Kam Franklin Talks Debut Album + Being the Suffers’ Only Female
Houston might not be known for its huge music scene -- but if the Suffers have any say in it, they're changing that idea fast.
The 10-piece act brings us back to the time when big bands, rock and roll, and soul ruled the airwaves with frontwoman Kam Franklin leading the pack with her powerful vocals -- a Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 2.0 perhaps?
Putting their sound aside, the Texas band brings more to the table than just a nostalgic groove -- they bring an energetic experience to their live shows with tracks like 'Gwan' and 'Make Some Room.' We had the chance to speak with Franklin about their first CMJ appearance, the Suffers' upcoming debut album and what it's like being the only female in the band.
How did the band start?
We were actually all brought together by the bass player Adam [Castaneda]. He had this idea to start this fun kind of jam band with all these musicians. And we've all known each other just from the local scene in Houston and playing in various bands. So when the opportunity came for us to just try this, we thought it would be a once or twice kind of thing and it just turned into what it is now, four years later.
There's a lot of soul and rock and roll going on in the Suffers' sound, especially with your voice -- as well as a big band feel. How would you describe the band's sound?
I would describe our sound as constantly evolving. While we're all in love with soul music and rock and roll, there are so many minds going into the creation of this music that we actually like referring to it as a "gumbo," because no matter what you really put into a gumbo, as long as the temperature is right and the seasonings are right, it's gonna taste awesome.
The Suffers are gearing up to release their debut album, 'Make Some Room.' Can you talk a bit about it, as well as the title track?
So this album is going to be mostly love songs that make you feel something -- be it good, be it sad, be it happy. All we had in mind, when we were creating this, was not only what made us happy but also music that's easy to convey. As for the title track of the album, 'Make Some Room,' it's about making time for those people in your life who you take for granted. For example, your mother. I'm sure everyone has the mom who calls them all the time for no reason at all except that she misses you, wants to hear your voice and make sure you're OK. I'm sure there are people who have moms who will call them every day and ignore the call. When you think about it, your mom's not always going to be there. So you should at least try -- even if it's only for a minute -- to make that time not only for her but also for you because these are the memories you're going to have when she's no longer around. And that process can be applied to many relationships, like your romantic ones, and if you have children, too. People get so caught up in themselves that they forget the village of people who help them get to where they are, and it's that love and respect. That's what that's about.
So is it the band's first time at CMJ and New York?
Yes, it's our first time at CMJ. We're very excited. And as the Suffers, it's our first time playing in New York, and for some, it's their first time ever in the city. So it's really exciting for them.
What are the overall feelings about playing in New York City?
We're just so excited to do what we do and just bring that hammer, you know? We have a few friends [in New York] who have been rooting for us and telling everybody around about us. And New York is one of those places where if you haven't played it or people haven't seen you, they don't really have an opinion yet. And we're all just so eager to just show who we are and have people in New York hear our sound and experience our show.
Are there any places you want to see when you're in town?
Yes, we're trying really, really hard to find some time to head to the Brooklyn Brewery while we're there. We're all big fans of that brand. So we all really want to go and visit, and there are a lot of specialty beers that we can't get in Houston. I think there is going to be a little bit of down time so I hope we can make that happen and check it out.
Being the sole female in the band, what's one advantage and one disadvantage to that experience?
One advantage to that is I feel that I'm able to connect in a way that only a female can do. Women are very, very big communicators, and guys can be very passive and quiet. So anytime we have a fight or any type of disagreement, I'm very quick to say, "Hey, so and so didn't like how you did something. So we need to talk it out because we can't move on with that bad energy." And while they might be hesitant to talk about it right away, I remind them that we're all in this together and we got to work it out. So I try to get them talk about the feelings and knock it out.
And as far as disadvantages, this might be silly to say, but when you're in a group of nine guys, there are no hesitations when it comes to farting. There are no such things that I'd deal with if I were in a room full of girls. Girls would try to hide it or move somewhere else, but guys, it's more of a game for them. And they won't admit it until after it happens.
Check out the dates below for the Suffers' 2014 CMJ gigs (all ET times):
Oct. 23: The Delancey Upstairs -- 10:30PM-11PM
Oct. 24: Rockwood Stage 2 -- 1AM-1:45AM