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The Suffers

The Independent San Francisco

Thursday, March 14, 2019 8:00 PM


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There is a contagious and combustible energy every time the eight-piece wonder-band The Suffers steps on the scene. NPR's Bob
Boilen attributes the band's allure to their "Soul, straight from horn to heart." He adds, "This band is on fire when it's in front of an
audience...but the intensity of their shows are also captured in the studio." Following The Suffers' electrifying late night TV debut
on Letterman in 2015, David Letterman exclaimed, "If you can't do this, get out of the business!" There is something undeniable
about The Suffers (whose name is a reference to the 1978 Jamaican film Rockers starring Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Jacob
Miller and Burning Spear, among others), that instantly hits home with their audiences. "We make music for all people," says lead
vocalist Kam Franklin. "At this point, we've played all over the world and one thing is certain - if the music is good, the people
will enjoy it." Since 2011, the H-Town heroes have been on a steady grind and have no plans of stopping. It seems the secret to
their success is simple. Keyboardist Patrick Kelly confides, "There is a universal groove in the music that we play," while bass
guitarist Adam Castaneda adds, "I don't think any of us are trying to impress anyone with our technical abilities, we just want to
make them dance."
Shanachie Entertainment will release The Suffers' highly anticipated label debut Everything Here on July 13, 2018. Guitarist
Kevin Bernier says, "Everything Here, as a whole, explores the many aspects of who we are as people through songs. We've had
crushes on people, we've had our hearts broken, and we've moved through all the difficult times so that we can experience the
joyful moments." The Suffers have got everything you need and there's no need to look further - a heaping dose of soul, a dash of
reggae, a splash of jazz, a pinch of salsa, a hint of rock 'n' roll and a dollop of hip hop and funk - and that is just a few ingredients
simmering inside their magical Gulf Coast soul. Percussionist Jose Luna says, "The glue that holds us together is our experience.
We have all played with so many bands and musicians through the years that we have learned how not to step on each others
Everything Here, a riveting collection of 15 originals that gives props to Houston (there are even cameos from Houston rappers
Paul Wall and Bun B), explores the many sides of love, celebrates the virtues of individuality, reminds us of the destruction of
Harvey and resilience of the human spirit and declares love for their mothers. All of these themes coalesce into one soulful
soundtrack. The band co-produced the album with John Allen Stephens and Zeke Listenbee co-produced on several tracks.
Trombonist Michael Razo explains, "One of our goals was to have the songs on the album flow or tie into each other. Like
creating an album where you just press play and let it go without having to skip to the next song."
"The Suffers are a contemporary version of the great R&B/funk bands of 70s and 80s...Rufus, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The
Gang, with a powerful lead vocalist in Kam Franklin and spot-on musicianship that is all too rare these days," says Shanachie
Entertainment General Manager, Randall Grass. "They've done a great job of building a base on their own and we at Shanachie
are looking forward to taking them to the next level." The Suffers’ drive coupled with their can't lose attitude and serious chops
have taken them from their beloved Houston to the world stage (they are the first band to break nationally out of Houston in a long
time). Lead singer Kam Franklin has the distinction of being a spokesperson for Houston as she has been tapped by the city to
appear in a national tourism advertisement. “It means a lot to me that the city would trust me in such a grand way to represent
them,” shares the dynamic singer/songwriter. “Houston has played a huge part in making me who I am and introducing our music
to the masses, and for that, we are forever grateful.” The Suffers have played sold out shows in Japan and Latin America, turned
out audiences at the Newport Folk Festival and Afropunk Festival and made believers of just about anyone who has experienced
their live shows. "We're a testament to teamwork and camaraderie resulting in things working out even when the odds are against
a positive outcome," says drummer Nick Zamora. "The wonderful thing about music is that it is ultimate universal
communication," reflects trumpeter Jon Durbin.
The Suffers exploded onto the scene in 2015 with their dazzling EP Make Some Room, which was followed by their critically
heralded self-titled debut in 2016. The highly anticipated Everything Here is the band’s most bold statement yet. Nick Zamora
shares, “We were nervous because we didn’t know how to write an album while devoting so much time to touring and keeping our
personal lives together at the same time. We started doing it when we could; on the road, at home, finding inspiration here and
there. We wrote about our post-9 to 5 epiphanies, relationships and music that just felt good.” As the album began to morph into
creation the band trusted their vision. “I think that the idea has always been to be as honest as we can,” says Patrick Kelly. Kam
Franklin adds, “Our hope is that our fans walk away feeling empowered, resilient, and inspired to live a better life.”
Everything Here opens ceremoniously with a smooth and fun-loving head-nod to Houston. Paul Wall jumps on the intro as the
background vocals sing, “It might not be that pretty but it looks real good to me. It might not be your favorite city but it’s really
got a hold on me.” Kam Franklin says, “Not only does Paul Wall serve as an unofficial ambassador for the city, he is a hard
working artist that brought this song the life we thought it was missing!” The effervescently playful “I Think I Love You” follows
with blustery horns and bluesy vocals. The song chronicles the moment when the universe throws you a curveball in the way of a
new and unexpected love interest. Franklin shares, “This song is about embracing that confidence that comes with not needing to
depend on a lover, while still being open to the possibilities of new romance.” “Do Whatever,” the album’s second single, is a
song the band nurtured for two years before they finally recorded it. During this evolution, it has come to stand as a sort of anthem
for them on living your life on your own terms. It opens with soul-stirring horns, thumping bass lines and Kam laying down the
law singing, "Full on disclosure, I'm not here for exposure. I came to have a good time so let me shine...Do whatever feels right,
all night, alright, alright!" The driving rhythms and hip-hop tinged “The One About Sace” has some fun chronicling the journey of
getting to know someone. With references to Nas and the film “The Five Heartbeats,” Kam asks questions to get to know her love
interest better. The hopping Rhodes, skipping melody and fabulous orchestration on “All I Want To Do” reminds us of the virtues
of following your heart. The song, which Nick Zamora penned while still in high school, showcases lyrics to live by: “If it don’t
taste good, I don’t have to eat it. If it don’t fit well, I don’t have to wear it. And if it ain’t broke I don’t have to fix it.” Everything
Here also highlights the tender ballad featuring lush strings and shimmering percussion, “Sure To Remain,” while “Charlotte”
breaks down the walls of negativity and features Paul Wall once again. Franklin shares, “The demo for this one was written in
Charlotte, NC after a really rough day on the road. A few outsiders tried to break us down with their negativity, but we were not
having it. The end result was us holding our heads up high and proceeding to do what we love most: creating smooth music that
makes us and the masses happy!”
Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August of 2017. Its devastation in many ways are comparable to the effects of Katrina. Despite
the media’s dissipating coverage, Houston is still recovering. “After the Storm” is a song that Kam wrote with her friend Lisa E.
Harris during Hurricane Harvey. The song features Lyle Divinsky, lead singer for Denver-based funk band, The Motet. The
arresting track opens with a percussive heartbeat that stops you in your tracks. Kam explains, “In the days after the storm, the city
enforced a mandatory curfew that meant everyone needed to be in their houses by 10pm every night. While visiting Lisa, we lost
track of time, and ended up having a mandatory slumber party due to the curfew and ended up writing this song.” The Suffers
serve up some sharp-edged funk on the dance-inducing “What You Said,” which is all about communication as the lyrics exclaim
“It’s not what you said, its how you said it. It’s not what you did, it’s how you did it!”
The Suffers are family. Spend ten minutes with the band and you know that the ties that bind them go well beyond the music.
They are truly a democracy in which every voice is heard and respected and they also love their mamas! On the heart-warming
interlude “A Word From Our Mammas,” the band turn the mics on their mothers who are heard confessing their love for their
children. The song “Mammas” very well could rival The Intruders seminal tribute to mama’s everywhere. “Bernard’s Interlude”
features the baritone of pisces, poet and rapper Bun B. Kam’s idea to feature a few MC’s on the recording was inspired by Kanye
West. “I had a vision of getting a bunch of different rappers to do our interludes, similar to what Kanye did on his first few albums
with the comedians. Instead of rapping, the vision was to show a different side of their personalities the world hasn’t seen before.
For Bun, I knew I wanted him to sing. Bun came in, and killed it on the first take.”
The dub and reggae fueled title track takes us through the travails of a devastating breakup and was penned by Nick Zamora’s
brother and former band member Alex, who shared additional guitar duties. The sultry jazz vibes and delightfully unexpected key
changes of “You Only Call” serves as a notice to all those who take but don’t give back, while “Won’t Be Here Tomorrow” is a
real soul/blues showstopper. Kam Franklin’s raspy and ‘take no prisoners’ vocals tell the story of a woman who has chosen to
confront her cheating partner. “It’s a little eerie, but at the same time, it’s empowering,” says Kam. “She knows that he wants to
be with her, so the power is in her hands. So, instead of automatically writing him off, she gives him the opportunity to explain
why she should stay. This was one of my favorite songs to record on the album due to the fact that we brought in a choir of
amazing singers to fill out the song.”
With the release of Everything Here, The Suffers are bound to further endear die-hard fans and make believers of new ones. Jon
Durbin says, “I hope our music helps people and that our songs can be healing and inspirational.” Kam Franklin concludes, “We
make music for ourselves, but the performances are 100 percent for the people. They are the reason we are on the road. They are
the reason we get to eat. They are the reason for what we do. We’d be nothing without them, and it’s something we remind
ourselves of every night.”

The Independent

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