INTERVIEW: SUSTO’s Justin Osborne talks about touring, Cuba, and Charleston’s music scene!

There’s no question that my favorite discovery of 2016 was SUSTO. Their lyrics are so real it sometimes hurts. I’m most impressed by their ability to tell a story exactly as it happened with such a pop sensibility. Their latest album & I’m Fine Today has been receiving critical acclaim and tons of hype with an upcoming tour supporting The Lumineers and an appearance on CBS This Morning; watch that performance below:

With all that in mind, I was stoked to catch up with them for this interview and I’m even more excited to see them again at Zanzabar this Friday, February 3rd (go here for more details on the show). Keep reading to see what their frontman Justin Osborne had to say about arena tours, Cuba, and who we should be listening to from their hometown of Charleston, SC…

Never Nervous: First things first, who is the new guy? How did he join?

Justin Osborne: New member is Dries Vandenberg, guitarist and frontman from Charleston band, Human Resources. We had been working with Dries a lot for our SUSTO (stories, web series, and he was even been on tour with us for a while as our videographer). When Johnny told us he was leaving the band, we immediately called Dries because we knew we loved touring with him and that he would be a great guitarist/vocalist for the band. It’s been working out great, it’s been a very smooth transition for us.

“Every song and lyric comes from an actual experience, or expresses a specific thought that is typically wrapped around experience.”

NN: Susto’s lyrics seem to be very literal, do the inspiration for these lyrics typically come from real life situations?

JO: Yes, so we make it a point to not fabricate situations for songs. Every song and lyric comes from an actual experience, or expresses a specific thought that is typically wrapped around experience.

NN: You spent some time in Cuba that seemed to inspire your career path; do you plan on going back now that access is easier? A tour possibly?

JO: My time in Cuba definitely pushed me back into music. I had been touring all through my early 20’s and kind of thought that I was done with it. When I moved to Havana, I immediately started hanging with musicians and they pushed me to go back to the US and give it another real try, so I did and it’s been great so far.

As far as going back, we have no plans for touring there but we are tossing around the idea of going down there to do live record sometime in 2018. We are thinking we’ll call it “Live, from the Caribbean Country Music Hall of Fame.” We’ll have a bunch of guests on it and do Caribbean themed versions of songs from & I’m Fine Today. We’ll most likely film it too.

“It’s definitely validating when people mention that they appreciate the lyrics and the message. Some people hate it too though, when you start saying “fuck the cops” and “hell isn’t real” people start tweeting at you”

NN: How have crowds received some of your more “controversial” lyrics, like “Cosmic Cowboy” and “Gay in the South?”

JO: Honestly the lyrics have been responded to very positively so far. I think we are really just vocalizing opinions that a lot of people share but maybe don’t always hear in music. It’s definitely validating when people mention that they appreciate the lyrics and the message. Some people hate it too though, when you start saying “fuck the cops” and “hell isn’t real” people start tweeting at you (haha) so there’s definitely been some negative feedback too. But I haven’t been shot at on stage, yet.

NN: What is Acid Boys?

JO: Acid Boys is a label, a song, a brand, a tattoo, and a lifestyle. We’re everywhere, you’re one, and lots of other people are too. It’s a promotion of responsible psychedelic exploration.

NN: You’re about to head out on a major arena tour with The Lumineers, are you mentally prepared for that? How are you preparing differently than other tours?

“Our goal is just to play our best every night and reach as many people as we can.”

JO: We’re definitely getting prepared for it as best we can, but honestly we can’t really know what to expect until it comes. Our goal is just to play our best every night and reach as many people as we can. That goes for arena shows and club shows.

NN: Charleston has a thriving music scene, who else should we know about from there?

JO: Yes, we are fortunate to live in a place that really supports local music. I’d encourage anyone not familiar with the Charleston music scene to check out Heyrocco, The Artisanals, Human Resources, She Returns From War, The High Divers, Brave Baby, Grace Joyner, 2 Slices, Stoplight Observations, Atlas Road Crew, Hermit’s Victory… literally I could go on and on. There are tons of great bands and artists in Charleston, hard to name them all.

NN: As a touring musician, what is your perception of Louisville and it’s music scene?

JO: I love Louisville, but I’m not super familiar with the scene because we’ve really only played there once. I’m friends with Quiet Hollers and I love what they do. I also have some friends who I met in Nashville years ago that have moved back to Louisville and I love seeing them. I remember the Skull Alley days, and it felt like there was a pretty great scene then. Judging from the last time I came through with SUSTO, it’s still a great city for music.

NN: What are you listening to in the van right now?

JO: Honestly I’m on this kick where I like to drive in silence, but before that and when I am listening to music I like to put on playlists with a whole array of artists. I do love the latest Heyrocco EP Waiting On Cool as well as some great albums from 2016 like Johnny Fritz – Sweet Creep and JPKS – Constant Stranger.

NN: What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

JO: I’m excited for all the exciting things the band is doing this year, lots of really cool opportunities for press and touring, but what I’m most looking forward to is being on the beach this summer with my friends, when we have a few days off here and there. It’s gonna be a busy year all 12 months and into 2018, so I definitely try to savor my time home with my lady and friends. The beach is icing.