The Suffers frontwoman and Houston native Kam Franklin is effortlessly cool. Speaking to her at the listening party for her new EP, Nu Metals, she immediately makes one feel as though you've known her for years.
Franklin's magnetic charm is one of the many reasons why The Suffers are increasingly finding themselves playing bigger shows further away from their home base in the Bayou City. They recently toured Europe and just played two shows in Cartagena and Medellín, Columbia, which Franklin calls "life changing." A huge part of the soul collective's success is Franklin's charismatic personality, which undeniably exudes a tremendous warmth, even to massive crowds.
It's that personality and a sonic change of pace that makes her new EP, which drops Friday, February 9, a winning combination.
Recorded in Los Angeles with Houston ex-pat multidisciplinary artist Hevln (pronounced "heaven") aka Lucas Gorham, it contains four cover songs of late-'90s, early-2000s post-grunge bands The Deftones ("(Change) In the House of Flies), A Perfect Circle ("3 Libras"), Korn ("Freak on a Leash") and Godsmack ("Voodoo").
While a discerning music snob might question her choice of material to record, Franklin has nothing but love for the songs of her youth and it shows in the music, which draws on sultry, slinky synths, manipulated vocal effects, and chillwave elements.
Franklin has even teased a new song from Nu Metals.
CultureMap caught up with Franklin to talk her Nu release, and in advance of PAUSE, a special, multimedia show she's performing Friday, February 9 with local jazz and opera singer Lisa E. Harris at Discovery Green at 6:30 pm.
CultureMap: How did this EP come about?
Kam Franklin: I realized I had about two weeks of free time, so on Christmas Day, I wound up buying a cheap flight to Los Angeles and flew out not really knowing what to expect. When I got there, I stayed with a few friends over the course of that time and I hooked up with my friend Lucas Gorham who goes by Hevln, who used to live here and play in a band called Grandfather Child back in the day.
I had this idea about taking late-'90s, early-2000s nu-metal songs and creating this whole new sound and vibe to where I could present the subject matter and the lyrics of the songs to a group of people that might not have necessarily been into that particular genre of music. When you listen to the music, it’s very, very chill.
It’s a very honest description of what’s going on. There’s nothing really hard going on, but at the same time, the music encourages the listener to relax and at the time, that’s what I needed to do more of than anything. I went in there with this goal to to cater to anybody, but to just relax because it’s something I hadn’t done in a really long time.
CM: Why these songs in particular? You’re taking songs from a genre that many might turn a nose up to and making them cool. Were you a fan of these songs?
KF: When these songs came out, I was in middle school, starting high school. I went to two high schools — Carver High School for Applied Technology, Engineering and the Arts and I graduated from Clear Creek High School in League City. That was where I really got exposed to classic rock, modern rock, alternative and what we now call nu-metal. At the time, I was going through a lot emotionally and that’s when I got exposed to The Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Tool, and Korn. While I know some people consider those bands kind of laughable, a lot of the things they were writing about really resonated with me and their fans.
I’m really grateful for that time and experience because even though that time has passed, it still means a lot to me even though I’m mostly known for doing soul music. It’s a genre of music I respect and love. Some might consider it a guilty pleasure but I’m happy I’m in a position where I’m able to shuffle it around to show these songs are more than 94.5 The Buzz rock. They were popular songs for a reason, for the way that they were arranged, the way that the lyrics were written and because of the truth behind the music.
CM: No diss to The Deftones or A Perfect Circle, but some of the hardcore fans of The Suffers might think, what is this?
KF: I’m sure that there people like that but I will say that anyone that knows me or has been following my career at all knows that I’ve done everything from punk to country to hip-hop. I feel like this isn’t a surprise at all and if it is, people haven’t really been paying attention to the fact that I don’t limit myself when it comes to music. I feel like everything I do should be a challenge. This project included.
When I first started doing it my biggest concern was offending the people who were so deeply in love with the original songs, but at the same time, I felt I was deeply in love with these songs, so if I’m not offended, I’m not going to let that bother me. At the same time, this was for me to have fun. It was for me to — for the second time in my life — to use these songs to get through what I was going through at the time.
CM: Can we expect more solo material from you in the future?
KF: Definitely. This is probably the first solo release I was involved with in about 10 years. This is the first one I’ve done properly. So much has been learned over the years.
I’m in the process of recording original music that I plan to release next year because with The Suffers album coming out this year, that will be a lot of work. With my solo stuff coming out, I intend to tour with that, so I want to give myself enough time to relax and be creative.
CM: Can we expect to hear any of the EP live in the future?
KF: Yes, I’m actually working on the live show. I won’t be doing anything for this particular release before summertime. Mainly because I want to make sure I'm as close to the vision I have for it as possible and I don’t want to rush. I’ve been totally guilty of rushing a process in the past and when I do that, it’s never what I want it to be. For me, being in the game for as long as I have in Houston, if I’m not coming with it correctly, I feel like I'm encouraging other artists to come through and be lazy as well. I don’t want to do that.
CM: What’s next for The Suffers?
KF: We are almost done with our [second] album. We are in the final mixing stages right now and we should be sending it off for mastering in the next week or so. So that will be knocked out and done, which I’m super excited about. The album will drop this summer and then we’ll be on the road. We’ll make sure everyone and their mama knows when it’s coming out.
Kam Franklin’s EP Nu Metals will be available starting Friday, February 9 for download and streaming at all major digital outlets.