. I’ve been listening to a shit-ton of gospel, like OG gospel, just to go back and get a little bit of education. A lot of Kirk Franklin, Kurt Carr, and The Clark Sisters who are the best female group of all time but that's the whole cusp"

Where have you always wanted to perform but have not gotten a chance to?

“The Glastonbury, The Sydney Opera House, Red Rocks”

While we are talking about performances, what's the most memorable place you have performed?

“It seems to always be the same place at least it has been the last few years. And that is Newport, Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival.  Even if im not performing I love going and I hate going to festivals. It's just usually a big look at me kind of thing but Newport was one of the first places we ever played that respected and treated us like we weren’t nothing and every year that I’ve come back and grown as an artist and we’ve grown in popularity and it feels the same.  It’s really hard to see and feel that way at many other places because, you know, they’re all about segregating and not so much by race but like class sometimes even gender. There have been some times where I have to remind people I need a bit more time to change afterwards because I am not a man and have to take clothes off to pee cause I’m wearing a romper or just really silly silly things that people that aren’t in those positions might not think about.”

If you could be a crayon, what shade of color would you be and what would you be called?

“If I were a crayon, I would be green, a darker green with shades of white and yellow in it and I would be called Herb”

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? and then answer it. 

“I would always like to be asked who I would want to collaborate with. My number one ideal collab partner back in the day was Prince but he passed away but my number two choice is Robert Plant, who just released a record so maybe we will overlap at a festival.”

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