In May, Texas Monthly published Kam Franklin’s thoughts on gender, work, and what needs to change for Texas as part of our Women’s Voices Project. In her piece, she conceded, “It’s hard to be the troublemaker,” yet she has embraced that role at every turn—onstage with her band The Suffers, via social media, and behind the scenes of the music industry at large.
Franklin’s band—now one of Houston’s highest-profile musical exports—hasn’t always had an easy rise through the ranks; early on, bookers and managers told them there was no way a ten-piece band could afford to tour, and worse still, Franklin endured overt sexism and body shaming. But one of the band’s earliest champions was David Letterman, who in 2015, right after their national television debut on Late Show With David Letterman, jogged over to embrace Franklin and turned to the camera to deliver his verdict: “Oh, come on!” he said. “I’m tellin’ you! If you can’t do this, get out of the business! You know what I mean?!” These days, name the festival, and the Suffers have probably played it—from Hangout and Afropunk to Austin City Limits and the Newport Folk Festival.
Earlier this month, they released their sophomore record, Everything Here. Bun B and Paul Wall make cameos on the album, which fuses soul, R&B, rock, jazz, salsa, reggae, and hip-hop into what the band has always described as “Gulf Coast Soul.” After a whirlwind one-day tour of Austin that featured three separate live performances, Franklin joined us late Monday evening for the National Podcast of Texas, where we had a sprawling conversation about what the Suffers have left to prove, their unwavering allegiance to Houston, and about the terror—and then inspiration—they felt as result of Hurricane Harvey.