The Suffers are from Austin, Texas and this ten piece band is not something to mess with. Their style of music is eclectic, a combination between Rock & Roll, Latin and a lot of Soul. Their integration of horn instruments imposes a relaxed island feeling. I quickly found myself Salsa dancing to the Official Newport Folk Fest Kickoff Party which took place at the Newport Blue’s Cafe on Thursday night. They have come a long way since releasing their EP, Make Some Room in 2015 but I can happily say that they haven’t strayed far from their original sound.
As if the The Suffers positive energy wasn’t harnessing enough on its own, they knew exactly how kickstart those “festival feels”, playing “Good Day” off their newest, self titled album The Suffers. Kam Franklin, the front woman of The Suffers, could not say enough positive things about Newport Folk Festival and how it helped their career take shape, and she shared her graciousness with the crowd every opportunity she had. Citing the festival as a catalyst for their career.
I had the honor to catch Kam on the festival grounds on day two of the festival and was able to ask her a few questions (while she was snaking on some Late July chips and I was chugging coconut water). We agreed it was to the betterment of each other if we hydrated and re-fuled.
What is it like to be a female in an all male band? You seem to have a strong energy about you.
“It’s awesome, luckily I am in a band with a lot of respectable men and I find it very empowering because I have to find a way to make myself heard in a lot of ways that don’t involve music sometimes. I feel like being in a band with this many men has made me a stronger woman. I have to be very clear with my needs and very unapologetic with them.”
I feel like a lot of people deliver unsolicited apologies, “I’m sorry” is a very common phrase that shouldn’t be so common.
“I’m actually trying to take it out of my vocabulary.”
Have you always grown up in an environment that you’ve been a “guys girl” or, as I like to call it, “a dude in a dress”?
“Definitely, but I have also always maintained a huge number of female friends. I think balance is important. I am weary of women who say that they don’t have female friends. I never understood how important it was until I joined a band with this many men … I was a tomboy forever. To have women that support me make life so much easier. My mother is a big component of having older friends, as well so I try to keep women that I meet, that are a little older, around. It’s important to keep women that are older, that have been through the game, around.”
So, you’re big on wisdom. Would you consider yourself an “old soul”?
“Definitely. I get called that a lot, I’m convinced there is a sixty year old woman that lives in here.”
How is van life?
Kam sighs, “It’s tough sometimes, but we make it work! The tour ended yesterday so they’re all on their way back to Houston and I am hanging out here until Monday.”
Who are you most excited to see?
“I love The [Alabama] Shakes, Elvis Costello ..”
Speaking of, have people compared you to The Shakes [Brittany Howard]?.
“All the time, which is weird because we don’t sound alike. I just tell people that they get lazy. We get compared to The Shakes, Leon Bridges and Sharon Jones [& the Dap-Kings]. It’s just black people. You’re not going to call Lucius “Jenny Lewis” or Kris Kristofferson “Dave Rawlings”, people don’t realize that their lazy comparisons come off as racist. If you see raised eyebrows, that’s why. Like, thanks! But, I understand where they’re coming from, with the soul comparisons. You just have two, bigger voice Black women leading bands.”
What struck me most was the influx of emerging artists out of Texas, Houston specifically. Shakey Graves, Leon Bridges, you all … how do you feel about that?
“It’s great. I am happy to be a part of a state that has been ignored for a long time for something other than Country, Rap, or Beyonce. It’s nice to show the world that there is a lot more there.”
Kam’s heart is as big as her voice, and her gratitude is everything.Before leaving our interview she tells me, “I am just trying to be the best person that I can be”.
It’s a good look on you, Kam, thank you for your wisdom.