Houston-based band the Suffers didn't go looking for fame -- fame serendipitously found them.
The 10-piece funk-soul collective, which formed in 2011, began as a passion project for bassist Adam Castaneda and keyboardist Pat Kelly, who hand-picked local musicians to form something of a dream band. But because all of its members were committed to other groups, the Suffers were largely relegated to playing weddings and the occasional concert. As the band gained momentum, the artists used vacation time from their real jobs to play festivals here and there; they weren't evolving too quickly or really paying any mind to "making it big," which was totally fine.
Then The Late Show with David Letterman called.
"We thought, 'We can't just go on the David Letterman show and go home and do our jobs,'" Castaneda says. "This is the pitch coming straight down the line."
So in January 2015, the gaggle of musically inclined Houstonians working as teachers, NASA engineers, and product managers, among other professions, took the leap into doing music full-time. The Suffers have since achieved one of the most rapid rises to the next big thing, with scheduled appearances at some of the country's most esteemed events such as Sasquatch Music Festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Electric Forest festival this summer.
All this and the band's debut full-length album, The Suffers, just came out in February.
Curious what the buzz is about? You can see the Suffers in action at Kessler Theater Friday, April 22 and here are four reasons why you should.
The Suffers' style is infectious
Leading lady and vocal powerhouse Kam Franklin has described the Suffers' sound as "Gulf Coast Soul," a mix of funk, jazz, soul, blues, hip-hop and anything else that finds its way into Houston's musical melting pot.
"Our sound is heavily inspired by our city," Castaneda elaborates. "All those styles are soul music to us. They may not be the traditional definition, but that's what it is to us."
A brass section featuring trumpet, trombone, and saxophone, and full-fledged percussion and rhythm sections help bring this style to life, providing a groovy, smooth and upbeat foundation upon which Franklin unleashes an avalanche of ear candy. The obvious comparisons are to other powerful females, like Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and the queen diva herself Aretha Franklin.
They have chemistry and cohesion
Juggling 10 different members can leave a wide margin for error, but not for the Suffers. Case in point: The band's self-titled album, which Castaneda says was recorded not part-by-part, but as a collective, all members in one room at the same time. (It was tracked at Houston’s Wire Road Studios and Austin’s ChurchHouse Studio.)
That's not exactly an industry norm, but the Suffers wouldn't have it any other way.
"Sure, that's 10 times more chances for a mistake, but there's a lot of interplay and a lot of gravity between us that probably would have been lost if we had tracked it individually in different rooms," Castaneda says.
"That's how we practiced it, that's how we play it at a show. Why would we do it any different?"
The Suffers are David Letterman approved
Not only did the Suffers perform on The Late Show with David Letterman, but they seemingly stole the host's heart.
"If you can't do this, get out of the business, you know what I mean?" Letterman beamed after the performance, before laying a kiss on leading lady Franklin.
Expect them to get bigger and better
From here, Castaneda says the band is working on a follow-up album and playing outside the country for the first time at Paris' Afropunk Fest. Their album has even hit record store shelves in Japan (though Castaneda admits he has no idea how), and so far, the Suffers have done this all independently. By this time next year, we're betting they'll have wiggled their way into many more ear holes worldwide and will be playing bigger venues. What better reason to catch them on the up and up in a space as intimate as the Kessler? Get 'em while they're hot!
Tickets to see the Suffers at Kessler Theater cost $16-$40. Local rapper Sam Lao opens the show at 8 p.m.