DO WHAT U LOVE. LOVE WHAT U DO. BE NICE AS HECK.”
That post on the Suffers’ Facebook page could double as the Houston ensemble’s credo.
“We’re very happy doing what it is we’re doing,” says vivacious frontwoman Kam Franklin. “We get made fun of a lot because people find our big smiles and overall positive attitude onstage a little not genuine sometimes. But at the same time we don’t care. We’re so happy to be doing what we love, that the fact that we get to do it full time brings a smile to our faces.
“I think positivity is contagious — kind of like a really good laugh is. [Laughs] People having the time of their life can’t help but spread that.”
It wasn’t even two full years ago that the “Gulf Coast soul” band’s 10 members were hustling for gigs while holding down day jobs. Bassist Adam Castaneda founded the Suffers five years ago as a cover band for weddings and other paying gigs. He was playing in several bands — country, hip-hop and reggae — and the Suffers started out jamming on a lot of tropical grooves before evolving into a funkier, more soulfully eclectic outfit regarded as a supergroup in Houston’s diverse music community. All members share equally in writing, publishing and band business.
Last year they released an EP (“Make Some Room”), performed on “Late Night with David Letterman,” racked up enthusiastic reviews along the national festival circuit, and won 11 Houston Press Music Awards, including Best Live Act, Best Soul/Funk/R&B Act and Best Song. In February they issued “The Suffers,” their full-length debut, which they’ve been busily promoting on the road. In March, they’ll commence their first European tour. When possible, they’re working on their next album, which will continue the storytelling emphasis evident in songs — and videos — like “Make Some Room” and “Midtown,” which depicts a confidence-sucking encounter with an ex-lover who’s moved on. Instead of Franklin’s bold, earthy vocals being augmented by special effects or flashy editing, their videos visually communicate clear stories set amidst recognizable scenes — kitchens, bars, backyard parties with old folks and puppies — whose human scale serves the songs.
“A lot of times videos today have no type of story to them; it’s just singing, here’s some animation or whatever — and that’s cool; I’m not knocking that,” Franklin says. “But at the same time, I love those old music videos, especially from the ’90s, that would tell a story.”
Unless and until a major label offers them something beyond what they and their business team can accomplish, Franklin says they plan to continue creating music independently.
“We’re doing what we want and we’re doing it our way, and having such a good time doing it. Any band coming after us that’s been told they can’t do it like this will know it might not be easy, but it will be possible.”
The Suffers headline at the Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19; $14.50-$16.50. Australian quintet Jakubi opens. Info: (213) 413-8200. Thesuffers.com, attheecho.com