Charleston-native band, Susto, are hometown heroes for the local music scene. Debuting in 2014 with a self-titled record, the “Acid Boys” cultivated a bona-fide following. Describing Susto can be a difficult task. Whether you’re familiar with the Spanish originated word or the band itself, you’ll be balancing a lot of thought. However, you just might find that it’s better to enjoy things rather than try to understand them. I found that to be true in my brief conversation with Justin Osborne, the man behind Susto. We exchanged a few messages on Instagram and email regarding an interview, and Osborne was warm and receptive.
Henry Clark: You’ve just wrapped an acoustic tour and now you’ve announced another tour for the new record. It seems like you waste no time. What ultimately keeps you driven as a musician?
Justin Osborne: Well, I guess you’ve got to hustle and every tour is not only an opportunity to make money—which I need to pay bills, like everyone else—but it’s also a chance to spread the word to new fans and new places. I’m driven mostly by wanting to connect through music with as many people as possible, all around the world.
Clark: What’s special about this tour?
Osborne: This tour is special because it’s the album release tour. Our album is out Feb. 22 and we will be hitting the road for the next 18-24 months in support of the album. The dates we have announced so far are the first leg of the tour and include a lot of dates in US & Europe. I think seeing us on this early portion of the album cycle is cool because it’s all still really fresh, and the rooms aren’t tiny but they also aren’t huge, so it’s going to have a great vibe all around. There’s a lot of excitement that comes along with releasing a new album and that excitement carries over to the album release tour.
Clark: I, along with countless other Charlestonians, will be at the album release show in February. Is there something special for you about playing in Charleston?
Osborne: Of course! Charleston is our home and it’s where the band really got started. We are really proud to be from Charleston and every show we do here is a highlight for sure. You can’t beat playing for the hometown crowd.
Clark: It seems that Susto is reinvented on every subsequent record. The first record was raw and distressed, while also comforting. It featured some of the most authentic tones I’ve heard. The second record, & I’m Fine Today, is a cosmic journey through the south, running headfirst into controversial issues and trippy sounds. Both efforts are fantastic and can be found in any local record store. Bestselling, I might add. The first few tracks that have been released off the new record are sonically different from previous material. Can you speak to that at all? What’s behind this record?
Osborne: I think this new album makes a lot of sense when you hold it up to the first two albums. I think lyrically it’s a progression of my own personal narrative, and musically I don’t think it sounds too far from our other albums. Sonically though, there is a definite difference because this is the first album we’ve ever recorded in a proper studio. The first two albums were recorded in a storage unit on Line Street I’m proud of what we did in the storage unit, but I’m also very excited about the sounds we got recording this album in a real studio. We recorded mostly at Echo Mountain in Asheville, but also one song,“Weather Balloons,” here in Charleston at Rialto Row.
Clark: Most of your songs follow short stories. Do you consider yourself a storyteller of sorts? What’s your creative process?
Osborne: Yeah, I’d say I definitely lean into the storyteller role, but not one of fiction. All these songs are a part of my own narrative, and it’s true, you know? So, it’s not like I’m conjuring stories or tales, I’m just really trying to tell my own story and explain myself. I really do that for my own good, to better understand my life, but it results in songs and albums.
Clark: Anyone who listens to Susto can recognize the inspiration that God/religion, or the representation of which, has on the music. Is that still present on the new record?
Osborne: Not really. I mean maybe a little, but I think I got a lot of that out of my system with the first 2 albums. In the early days of the band I was still very freshly out of a religious lifestyle and it wasn’t an easy transition. I was confused and angry. I’m more at peace about it now, and so I wrote about it less.
Clark: Not to put any labels on you, but where do you see your music in today’s world?
Osborne: (laughs) I really don’t know. Hopefully in lots of people ears.
Clarke: What are your musical and/or non-musical inspirations?
Osborne: I love poetry, and movies, and just living life and looking for beauty in everyday stuff. Musically, I love lots of artists but Cat Power is probably my favorite, or tied with Bob Marley.
Clark: Whose music do you find yourself listening to currently?
Osborne: Really loving Phosphorescent’s new album, also Frances Cone just put out a new album that I really love. Their song “Wide Awake” has been stuck in my head.
Clark: Give me your favorite Charleston bar. For responsible drinking, of course.
Osborne: Royal American is always my go to, but I also love Palace Hotel and Cutty’s.
Clark: Finally, a question that I ask every interviewee, can you give any advice for young artist out there?
Osborne: I’d just say to be passionate, do what makes you happy as much as you can, but also be prepared to work hard for the things you want in life. It can take a while to get where you’re going, so as cliché as it sounds, just remember to enjoy the journey and where you are right now. Also, never, ever, ever give up.
Susto’s album release show on February 21 at the Windjammer. Tickets for the show are sold out, but if any become available, they can be found here. You can follow Susto on Facebook, and check out their new music on Spotify or Apple Music.