Houston’s ‘The Suffers’ Has Its Own Brand Of Gulf Coast Soul

“I feel like the reason we’ve done so well and we continue to do well is because we kind of just have chosen to embrace our city and embrace our sound.”

By Leah ScarpelliJuly 13, 2018 2:26 pm

After the census of 2010, demographers discovered that a Texas city had surpassed New York and Los Angeles as the most diverse metropolis in the United States. Perhaps, then, it was inevitable that group of musicians like The Suffers would emerge about the same time out of Space City.

There was a terrific local singer, Kam Franklin, and bass player Adam Castaneda. And Castaneda knew someone, who knew someone else – and that person wanted to play with this other person. And, before they knew it, a full-fledged eight-piece band emerged and made its debut. That was seven years ago. The Suffers have come a long way since that early gig, playing a prom in Jackson, Mississippi.

“If you think you’re an entertainer, and you’ve never played for a group of teenagers, you are not an entertainer, because teenagers hate everything,” Franklin says.

The Suffers release their newest collection of songs Friday. It’s titled Everything Here. Franklin calls it Gulf Coast Soul, a label that pays tribute to the band’s roots. Franklin says drawing from Gulf Coast culture — its people, its music, even its food – has helped The Suffers succeed.

“I feel like the reason we’ve done so well and we continue to do well is because we kind of just have chosen to embrace our city and embrace our sound,” Franklin says. “It’s not a familiar sound but, at the same time, when you listen to it, it kind of is.”

At least some Houstonians and hip-hop fans will find familiar voices in “Everything Here,” which features appearances by Texas rappers Paul Wall and Bun B.

Overall, Castaneda sees the new album as a branching out from their first album, which he calls a “homemade project.” In contrast, “Everything Here” involved two producers and a string section.

“I might be able to unclog a drain but that doesn’t mean I can plumb a whole house, so we need to have plumbers come in here,” Castaneda says. “So, we had our specialist friends come in and help out in places that made the record better.”

Production value wasn’t the only sound influence on “Everything Here.” While none of The Suffers were directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, its impact is felt in one of the songs.

“‘After the Storm’ is a song about, basically, trying to make a hurricane boo,” Franklin says. “But at the same time, it’s about extending your hand to your neighbor but in a more sensual way, and telling them ‘hey, I probably should have said this before the storm, but I wanna see you after the storm, I wanna know how you’re doing, I wanna check in on you, I wanna make sure you’re okay in more ways than one.’”

Written by Kevin Wheeler.