Hangout Fest kicked my butt this year, but between all the walking and applying sunscreen, I got to sit for a second and ask The Suffers some questions about life, touring, and what it’s like being a band from, my hometown, Houston, Texas.
Watching The Suffers perform was incredible. They have such a unique, but familiar sound. I asked Adam Castaneda, the band’s bassist, how Houston plays a part in their music. “The city of Houston is a big one, and it’s such a multicultural city, it’s one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., maybe even the world. And our band is a reflection of that city. We’ve got Mexico so close and all that culture, New Orleans so close and we have that culture, and of course Texas is known for country music, blues, and southern rock.” Not trying to sound cliche he says Houston is a huge melting pot which plays a massive part in their writing and musical sound. “You’re eating pho and tacos in the same day and going to a quinceanera, and it’s not a weird thing at all.”
While listening to their self titled album you can get a little hint from each location Adam mentioned. Those New Orleans bluesy horns when paired with Kam Franklin’s motown-esque voice makes for a sound which could only be defined as Gulf Coast Soul. Which, yes I stole the term from their Wikipedia page. I’m sadly not clever enough to come up with something which defines them so perfectly.
We asked Kam if being from Houston made it difficult in this industry, and how hard is it going from a Houston band to being a touring national band. Her response: “Even when we’re in Texas it’s ‘oh you’re from Austin right?’ And I’m like no…I mean, I’m nice about it, but I say no, Houston. Because I have a little H-town chip on my shoulder, but at the same time I want people to know we didn’t leave our hometown to pursue this.” Adam comes in, “It’s tough. There aren’t a lot of bands from Houston, partly because, I donno if it’s stigma, but you’re told you can’t do that from Houston. You’re supposed to move to LA, Brooklyn, Austin, or wherever and then do that.” I love how they kept to their roots by sticking it to the man. We can do this from Houston, watch us!
While performing, Kam mentioned how pumped the band was when they saw their name as part of the festival lineup list this year, and not part of the “and more!” section. It just goes to show how far you can come in a year. “You know backstage they mispelled our name? It said The Surfers.” Adam said laughing. He said it’s things like this which keep them humble.
The band has worked so hard, and gave up a lot to be where they are today. I asked them what it was like quitting their day jobs in pursue of their dreams, and Kam gave us an honest answer. “For us to be able to quit our jobs to pursue this full time, I don’t think anyone went in with a light heart. It was a scary thing to do, and it was a very exciting thing to do. But, also this was a milestone as a working musician. We went from those musicians who do it on the weekends once a month, to this is my job…wait what? My dream is my job? I still get a little anxious when I think about it, even though the money isn’t as good as from my last job, YET! It’s an investment and I do truly believe that in time we will be making more.doing the thing we love most.”
I asked the two how touring plays into this, and how important it is to them. Kam said, “Unless you’re one of those bands that can do it by yourself, get the spotify plays, or licensing early on, you’re going to have to do an insane amount of work.” Touring is extremely important and you need to get out of your comfort zone and spread your sound.
Hangout Fest was huge for them not only because their names were on the main list, but because the band members were able to bring their spouses/significant others with them. “For these girls they’re the ones at home alone raising babies, raising pets, working jobs while (the guys) are gone, and the lawns are probably growing. But, when they’re able to join us for things like this, it’s like this is what they’re working for, this is what they’re doing, okay cool. Keep doing it.”
Kam told us she has been single for almost the entire time the band has been together. “The last full time boyfriend I had couldn’t handle it. I mean I’ll date guys occasionally, but if they don’t understand this is first and this is what I’ve always wanted, it won’t work.” I respect her so much for saying this, she’s following her dreams and that takes priority. But, seriously I give props to Kam knowing she’s doing what she loves and not waiting around. During their performance Kam told the crowd if you’re not 100% loving what you’re doing now get out and do something that makes you happy. Whether it’s a relationship or a job, if at the end of the day you’re not all about it, it’s not worth it.