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The Suffers, A Houston Funk Troupe, Makes The Big Crossover

The Suffers
Daniel Jackson
Courtesy of the artist
The Suffers

A 10-piece funk band from Houston, Texas has been on a lot of "musicians to watch" lists lately: Horns, guitars, percussion, keys, all led by the sultry, smoky, soaring vocals of Kam Franklin. Up until a year ago, the members of The Suffers had pretty normal lives.

"We had our day jobs, and then on the weekends we'd play shows — sometimes we'd go to Austin or San Antonio or something," says bassist Adam Castaneda. "But then, over time, it morphed into something different. And eventually we had to all make the decision to jump off the cliff together, quit our day jobs and go on the road."

Franklin remembers the exact day that happened for her. "The last day at my day job," she says, "my co-workers had taken up a collection and said, 'Kam's chasing her dreams. Put in what you can, or whatever you think you'd want somebody to give you if you had lost your mind and quit your job.' "

A lot can change in a year. The Suffers' self-titled debut album is out Friday, and this week it joined the elite group of musical acts to have performed on The Daily Show .The band also performed at NPR's own Sweet 16 bash for All Songs Considered last month, in the company of Dan Deacon, Sharon Van Etten, Glen Hansard and others.

Castaneda says the band's distinct sound is partly a result of its roots: Before meeting, the members spent years in plugging away in local bands at all corners of the musical map. "When I joined the band, I was in three other bands: I was in a Latino ska band, I was in a country band and I was in a hip hop band," he says "We're fans of messing up music's genres."

Franklin and Castaneda spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about how that grab bag of influences manifests in The Suffers' music, and why the band does its warmup exercises onstage for all the world to see. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

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