Susto has been making noise in the Charleston music scene for a few years, and now, in 2017, they are beginning to get the respect they deserve. After already logging a tour with The Lumineers and Kaleo, they are hitting the road for pretty much the rest of the year. They are currently on a short run with The Head and the Heart, both of whom are making appearances at Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I got the chance to talk Justin Osborne, front man and the founding figure of Susto before ahead of one of their performances. Interestingly, they were fortunate enough to have two time slots on the Hangout Festival schedule, one a late afternoon set on a small stage, and the other an early afternoon set on the main stage. Listen to what he had to say about touring, growing popularity, and why you need to check them out.
Since we at Mind Equals Blown last spoke to you, you’ve wrapped up a tour with The Lumineers, are currently on tour, and have announced dates through September.
Well, actually that’s September of next year.
Wait, you mean you’re going to be touring through September of 2018?
Yeah, I mean, it’s good for us. It’s good to play arenas like with The Lumineers and small and medium sized venues, like those with The Head and the Heart. It’s good to get used to touring. It’s also nice to go back and headline small clubs after gaining that experience. We were playing huge stages on that tour with Kaleo and The Lumineers. We had to learn how to play on that size of stage and learn our vibe at those shows. It’s important not to compromise ourselves. Just because bands like The Lumineers are successful doing what they do, doesn’t mean that we have to replicate that to be successful either. Playing those arenas and having to jump back and forth between them and small clubs made us ready.
You mentioned something I was going to touch on, which was compromising yourself. Your latest album & I’m Fine Today is completely open, honest, and authentic to Susto. Have you ever had any problems with staying true to yourself over the past year or so, on these huge tours and while gaining popularity?
Well, that’s the thing. We want to make sure we stay ourselves. We don’t try to copycat. We got here for a reason. I mean we played “Cosmic Cowboy”, which is a song about f**k the police, every night while on tour with The Lumineers in front of an arena crowd. We knew some people wouldn’t like it and we don’t care. That’s who we are. It’s also important to interact with the fans after our shows. That’s where you build a relationship. But you have to balance that time with ourselves and the fans. People always want to interact with you, but we also need to take some time for ourselves. It’s easy to lose track of home while on the road for so long, and it’s important to bring the same energy every night. We appreciate everyone who comes out to our shows, and we try to give them the same experience each night.
I find the story of how you named the band “Susto”, and your website URL is “Susto is Real”. You seem to embrace who you are as a group at every corner. Is that something you intended to do, or has your passion led to these things falling in line?
Yeah, so “susto” is a term used in Latin American cultures meaning fright and even deeper than that it’s a psychological illness. There’s more to it though. It’s like the human experience. I never intended on naming the band after it, but I pretty much experienced susto back when I had quit my previous band. I was going through a rough patch, and like the meaning of susto, I was not myself. I had also dropped out of school, had a lot going on with my family, and I was moving to Cuba. And then, things changed, and we formed what is now Susto. Because of those experiences, I found it appropriate to name the band after it.
At the time you were living in Charleston, which is where Susto is based out of. Do you all consider it home? Is that where you’re all from?
No, we actually all just ended up there. I went to Charleston for college, a military school for 2 years, and then dropped out in 2010. Marshall was mostly raised in Atlanta and then moved back to Charleston. Jenna and Corey moved back to Charleston after college. Johnny had lived in Japan, then moved to Charlotte before making his way to Charleston. So we all sort of met in Charleston with different backgrounds. I got put in touch with Johnny when I decided to move back from Cuba because he had been working on some stuff with a producer in Charleston.
You have a few shows with The Head and The Heart in Florida before you hit Hangout Festival this weekend. That appears to be one of the biggest festivals you’re going to play as a band thus far, correct?
Well, we played Austin City Limits and Stagecoach last year, but this will be the first major festival we’ve played in the Southeast. It’ll be nice to play one close to home. Plus, I’ve heard this festival pretty awesome, on the beach.
Will you have any free time this weekend? Are you looking forward to catching any other sets while you’re at Hangout Festival?
Yes, well that’s one of the good things about playing festivals is that we build in a day to relax and enjoy. Our set is pretty early, so we get to see whoever is playing throughout the rest of the day. The best thing about festivals is how they treat the artists. We get well taken care of. I haven’t looked at the lineup recently, I’m sorry, so I can’t exactly remember who we’re going to check out, but it’ll be cool to see some of our friends play, like Band of Horses.
What do you mean by friends? I know Ben Bridwell, led singer of Band of Horses, resides in Charleston now, so have you met him and or built a relationship around music?
Yeah, Ben noticed us and reached out early on. He helped us starting out, and has hooked us up with a couple of important people. He’s become sort of a mentor to us.
Just how important are relationships like these, especially for a band early in their career like Susto?
You learn that this is most important to success for a band. Managers and record labels and what not are a great help to a band, but we can relate best to other artists. We artists can help one another out better than anyone else. Creating relationships among artists creates a great community and family that is vital to success.
Susto is a relatively new band, so this answer can be for you or you can answer it for Susto as a whole. 5 years ago, what were you doing? 5 years from now, what will you be doing?
5 years ago was when I dropped out of school. I wrote the first song for Susto, which was intended for my other band at the time. I didn’t know it would end up being a Susto song. 5 years from now I just want to be happy making music. I want all of us in Susto to be happy making music, whether we are still together or not.
Any hard or tangible goals for Susto?
I’m not good at predicting the future and never have been, so I just want us all to be happy and healthy, whatever we’re doing.