The Suffers are coming back with music, bringing their retro-feeling Gulf Coast Soul music with them. Harness talked with Kim Franklin of The Suffers during this year’s AFROPUNK Festival – Brooklyn 2019 to learn more about their journey.
Q: What does AFROPUNK mean to you?
A: AFROPUNK is everything really to me. It got introduced to me via Live Journal back in 2006ish. But it was really an introduction to me as far as just the weirdo black community and alternative, and being that I was normal in the eyes of folks that maybe didn’t live where I live. And it’s just so nice to have a sense of community with people that did make me feel like I was just out here being weird. Like I had always been made to feel in the past. But I love that it is a safe space, not only for minorities but for trans people, people that have just been really marginalized over the years. And it’s just a beautiful space to be here and I’m happy to be here.
Q: How many years have you been at AFROPUNK?
A: So we played in 2015 and 2016 in Brooklyn, and we played 2015 in Paris. It is life changing every time as far as just, you leave feeling refreshed and I love that.
Q: You came out with your album, Everything Here, last summer. Do you have plans for new music?
A: Yes, we do have a plan for new music. A lot of the new music that we have in the works is about our comeback. We call it a comeback because we’ve just been through a lot of shit to last year, year and a half. But we want to make sure that when we come back, people that are also on the verge of overcoming some bullshit feel like they have a sound check that they can jam when they’re on their come up. You know, we had $40,000 worth of gear stolen from us this past year, and it really shook us as a band. And you know after anybody steals from you, you just have some trust issues after that. But we came out of it stronger and just more in love with one another and more focused. And we just, you feel empowered as a band and strong and I’m just so grateful.
Q: What is your writing process like? How long does that take for you?
A: Let me start off by saying this: there are no fucking rules. As long as you are writing, writing is the steps that go. Many people never even start. So you’re wanting to, if you’re writing everyday, even if it’s just a little sentence, you did something. I’m that type of writer. I can be like, I listened to this one song and I changed it a little bit. Cool. We did some shit. We made a little bit of progress. It took me a long time to learn that I cannot compete with people that haven’t been where I’m trying to go. Like why? What’s the point of that?
And so when I write, some days I got an idea, it is thought out. And some days I heard the music and it’s inspiring me to write about getting this feeling. Some days I’m just in a bad fucking mood and I want to write it out. But I try to make sure that if I’m writing, it’s not because I’m just trying to write, but that I’m trying to finish lines that are contributing to the overall beauty that is calling. And that as an audience member, you’re able to hear without thinking too hard, but you’re able to still enjoy it without it being like a weird fucking thing. And it’s able to move you without you having to work.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are maybe hesitant about sharing personal work?
A: The first thing I would say is that you could always get a pen name. But more than anything, there is somebody out there that is waiting to hear your story. Because all of us, while we are so different, we are very much the same as far as people out here that just want to make sure they’re not alone. So if you have something to say, something to tell a story, poetry, whatever, there’s somebody out there that is waiting. Waiting for you to share your art with them and that’s what it is. Writing is art. So it can’t be wrong.
Q: What is the dynamic like being a lead woman in a music band?
A: It’s beautiful. My guys are wonderful, and they trust me and allow me to be myself and vice versa. And I am a woman that I didn’t know I could become because I’ve been allowed to shine in a way that women should be allowed to shine. And I feel like you just surround yourself with people that allow you to feel free.
Q: What empowers you as a woman?
A: Other strong women. Survivors. People that had been through shit that you know aren’t afraid to talk about it. Information, that is a good snack. I work best when I’m fed.
Q: What is your mental health journey like?
A: Oh yeah, I had an anxiety attack this morning because I couldn’t find my earring and I ended up burning three batches of biscuits. And so instead of worrying about it any further, I lit up a joint and I took my little ass on a walk. And I fucking had a nice morning and I ate a burnt biscuit and some not burnt bacon and potatoes – that are the reason why my biscuits were burned – and they were perfect. And I feel great. I’m wearing neon, I feel beautiful.
And I feel like the women that are having bad days, I would say allow yourself to have a bad fucking day, allow you to have the bad moments, but you’ve got to conquer that moment and say, all right, we’re good, I’m done. You know what? Cool. We survived, let’s keep it moving. And that’s what it has to be.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to Harness‘s community of women?
A: Yes! Women’s voices are the most important voices. And as a board member for headcount.org, I would like to encourage every woman that supports you and your platform to make sure that they are registered to vote. If they do not know how to vote, if they do not know how to get registered to vote, they get all the information they need at headcount.org. No matter side they’re on, no matter what it is they’re going for, I just want to make sure they know what their options are. That’s headcount.org, and I hope everybody votes in 2020.