The Suffers hit Pemberton via the Letterman Show 

Houston 10-piece soul band play their first Canadian gig at July music festival

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Top 10 Houston band The Suffers call their sound Gulf Coast soul.
  • Photo submitted
  • Top 10 Houston band The Suffers call their sound Gulf Coast soul.

When Kam Franklin met David Letterman on his show in March, the talk show host planted a big kiss on the singer's forehead. She erupted in delighted, volcanic laughter.

Franklin — the lead singer for Houston soul band The Suffers — and her band mates performed on one of the final Late Shows before Letterman's retirement in May.

"We have all collectively come to the agreement that we don't remember the performance itself... we had gone to this zone and were thinking, 'we don't have a record label or a bunch of money. We're doing this on our own...' It felt like just a breath, it went very quick, including the interaction with Dave," Franklin recalls.

"We needed to make a point that night."

They later watched the taping of the show in tears, not least because of Letterman's overwhelmingly positive reaction to the music.

"I was like, 'What did I do to end up here?'" Franklin says.

The 10 members of The Suffers call their music "Gulf Coast soul," which mixes the classic soul style with rock and other influences like Cajun, African-American style and country music.

They are currently on the road, winding their way west just below the Canadian border, from Wisconsin to Montana. They will cross that border soon, on their way to the Pemberton Music Festival, their first-ever Canadian performance.

Franklin previously worked as a trading analyst for an oil and gas company for five years. And the Letterman factor pushed her and the rest of The Suffers into performing full time.

"We started out pretty slow and in the last two years it got crazier and crazier. Once the Letterman opportunity came through, I realized I wouldn't be able to work my day job and tour at the same time. I had to choose one," Franklin says.

Negotiations to appear on the Late Show took place last fall and Franklin gives an interesting insight into how such appearances work.

"This was a five-month process... in January we finally got the call that they wanted us in March, and for it to be worth our while to be on the show, we not only had to release our EP (Make Some Room), but also tour so that people around the country will have heard of us," Franklin says.

By the time they returned from their first tour, in the winter, news of their upcoming appearance had been made public.

"We're all a little bit older musicians, our ages range from 26 to 37, and we all had real jobs before this. We were being told that at 30-something the dream we had at 13 was going to happen now, so kiss your 401K goodbye and get in the van with your friends," she says.

It was worth the risk.

"The weirdest thing I find myself doing now is asking what day it is. I never know because we don't have set weekends anymore. We have two days off while we drive out west," Franklin laughs.

"You get a little frazzled, but at the same time, every time I get a little frustrated I remember this is a dream. Even on my worst days I'd rather be here than anywhere else."

The Pemberton Music Festival takes place from July 16 to 19. Performance dates and times have not yet been announced.

Franklin says "it's not too bad" sharing a 13-passenger van with nine guys. She even feels sorry for whoever gets to sit next to her because of all her outfits.

"But when you have a good soundtrack in your ears and good people in your car it's all fine," she says.

"For the most part we're able to make it work. This is tour number three this year and we're learning what we should bring and should not bring, how many breaks we need to take."

Her compadres include Adam Castaneda (bass), Alex Zamora (guitar), Kevin Bernier (guitar), Cory Wilson (saxophone), Jon Durbin (trumpet), Michael Razo (trombone), Jose Luna (percussion), Patrick Kelly (keyboards), and Nick Zamora (drums).

They had all worked together at various points in their careers, and The Suffers were formed in 2011 as a kind of Houston dream band.

"The idea of working together was always there, but we never pursued it because time didn't work out or we had a lot going on. When we finally all came together it sounded like a very beautiful thing," Franklin says.

Their first full album, The Suffers, comes out this fall.

"The album is probably going to be all over the place. We've got a little bit of rock 'n' roll, a little bit of Latin, a little bit of African-American... It is all representation of the band itself. Even if we were trying to do straight-up soul music, it would never quite be that because we come from all over and input our influences," Franklin says.


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