“How do we heal from this?” Kam Franklin asks on The Suffers’ explosive new album, It Starts With Love, It Ends With Love Part 1. “How do we heal?” It’s a loaded question without any clear answers, a painful reckoning with the open wounds of racial violence and trauma that continue to plague this nation as we lurch forward from one tragedy to the next, swearing things will change each time only to watch the same scenes play out over and over again. “They keep breaking us like we can’t feel,” Franklin continues. “We’ve all been shouting out since Emmett Till.”
“There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with being Black in America,” says Franklin, “with not feeling safe if you put on a hoodie or even just look at somebody the wrong way. I wrote that song with my friend John Michael in New Orleans, and it was a really therapeutic thing for both of us to speak our truth like that.”
The truth, it seems, has set The Suffers free. Racism, misogyny, and the ugly underbelly of the music industry are all in the band’s crosshairs on It Starts With Love…, but so are growth and evolution and self-acceptance. Written in the midst of a tumultuous stretch that saw the Gulf Coast Soul powerhouse reinvent themselves personally and professionally, the record is a fierce, defiant ode to resilience and commitment, to the passion and drive that brought them together in the first place. The writing here is bold and self-assured, with fearless lyrics and addictive melodies, and the performances are blistering to match, fueled by buoyant rhythms, muscular horns, and Franklin’s hair-raising vocals. Mixed by GRAMMY-winner Adrian Quesada (Black Pumas, Prince), who transferred all of the sessions to analog tape, and mastered by Chris Longwood (Khruangbin, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic), It Starts With Love… is an album for survivors, for the down and out, for the doubted and the written off, but it’s delivered with the kind of faith and conviction that ultimately transcends pain and anger to instead land on something far more triumphant and spiritually rewarding. Certainly there’s a righteous fire burning beneath the surface, but the heart of this record is, as its title would suggest, love: love of the band, love of the music, love of the self.
Founded in 2011, The Suffers built a devoted local following before breaking out internationally in 2015 on the strength of their extraordinary debut EP, Make Some Room, which helped land them performances everywhere from Letterman to NPR’s Tiny Desk. The band followed it up in 2016 with a self-titled full-length that yielded similarly widespread acclaim along with star-making performances at Newport Folk and on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. By the time the group released their 2018 sophomore effort, Everything Here, their arrival as critical and festival favorites was undeniable: NPR praised the “multidimensional, multicultural possibilities of their take on soul,” while The Guardian called the album an “adventurous” collection that “blends 70s R&B, disco, jazz, and contemporary gospel,” and Rolling Stone proclaimed it “an inspired vision of roots music.”
It Starts With Love… marks the band’s debut release for Missing Piece Records.