Kam Franklin of The Suffers Talks Treating Yourself on Tour and Respect at Music Festivals
The Houston-based eight-piece The Suffers have honed in on a refreshing, funky retro sound that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Since releasing their debut album in 2016, The Suffers have crossed off bucket list items such as appearing on Jimmy Kimmel and playing a NPR Tiny Desk Concert. This summer, the band are set to bring their bold and soulful sound to several festivals around the country, including their recent appearance at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama. During their time in Alabama last weekend, The Suffers frontwoman Kam Franklin chatted with us about everything from their new music to their festival do's and don'ts. Get to know all that and more in our chat with Kam Franklin!
ANCHR Magazine: You’ve cited a bunch of different musical styles as your influences, like rock, country, and soul. What was your first musical memory, like a band you heard or a family member that played music, that got you into creating your own music?
Kam Franklin: It was definitely gospel. I grew up in the church, and gospel was always played in my house. Aside from gospel, R&B...So Luther Vandross, Prince, Aretha Franklin, both her gospel stuff and her R&B stuff. That was the main thing that was always in my ear growing up.
AM: Cool, so when did you first start writing your own music?
KF: Probably around age 12 or 13 is when I started writing lyrics or poems and not realizing that’s what they were becoming. First song that I knew was a song, was probably age 16. It ended up on our last record. It’s called “Stay.”
AM: When did you meet the rest of the band then?
KF: We all knew each other before the band ever even was a thing. We were all in different punk, ska, and reggae bands in Houston. We would see each other and it was always a case of oh yeah, if we could ever play with this person we should. It just never happened. The whole thing was when Adam and Pat were starting the band, it was like let’s get this person and this person. We thought it would just be a fun thing, and it evolved.
AM: Cool, so I saw you guys tweeted that you’re going back in the studio at the end of this month. What secrets can you let me in on about the new stuff?
KF: We’re going to release some new singles before the end of the summer. We should be going back to record the full length before the fall. Right now we’re just trying to decide what collaborations we want to do. What kind of sound we want. Where we want to do it. Really we’re just trying to grow as much as possible, and we’re testing the songs out live to see what works, what doesn’t. It’s been kind of funny.
AM: What have been some of your favorites to play live?
KF: We have this one...the song is about getting to know somebody. And all the things that get you excited about getting to know them. Maybe a favorite TV show, or a favorite band, or rapper. So the chorus for that one is “So what’s your favorite color? Oh you say you like Nas too. You were raised by your mother and her village, oh that's cool. You quote Martin and Friends, I hope this conversation never ends.” It’s just like this...I don’t know, it’s really silly, but it’s playful. There’s a few pop culture references in it, but more than anything it’s just about those times where you used to stay on the phone with somebody all night. A guy that I don’t talk to anymore, but when we first started dating, we had one of the longest conversations I’ve ever had on the phone. I looked at my phone and it said 7 hours. I’m like, I just put in a work shift talking to this dude all night. It didn’t feel like it at all. It felt like maybe an hour or two. I was trying to think when is that last time I talked to somebody for this long, and I realized a lot of men, at least my age, have gotten really lazy as far as the pursuit. Also a lot of women have kind of changed their standards. I don’t mean that in a way that demeans either side, but I feel like once you take the expectations away, the delivery is so much different, and it kind of sucks. I don’t want to chase any people, like come chase me. I’m old school.
AM: So looking at your tour dates, you’re playing so many festivals, from jazz festivals to XpoNential Festival, which is really cool. What are some of the festivals or cities you're most looking forward to playing?
KF: Maybe it’s the same for media, but for bands, when the festival circuit is really heavy, it kind of becomes like a summer camp kind of thing. Where you’re seeing a lot of people at the same time, and it becomes really a fun thing. I just get excited to see some of my friends that are on the festivals. I’ve never been to Lockn’, but I’m excited because my friend Jim James is on Lockn'. Then I’m excited for Whale Rock...it’s the old Beaverton Festival in California. Our friends The Motet and Turquaz will be there. There’s different festival circuits that have the same kind of theme, like Lockn’ will have your Jam Bands and Indie Rock. Then Newport and XpoNential have people that will play more folky festivals, so like your Ryan Adams and Luscious. When you see people you say what’s up, it’s kind of like a fun thing of the circle of friends/colleagues where you rarely see each other because you’re on the road, but they get it.
AM: So how do you stay sane and entertained on the road when you travel so much?
KF: I try to take alone time whenever I can get it. Exercise. Even though I don’t like exercise, I try to exercise as much as I can. I go to the nail shops a lot. I love the nail shops. Self care is so important. When I make friends in other cities, I am very vigilant about following up with them and trying to hang out, because I’m not going to be home for a while. So if I have friends in DC and Atlanta, I’m going to hit them up. It can get very lonely, even though I’m touring with 8 or 9 guys. They’re my friends and my family, but sometimes you want to go see something else. Being with them all the time can be very limited and frustrating. And vice versa, I know sometimes they need time away from me.
AM: Do you have any festival dos and don’ts?
KF: Be respectful of yourself and others. Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. Be nice. I say be nice, as if being respectful isn’t the same, but it’s so different. You don’t have to be nice to someone to respect them. The only reason I say that is because it might come back to you. Say you lose your phone, but you were a dick to that person that saw your phone later on. If you’re not a dick, they might bring you your phone back. More than anything, just try to enjoy the music. I’m not anti-phones at concerts, but I am anti- yawning and not paying attention, or judging other people in the crowd. Let people have a good time.
AM: Anything else that you’re looking forward to this year?
KF: I’m mainly just looking forward to releasing new music. We haven’t released new music since our album came out. So I am just itching to get them out!
AM: Any new band recommendations or new albums you’re listening to?
KF: I am obsessed with Emily King’s last record, particularly the song “Distance.” I love Local Natives and everything that they do. Also just homies. Portugal. The Man just released a new single. My friend Fat Tony. We’re just so happy to be doing what we do and being able to support our friends. Oh, my dear friend Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit, who just released a solo album. I helped him with a song on that, and it’s great and I love him so much.