On Wednesday, March 9, I had the pleasure of talking with Justin Osbourne, the front man of Susto, as part of Beside the Point’s coverage of Savannah Stopover. Justin was fighting off a sinus infection at the time, so I am greatly appreciative of his willingness and cooperation throughout the interview. Justin stuck with me even as Susto’s tour van was almost pulled over. Our conversation showcases a portion of Susto’s playful personality not always evident when listening to their music alone. Geoffrey Gill and I saw Susto perform their final show of their 2016 tour on the main stage of Savannah Stopover on Saturday, March 12. Per usual, they delivered an energetic show, and played some new songs that may debut on Susto’s upcoming EP, which Justin Osbourne mentioned. Beside the Point extends a very sincere thank you to Justin Osbourne and Susto for taking time out of their tour schedule to talk to me.
Phillip Greene: Firstly, talk about the definition of ‘susto’ and why it became the name of your band.
Justin Osbourne: [Susto] is a folk-illness in Latin America. It is also a colloquialism in Spanish speaking countries that means “to take a fright”. The phrase is like, if someone scares you, you’d say “Ahhh I’ve taken susto!” We came up with the name because it literally means when your soul becomes separated from your body… [It is] induced by a stressful atmosphere or situation in your life. That theme seemed to fit all of the songs on the record (the album is self-titled), and some of the things I was going through and the people around me were going through when the record was made.
PG: That’s surprising to me, because it seems like the album has an underlying sense of hope.
JO: Yeah, I think there is an underlying sense of panic, and there’s also an underlying sense of hope. It is a theme that will play out more as the records come out. Everything is tied together. It’s one big story. The first record is about not knowing what to do with your life, and not knowing how to handle the situation, but having hope for the future.
PG: So what can we expect next in Susto’s discography, and how might it differ from the first album?
JO: We do have new music coming out this year. We have an EP coming out this spring, with four or five songs on it. Then, we have a full length album coming out towards the end of the year. It is different, but it’s the same band, just a progression of the sound. Some more electronic and rock ‘n roll type influences. We are trying to be creative when we make a record, and to have fun and push [our] boundaries. It’s something we hinted at on the first record, and there is more to come.
PG: I have seen a lot of Susto merchandise and promotional materials, like hashtags on social media, which read “Acid Boys.” Can you explain Acid Boys?
JO: Well we have a song called “Acid Boys,” and the title comes from a lyric in the song that refers to “…Runnin’ with the acid boys.” Ya know, me and some of the other people in the band and people around us were experimenting with LSD, so it’s kind of a reference to that. We looked for a new meaning and found ourselves in psychedelics.
PG: I understand that you have “Acid Boys” tattooed across your knuckles. Which came first, the song or the tattoo?
JO: The song (“Acid Boys”) came first. Whenever the song came out, I started referring to us as the Acid Boys. We started using the term on social media and then we started printing merchandise with [Acid Boys] on it. Then when the record came out, I decided that I wanted to do something to symbolize to myself that I was going all in and that I was going to do music full time, so that’s when I got the knuckle tattoos.
PG: I most recently saw Susto play at the Music Farm in Charleston with the Heartless Bastards in February. Before the show got started, I noticed that you had to find Johnny Delaware before the set started because he was in the crowd socializing. Then, when he finally got on stage, he had to get assistance from the tech crew at the Music Farm because he got his sunglasses stuck in his hair and could not remove them on his own. What is it like being on the road with someone like Johnny Delaware?
JO: He is sitting right next to me! I think it is a lot of fun. He keeps everybody laughing. He loves touring, he loves traveling and you could say he is quite the lady’s man, too… Johnny?
Johnny Delaware and the other members of Susto proceeded to shout expletives at one another and Johnny, followed by a group laugh, in a barely audible manner. You have to love these guys.
JO: He is a great personality to have….
At this point in the interview, Justin Osbourne told me he would have to call me back, because they were getting pulled over for speeding. The band yelled back and forth between themselves, and concluded that they were indeed not being pulled over, but just being visually reprimanded by a highway patrolman.
PG: You guys have been on the road for a few months now. Are there any interesting stories from the road that you would be willing to share?
JO: Yeah man…Every day is kind of crazy to be honest with you. We have this old ’98 Dodge that I am surprised is even still running. I hope it makes it back to Charleston. We just finished our tour, besides Savannah Stopover. The first night of tour we got caught in a blizzard in Arkansas….That was great. We had to push our van through five miles of snow. Later in the tour, we all had a psychedelic experience together in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We all dove into that world. I won’t really get into that… We have been all over the country, we’ve been everywhere. It’s been a beautiful ride. We have seen the band grow on Spotify and social media just because we have been in front of a new crowd almost every night. People have been receptive. Every day runs together, it is kind of like a time warp out here. We’ve gotten better as a band, and closer as a band too.
PG: Relatively speaking, you guys have not been around for very long – only about two years. Yet you can go to any given Susto concert and see fans singing along to every word. Why has Susto seen such remarkable short-term success?
JO: I think it is a testament to how great of a city that Charleston is, and how people support local art. People are into the local scene – art and music. People like to find new bands, and I think if you are good, people really latch onto you and they want to support that. They want to go to your shows. Charleston is a pretty tight-knit city. At first, our shows had crowds because we have such a tight-knit, large friend group. Having that draw in Charleston has connected us with people in Athens, Atlanta, etc., and it helped us grow our market outside of town. Which is crucial. Also our songs are about experiences that people have in Charleston, so people can relate to it. I am very appreciative of the whole city getting behind us.
PG: I am going to wrap up the interview in classic CYR style, with a round of Yum or Yuck.
JO: Alright, let’s do it!
PG: Kudu Coffee Shop?
PG: Neutral Milk Hotel?
PG: Breakfast for Dinner?
PG: Bernie Sanders?
PG: Side Projects (shoutout to Beside the Point)?
PG: Savannah Stopover?
JO: Definitely a big ole’ fat yum.
Listen to Phillip’s show, Beside the Point, from 7-8 p.m. every Monday only on CisternYard Radio.