Charleston, South Carolina-based folk rock band SUSTO (pronounced “soos-toh”) has been touring nonstop since the release of their 2nd full length LP & I’m Fine Today. MEB Writer/Photographer Cheyenne Varney caught up with lead singer Justin Obsorne for a brief interview about the name of the band, their new album, and more.
MEB: Susto is clearly a word that holds a lot of depth, What would you say is the reason that the word stuck with you and you chose to put it as your band name?
I discovered the word “susto” around the same time that I was thinking of leaving my old band, and beginning to work on what would become the first SUSTO record. The word, colloquially is a Spanish word for fear/fright/panic – there’s a deeper meaning though, in Central America, where “susto” can be more of a cultural/folk illness where someone experiences “soul loss” during and after a traumatic experience; there are religious undertones to the meaning. I’m not religious, but I do find myself lost and experiencing what I would call “susto.” Those times in my life are what I typically write about. It just felt like the most perfect band name and I’m really glad I chose it. I still feel like it fits the message of the band so well. I never thought I’d be so thankful for a band name, but truth be told, the good ones can be really hard to come by.
Your song “Gay In The South” feels very politically charged, Can you tell us about the meaning and inspiration behind it and why you chose to put it on the album?
I always say that our songs aren’t necessarily political, but more socially charged. The problems faced by LGBTQ people, women, and people of color, along with tons of other “outsiders” are social problems first, then political ones second. I think through art we can change society, and then society can change laws.
I was inspired to write this song because I’ve seen and continue to see people close to me face difficulties just being alive when their life doesn’t fall within the cultural rules placed on them (usually) by a racist, sexist and religiously intolerant society. This is something that all of humanity wrestles with. I think it’s important to talk about and tear down the walls that we have built between ourselves over time.
It’s clear you all have a fascination with hallucinogens, do these drugs help you at all with your writing process?
I wouldn’t call it a fascination, but some of us (myself included) have certainly experimented with psychedelic substances and believe in their ability to help humanity, when used responsibly. We don’t trip in the studio (although sometimes we micro-dose, different conversation) but I think our worldview has been shaped by those psychedelic experiences and that certainly comes out in the lyrics and soundscapes.
How has the album been taking off since it’s release?
It’s always a little hard to tell how the record is doing, but it feels like the response has been pretty good. We’re on tour now and people are showing up knowing the words, more people than we’ve ever seen before – so that’s a good sign. I think it’ll be hard to say definitively how the record has been received until it’s been out for a while longer. For now, we are just glad to have it out and glad to be out on the road again playing and meeting people.
There’s a clear shift in sound from the last album to this one, How would you define this change?
I agree, there is a shift between the two records, but I really think it’s just the natural evolution of our band. It’s no fun to make the same album over and over again, so we let ourselves have fun and explore new territory sonically and lyrically. We did the same with the first album and we will do it with future albums too. I think there are certain sounds and themes that will always be present in this band, but I’d prefer that each album be distinct from the others. For & I’m Fine Today we wanted to create this fusion of folk, electronic, rock and world music – I think we accomplished that in a very “SUSTO” way.
What are you goals for Susto in the future?
I’d like to help cause some real positive change in the world, small or large, I’ll take anything that’s positive and helps in the larger human struggle to make the world a more peaceful, loving and tolerant place.
You can catch Susto on tour across the USA and Canada with Hey Rocco and The Lumineers.
* with The Lumineers
† with Heyrocco
January 30 /// Toronto, ON /// The Drake Hotel
February 1 /// Ann Arbor, MI /// The Ark
February 2 /// Columbus, OH /// The Basement
February 3 /// Louisville, KY /// Zanzabar
February 4 /// Chicago, IL /// Schubas Tavern
February 5 /// Davenport, IA /// Baked
February 6 /// Appleton, WI /// Mill Creek
February 7 /// Minneapolis, MN /// 7th Street Entry
February 8 /// Omaha, NE /// Slowdown
February 9 /// Denver, CO /// Lost Lake Lounge
February 11 /// Kansas City, MO /// Record Bar
February 12 /// St. Louis, MO /// Off Broadway
February 17 /// Asheville, NC /// Grey Eagle Tavern
February 18 /// Carrboro, NC /// Cat’s Cradle
February 23 /// Columbia, SC /// New Brookland Tavern
February 25 /// Charleston, SC /// Music Farm†
February 28 /// Grand Prairie, TX /// Verizon Theater*
March 1 /// Austin, TX /// Stubb’s Bar-B-Q
March 2 /// Sugarland, TX /// Smart Financial Theater*
March 3 /// New Orleans, LA /// UNO Lakefront Arena*
March 4 /// Mobile, AL /// Callaghan’s Irish Social Club
March 8 /// Duluth, GA /// Infinite Energy Arena*
March 10 /// Indianapolis, IN /// Bankers Life Fieldhouse*
March 11 /// Cleveland, OH /// Wolstein Center*
March 14 /// Pittsburgh, PA /// Petersen Events Center*
March 16 /// Uncasville, CT /// Mohegan Sun Arena*
March 18 /// Montreal, QC /// Bell Centre*
March 19 /// Quebec City, QC /// Videotron Centre*
March 21 /// Ottawa, ON /// Canadian Tire Centre*
March 22 /// London, ON /// RBC Theatre, Budweiser Gardens*
March 24 /// Des Moines, IA /// Wells Fargo Arena*
March 25 /// Milwaukee, WI /// BMO Harris Bradley Center*
March 28 /// Winnipeg, SK /// MTS Centre*
March 30 /// Saskatoon, SK /// SaskTel Centre*
March 31 /// Edmonton, AB /// Rogers Place*
April 4 /// Seattle, WA /// Sunset Tavern
April 5 /// Portland, OR /// Mississippi Studios
April 6 /// Eugene, OR /// Sam Bond’s Garage
April 8 /// San Francisco, CA /// Hotel Utah
April 11 /// Los Angeles, CA /// Bootleg Bar
April 12 /// San Diego, CA /// Soda Bar
April 13 /// Phoenix, AZ /// Valley Bar
April 19 /// Oxford, MS /// Proud Larry’s
April 20 /// Birmingham, AL /// Saturn
April 22 /// Lynchburg, VA /// Lynchstock Music Festival
April 26 /// Brooklyn, NY /// Brooklyn Bowl
May 26 /// Martinsville, VA /// Rooster Walk
June 3 /// Beach Haven, NJ /// Hop Sauce
August 3-6 /// Happy Valley, OR /// Pickathon Music Festival
September 15-17 /// Bristol, TN /// Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion