PaperCity Magazine

June 2016 - Houston

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JUNE | PAGE 48 | 2016 WE'VE GOT OUR EYES (AND EARS) ON FOUR HIGHLY INDIVIDUAL CREATORS WHO ARE SHIFTING THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE IN DIVERGENT WAYS. ANNE LEE PHILLIPS AND MATTHEW RAMIREZ LISTEN IN. PRODUCED BY MICHELLE AVIÑA. It's a good time to be Kam Franklin. Fresh out of a three-hour early- morning band meeting, she's as cheery as ever on the phone. And, why not? As lead vocalist of Houston's signature band, The Suffers, Franklin is one of the city's most recognizable faces. In a community known for a few dominant genres — chopped and screwed hip-hop, country and folk, a historically important noise and punk scene — how did a 10-piece rock-meets-ska-meets-jazz- meets-soul-meets-reggae group become Houston's biggest band? A major milestone took place Spring 2015, when The Suffers was one of the last bands to perform on the Late Show with David Letterman. Franklin, 28, describes the experience as the most surreal moment of her career. "The past year has been a nonstop rollercoaster for the band and I," she says. "We're out chasing a dream we have all shared since childhood." She cites personal inspirations Thom Yorke ("a dream collaboration"), Robert Plant, Prince, and Chaka Khan — kaleidoscopic names representative of The Suffers' unique sound that crisscrosses genres and eras as recklessly as Houston's no-zoning laws. Franklin, a native Houstonian, grew up on the southeast side near Hobby Airport but has lived all over the city. She spent some time at Texas Southern University. "Both of my parents are happily remarried to other people, and they all live in Houston," she says. "They're super supportive of my career." Her father sang in college. "My earliest memories of him involve him singing Luther Vandross songs around the house. They always encouraged me to pursue music." Although Franklin is the personality most closely associated with the band, the group was actually started by their bass player, Adam Castaneda. "He and the keyboardist, Patrick Kelly, put together a group of musicians for a ska and reggae cover project," Franklin says. "I don't think they intended for it to be 10 people. It just kind of happened that way." Touring as part of a 10-member band is a laborious process. The chaos of coordinating so many people isn't reflected in their music, however. Far from a cacophonous set, a live Suffers performance can achieve a cathartic level of intensity, funneled first through Franklin's vocals — the most singular aspect of a band that cannot be pigeonholed. S he and the group took to Kickstarter to fund the release of their full-length debut record. "Be our record company!" the page declares. The group surpassed its lofty $50,000 goal by nearly $10,000. The Suffers aren't hurting for grassroots support, which is reflected in Franklin's refreshingly optimistic take on the process of recording and releasing a record independently: "Houston is a great city with great independent musicians, and it's time for the rest of the world to know what's up." Since the album's release The Suffers have appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel Live. This summer sees them play a variety of festivals, including the especially noteworthy stage of Paris' Afropunk Fest. For a full list of gigs, go to PHOTO MAX BURKHALTER, HAIR AND MAKE UP BIANCA LINETTE RIVAS, STYLING LESLIE RIVAS-KELLY PHOTO MAX BURKHALTER GROOMING BRANDY CHU, CUT THROAT BARBERS ONES TO WATCH MUSIC EDITION KAM FRANKLIN: LEAD SINGER, THE SUFFERS From left, Jon Durbin, Michael Razo, Jose "Chapy" Luna The Suffers' Kam Franklin

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