This year's Free Press Summer Fest proved to be a massive success, with more than 100,000 sticky, sweaty delirious fans in attendance. Diverse sounds from stages large and small played as a summer soundtrack to a weekend filled with short shorts, visits to the water station and the mild scent of funny cigarettes. The flower-crown crowd swarmed NRG Park's Yellow Lot to hear an eclectic mix of national acts like Weezer and R. Kelly, along with some of Houston's trillest rappers and local favorites.
One of those local acts, The Suffers, put on two electrifying shows at the fest just days before they planned to take off on a long and winding summer tour. With the rest of the country catching on to what hometown fans love so much about the 10-piece soul band, especially after their set on the now late Late Show with David Letterman in March, we sat down with drummer Nick Zamora and lead singer Kam Franklin. Ninety-five-degree heat be damned.
Houstonia: There is a lot of local music onstage here at FPSF this year. Is that evidence that Houston is finally getting recognized as a music city?
Franklin: Our biggest breaks have come while we’ve been in Houston.... You might need to find representation somewhere else, but as far as your product goes, you can be successful anywhere.
Zamora: Houston has a good mix, and people forget that a lot of Houston artists have success on so many different scales. Free Press has revived this local music scene, whether it’s electronic or punk.
You're about to embark on a pretty lengthy summer tour. Do you have a preference for playing at home or on tour?
Franklin: It gets a little lonely on the road. You don’t get to see your friends and family, but you end up making friends with other bands, and you get to see them often. But you always play a little better when you’re home. On the road, we come through very hard. People don’t expect a band from Houston to come through as hard as we do.
Zamora: We’re fortunate enough to see so many beautiful places, but nothing beats that feeling when you see that skyline when you come into town.
Franklin: Yeah, I think I almost cried when we were coming home from the first tour. It tugs at your heartstrings.
Is there a pull to leave Houston for a more established music city?
Zamora: People talk to us, and they ask why we don’t leave Houston for LA or New York. No! We’re not gonna leave Houston. We get so much support from the people in Houston. You can either get involved in artist development with marketing and strategy, or you can get sort of this grassroots support, and that’s what we’ve been able to get.
Franklin: A lot of people would think we’re from NOLA or Austin. And they’d always be surprised we’re from Houston. We always have these transplants at shows say, ‘I used to live in Houston,’ or ‘I love Houston.’ Why did you leave? Come on back!
How do you all stay connected to your Houston music roots?
Franklin: We definitely listen to local musicians. Gio Chamba, for instance, is a ray of sunshine. We try to support everyone who supports us. Houston is filled with so many inspiring acts.
And how do you keep the city close to your hearts?
Zamora: Whataburger. We miss it when we’re on the road. We started naturally discovering Whataburgers outside of Texas. We have them pretty much mapped out wherever we go.