Owl and Bear hid out from the heat at Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest and sat down with Nick Zamora and Kam Franklin, two members of the up-and-coming 10-piece Gulf Coast soul band The Suffers.
The Suffers have come a long way in their four years together, from a modest “side chick” of a band to playing on Late Night with David Letterman. In this interview, they tell us why Californians should be paying attention to Texas music.
O&B: So, you’re playing a lot of festivals this summer — you’re playing ACL, you’re playing Newport Folk Festival. But what makes FPSF special for you?
Kam: For me, I’m a local from Houston, and it means a lot to me because I’ve seen it come from the ground up, back when it actually was a free festival on the street. It’s brought a lot of musicians up, a lot of artists from Houston who were coming up in the scene, and it gave them something to build up to.
Nick: I mean, these guys who put this festival on have played a really big part in revitalizing Houston’s smaller music scene. They’ve taken a city where people were skipping — they’d go to Dallas, El Paso, or Phoenix, or Austin, or New Orleans — and they made it a bit more artist centric, they took better care of the people, and it wasn’t such a sketchy situation to be trying to play a show.
O&B: So we are a West Coast blog, and there’s not a lot of love out there for Texas, beyond Austin.
Kam: California showed us a lot of love, actually.
O&B: Really? Well then I guess the question I have is why should Californians listen to Texas music? What are they missing?
Kam: I think we appeal to people on the West Coast because a lot of people go out there to chase their dreams. I think for people to see us, we show that it doesn’t matter where you are, and it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s about how much work you actually do.
O&B: And you guys hustle!
Kam: We hustle. We had everything against us going, as far as this music thing: we’re older, there’s 10 of us, I’m not the fittest, none of us are super fit, so aesthetically we’re not what people are used to seeing. But for those people who want to see something real, that’s the appeal. We work hard, we look like you, but we have a good time, and we’re chasing our dreams. We all had regular jobs up until January. I feel like anyone who lives in California knows how hard it is to live in that state, be successful in that state, feel beautiful in that state when you’re constantly surrounded by standards of beauty that are insane. To see a big group of people who don’t really care about the aesthetics, but care about the music, and are there to provide you with the best possible show — our whole goal is to make people feel something, and you need that. Drugs are expensive.
O&B: That’ll be the byline: “Drugs are expensive — listen to The Suffers.” So, we’re talking about the hustle. There’s been a big splash because of Letterman. What are you doing to keep up the momentum?
Kam: Before Letterman, that record that we’re about to put out, it took so long for us to get it done because we had so much going on with our jobs and with our lives. I’m really excited to see where we go now that instead of having eight hours a day at a job, and two hours a week on music, seeing us reverse it and focus eight hours on music, and just seeing what comes out of that. I feel like the stuff we come up with next is definitely going to be on a different level.
Nick: We’re so lucky to have had so many of the experiences we’ve had. This year, we played in Philadelphia at World Cafe, which was a mind-blowing experience. We were sitting in this studio with this guy that we’ve listened to for years. And when somebody said the word “Letterman” and us together, I was like, there’s no way. There’s something wrong.
Kam: I think for the rest of my life, if anybody tries to talk any kind of shit about our band, the moment anybody tries to underestimate any of us, I’m like, “Well, Letterman liked us.” It’s the best feeling ever.