The Suffers play Friday Cheers on Brown's Island on June 17 at 8 p.m., with Too Many Zooz opening at 6:30 p.m. 788-6466 or venturerichmond.com. (Photo by Daniel Jackson)
Self-defined as a “Gulf Coast soul band” from Houston, The Suffers return to Richmond for Friday Cheers on June 17. The band — consisting of Kam Franklin (lead singer), Adam Castaneda (bass), Alex Zamora (guitar), Kevin Bernier (guitar), Cory Wilson (saxophone), Jon Durbin (trumpet), Michael Razo (trombone), Jose Luna (percussion), Patrick Kelly (keyboard), and Nick Zamora (drums) — has received multiple accolades for its new, self-titled album, which made Billboard’s December list of “10 Rock/Alternative Albums to Get You Amped for 2016.” Accompanied by a video of the song “Stay,” the write-up suggests: “Think about hearing it performed live at an outdoor music festival this June surrounded by beautiful people as the sun’s going down.” Yes, please. We talked with bassist Castaneda (standing second from the right) recently about life in the up-and-coming ensemble.
Richmond magazine: There are 10 of you. How is touring with that large of a group?
Castaneda: Touring is a blast. For now, we are in a 15-passenger van. Sometimes smells get too real and you miss home, but there’s nothing we’d rather be doing. We all had “normal” day jobs with TPS reports and bosses yelling at us; I think living that lifestyle helps us appreciate this lifestyle. It’s not unusual to see 10 musicians onstage; it is unusual, however, to see all 10 musicians be full-time members of the band. Some may see that as a hindrance, but we see it as a blessing. We have more people to bounce ideas off, more hands to help load, more energy onstage, more sound.
RM: Where did the name come from?
Castaneda: The name comes from a 1978 movie called “Rockers.” It’s the story of Jamaican studio musicians hustling to survive. There’s a scene where the main character says, “I and I a sufferah.” We thought that was super cool. For about a week we were The Sufferers, but we found that to be too hard to say. We shortened it to The Suffers. There’s some grammatical dissonance, but we like it.
RM: Would you call your sound soul revival music?
Castaneda: We call ourselves “Gulf Coast soul.” That means we are a mix of all the sounds of Houston and the Gulf: Tejano, hip-hop, cumbia, country, rock, soul, zydeco, conjunto, reggae, gospel and blues. We do not consider ourselves revival music. We are equally influenced by Kendrick Lamar or Operation Ivy or Fania All Stars as we are by Gladys Knight. We knew that with Kam out front and the horn section, we would draw certain comparisons, but that comes with the territory.
RM: You blew up in 2015, with shows in all the right spots (Letterman, NPR, etc.) and have been on all kinds of lists for “bands to watch.” What’s next?
Castaneda: Lists are great, but we are a live band. In a deep way, we love getting in front of an audience and playing our hearts out. We’re heading to France in June and hopefully we can start playing to more international crowds. Music is a universal language and we want to go talk to people!
The Suffers play Friday Cheers on Brown’s Island on June 17 at 8 p.m., with Too Many Zooz opening at 6:30 p.m. $5. 788-6466 or venturerichmond.com.