Voodoo Interview: How The Suffers vocalist Kam Franklin “Gets Around”

Magda Jurczuk

During last weekend’s Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, The Arcade got the incredible opportunity to meet lead vocalist Kam Franklin of the Houston-based band, The Suffers. Franklin’s energy was palpable before we even shook hands and it continued to emanate from her throughout the interview. This remarkably talented artist comments that she must be out of her mind to be the only woman in the ten-member band, although she calls her membership to The Suffers her longest relationship.

The Arcade: Where does the name “The Suffers” come from?

Kam Franklin: It’s from a scene in a movie where these guys in a band are arguing with their record label because the label is getting all the money and the press and the guys are like “We’re the sufferers. We’re doing all the work, and we’re getting no benefits.” So at first we were The Sufferers but that’s really hard to say and it sounds really rough so we changed it to The Suffers just to make it a little easier. It’s funny because when we tell people and they don’t know what type of music we do, they assume we’re a metal band which gives us a little bit of street cred that we weren’t prepared to have.

The Arcade: How did your group come together?

KF: The base player, Adam Castaneda, was trying to form a little fun group at the time where he took a bunch of musicians that he knew that he always wanted to play together. The timing worked out where none of them [were] working on any projects at the time or weren’t as committed, and when he called me, I thought it was going to be a one-time kind of thing. After the first show and the response we got, we realized, ‘oh man, maybe we should do this a few more times.’ We went from being this fun ska reggae band to this kind of serious soul band.

The Arcade: How would you describe the group dynamic?

KF: We are definitely a family. For ten people to function and have a voice and work the way that we do … it’s not logical. And anyone coming in from the outside will tell us, ‘oh my gosh you guys are great but you’re not going to work because there’s so many of you.’ I think that the people that have made the greatest strides in history are the ones that didn’t listen when somebody else told them that it didn’t make sense. I would way rather try and fall on my ass and have it not work out rather than “I was going to try but a lot of people told me that I’m crazy and I listened to them and I’m just going to hope for the best.” That’s not the kind of person I am. I like a challenge, I mean I surround myself with nine men, I am obviously out of my mind already. I feel like because we function as that family, family stays together, family makes it work during the hard times and family supports each other. We’re almost at four years and people told us we wouldn’t last a year. This is my longest relationship I’ve ever had. I’m just trying to get them to put a ring on it.

The Arcade: How would you describe your genre?

KF: We’re definitely a soul band. But we also take from genres that make us feel something. Anyone that’s listening to us for the first time is going to hear elements of soul, elements of rock and roll, jazz, gospel [and] funk. But at the end of it, we wield it into this cohesiveness that just works. And it doesn’t sound like that soul music you’re probably used to hearing but the emotion is definitely there.

The Arcade: Did you get to see any other artists play at Voodoo this year?

KF: Yes, I got in just in time to see Outkast last night. This summer I did a bunch of festivals including Lollapalooza with my other band, Wrestlers, where Outkast also headlined but I didn’t get a chance to see them because I had to go back early to play a show with The Suffers … I get around. I didn’t think I would be able to see them because of all my engagements so when this opportunity to play Voodoo came up and I found out Outkast was on the lineup, I decided I’m going. 

The Arcade: Have you played in New Orleans before?

KF: No, this will be our first New Orleans show. I’ve been here before though; I’ve partied here. This is definitely one of those dream cities to play. Not that it’s hard to get in here because you hear music everywhere but it’s very hard to get seen in New Orleans by the people that you want to see you. We’ve been given this opportunity to not only play New Orleans but to play Voodoo fest and I’m looking forward to showing what we got and making the most of it.