The five-piece alternative-country outfit SUSTO has supported veteran folk bands such as The Lumineers, Band of Horses and most recently, The Head & the Heart. Now, the group is gearing up for their debut at Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama followed by over 20 headlining shows throughout North America.
The huge success of SUSTO originated by chance, sort of. “I wasn’t trying to go out on the road. I had been in other bands and been burned. I wasn’t ready for that again,” frontman Justin Osborne reveals. “I went to Cuba to study Latin American politics and coincidentally met a bunch of musicians who rekindled my desire to make music.”
Not so coincidentally, “susto” is actually a cultural phenomenon in Latin American culture. The term refers to the condition of being frightened or suffering emotional trauma.
Osborne returned to America and began recruiting people from his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina to help him finish his sound. After touring on his own for a while, these buddies joined the band full-time and together, they evolved into SUSTO.
“We’re in the full swing of things right now. Touring solo is tough. You have to figure out how to captivate the audience by yourself. I prefer touring with the band; we’re supposed to be a band. Where we are now is where we want to be,” Osborne declares.
They’re doing pretty well as a band, too. SUSTO had the honor of supporting indie-folk band The Lumineers at the beginning of their 2017 arena tour. “It was wonderful. Arena tours are very different from what we’re used to. Even at the smallest venue we were playing to at least four or five thousand people,” Osborne says of the experience.
Now that the band has gotten a few major arena tours under their belt, I wondered if they had any pre-show rituals. Osborne laughed as he admitted they weren’t quite there yet. “We always go on stage together. We wish each other a great show and go out there and do it. It’s always the most exciting time, right before you walk on stage. You’ve been waiting all day for that moment.”
No matter the size of the stage, the one thing that stays consistent is the “SUSTO sound.” Between the band’s first self-titled album and their sophomore album, & I’m Fine Today, fans will find a common thread. “We fall into the Americana genre but we go beyond that. There’s a bit of a Gothic vibe to us, which makes sense because we tend to not shy away from the darker side of things or the reality of life in our lyrics,” Osborne says.
“A lot of our fans might peg us as a band that listens to what we make. But we listen to everything from The Weeknd to Jim Croce,” Osborne says of the band’s musical inspiration. “Don’t get me wrong, we listen to alt-country bands like Wilco and Band of Horses, too. We’re trying to teach people to not get shocked by us. You never know what we’re going to do.”