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The Suffers; photography by Shannon O’Hara

Sound Check: Hurt So Good!

by Tara Seetharam | Houston magazine | June 28, 2012

At a Midtown bar, half the members of The Suffers band sip beers and trade stories from their trombone player’s recent 25th birthday. Apparently, festivities included piña coladas, loud Selena music and gallons of nacho cheese, the leftovers of which took days to polish off. “We sound like drunk fatties, don’t we?” asks singer Kam Franklin.

The self-deprecating humor and down-to-earth vibe—despite their rising profile—make the 10-member band, which plays Rudyard’s (2010 Waugh Dr., 713.521.0521) July 6, seem that much more appealing. With just a year together under their belt, they’re climbing the local music scene with their custom blend of ska, jazz and reggae. And this fall they’ll release their first record.

The band, whose name is a nod to a Jamaican movie from the ’70s starring several reggae artists, plucked members from a handful of other buzzy H-Town bands including Los Skarnales and The Handsomes. Franklin says starting the band was a little like the opening scenes of a superhero film. “We got this secret mission,” she says, feigning high drama. “I know who to call!”

Franklin, 25, punctuates the group—ages range from 23 to 33—with her boisterous persona, both youthful and old-soul. As the lone female, she sports colorful dresses and a contagious laugh.

Her voice is equally bold—and unique. She grew up singing gospel in a Baptist church, but joined a punk rock band after high school and later briefly tried her hand at country music. She’s finally at home in The Suffers, where she sprinkles country twang and gospel wails into her rich performances. “This is the first band that allows me to be myself,” she says. “I don’t have to apologize for my sound.”

The distinctive vocals and mix of musical forms has helped The Suffers find an unusually wide audience. A chunk of their set is made of accessible, genre-flipping covers that appeal to all ages; they frequently turn Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step I Take” into a reggae jam, for example. “My mother has come to see us, and [she didn’t leave] in the middle of the show,” Franklin laughs.

Their shows are increasingly popular, with fans eager for the upcoming album. It’ll include “Giver,” a sultry, full-bodied tune about a heartbreaking bad boy. “Let me light your cigarette,” croons songwriter Franklin, a diehard nonsmoker. “Oh baby, I’m a giver.”

There’s no such drama among band members. Even after punching the clock in their side jobs—Franklin’s an analyst at an investment bank by day—they enjoy each other’s company with bright affability recalling that of a sitcom cast. The devout foodies also share photos of their latest food finds in group texts. (Current fave: Korean barbecue truck Oh My Gogi.)

Of course, it could just be their honeymoon phase. “If I were to compare [the band] to anything,” says Franklin, “it’d be your first high school love.”