You need to know The Suffers.
Wrapping Latin beats, hip-hop tenacity, and the smooth vibes of soul and funk into one package, Houston band The Suffers offer a little something for everyone. Their diversity in styles echoes the wide range of backgrounds across the group’s ten members. At the center of the group is Kam Franklin, a frontwoman with unyielding charisma and an incredible voice. Back in March, the group performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and succeeded in impressing the revered TV personality in his final months of hosting the show. Publications across the country praised the performance, and the group’s star has been rising rapidly ever since. We caught up with band member Adam Casteneda for a quick Q&A, which you can read below. You can (and should) catch the band when they play the BMI stage at 3:30 on Sunday.
Landmark: The Suffers are taking the music world by storm. It seems like overnight, you were on Letterman and playing huge bills to sold-out crowds. Has it seemed fast from the inside or was it a long time coming?
The Suffers: The past year, or so, has been crazy. Things have moved so fast. We’ve all been playing in bands around Houston for many years. When we would gig or tour it had to be during our vacations or on the weekends. Eventually, the show schedule started interfering with our days jobs and we all had to make a choice. Once we decided to do this full time, everything started moving very quickly.
LMF: When you started out, did you see all that in your future? Was that sort of acclaim and success something you thought about much?
TS: When we started out I was in three other bands in Houston. Most if the other members were in similar situations. The Suffers started out as a way to unwind and decompress after all the other gigs and rehearsals. We weren’t really thinking about any kind of success.
LMF: What is your vision of the Suffers five years from now?
TS: Hopefully by then we will have released a few more albums and toured the world a couple times. Also, by then I really hope we have a bigger tour van. Shoving all ten of us in there for months at a time can be… interesting.
LMF: You were introduced by the mayor at a concert last year, and you guys have come to represent the best Houston has to offer. What does the world need to know about Houston music today?
TS: That Houston music is awesome. The city is more diverse than anyplace in the nation and so is our music. The city is overflowing with amazing talent. Sadly, many feel they need to leave town to get noticed by the rest of the nation. I hope that changes soon and more musicians realize you can live in Houston and achieve whatever level of recognition you desire.
LMF: You just started a Kickstarter for your new album. Many people think of bands playing TV spots as “made,” but don’t grasp how hard it is to profit in the music industry. Can you shed a little insight on the expenses of making quality music and touring with a large band like The Suffers?
TS: Any artistic career is financially challenging. It’s easy to see the wealthy musicians in the media and assume that all musicians must be living in similar luxury. The truth is that that wealth only happens for an incredibly small fraction of 1% of musicians. The music industry today is also very different than previous decades where rock n roll and excess went hand and hand. In all areas of the business, companies that are involved with music often have stock holders who need to see quarterly profits. Even if they enjoy the music, they can’t invest in unproven bands the way they used to. We’ve been very lucky to have had people take chances on us at key moments in our career. For ten people touring is expensive. The price of gas, food, hotels, agents, publicists and insurance quickly add up. Sharing van seats and hotel beds we get to know each other really well and we’re all very close. I think most other people would be at each other’s throats! Somehow, it works for us.
LMF: Which season best represents The Suffers, and why?
TS: Houston basically has one and a half seasons. We have 9 months of bitter, soul-tempering heat followed by a couple months of pleasant warmth and then inexplicably the bridges freeze for a few days then the whole cycle starts again. We live in the city of seemingly eternal summer. You can’t escape the heat.