Started in January of 2012, the “Band of the Month” feature has allowed The Blue Indian a unique opportunity to share some of our favorite bands with our readers. As we move into our fourth year of the feature, we’re eager to continue showcasing some of the best and brightest bands around. Thanks for the continued support!
photo courtesy of artist
“Named after a medical syndrome that’s specific to Latin American culture and roughly translates as “panic attack,” SUSTO lives up to its moniker. The Charleston, S.C., country-rock band specializes in spooked, sneaky songs that often employ single-note guitar licks playing the melody. The best tunes on SUSTO’s 2014 self-titled debut sound like versions of mid-’60s Everly Brothers records, complete with Glen Campbell-esque guitar parts. The excellent SUSTO track, “Vampiro 66,” lays out the thrills and disappointments of small-town bohemianism in exemplary, self-mocking fashion: “Eternal life, well, it ain’t that bad when you’ve got your friends around,” bandleader Justin Osborne sings. “You sleep all day and drink all night.” Osborne and fellow singer and guitarist John Kuiper bring a light touch to their tales of provincial ennui and the lure of rock ’n’ roll — rarely has incipient panic been so gracefully described.” -Edd Hurt (Nashville Scene – June 2015)
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The band came about as sort of a personal project after things with Sequoyah wrapped up, right? Or was it the sort of thing where you found yourself out on the road playing the “wrong” songs and that the things you wanted to say somehow didn’t align with where things were with Sequoyah?
Justin Osborne (all answers): It’s both. I was having a really hard time being in my mid-twenties and performing songs I had written in my teens. I also felt constrained by our fan-base, I wanted to explore some darker more honest themes and find an audience that could appreciate that.
Did “starting over” have it’s share of fears and challenges or was it overall something that you were very excited and encouraged to do?
It was definitely a scary thing for me after having been in one band for almost a decade. At the end of the day though I had a gut feeling that it was the right thing to do and the right time. Most people encouraged me not to start over, but those people were wrong and I’m glad I didn’t listen to them. The people closer to me and those I respect the most knew that it was the right move and certainly encouraged and celebrated the new direction.
Let’s talk about how the band’s name came to be? It was a term I was unaware of prior to finding out about the music, but I’m curious if it was a product of events or interactions in your life or something that you just liked and it stuck?
I was studying Anthropology/Latin American Studies and came across the term “SUSTO” which translates loosely as “panic attack” but literally means a state in which your soul separates from your body. I felt that it was really descriptive of the tone of the project and the liminal state I’d found my life in. I love the name, I feel that the band has really grown into it. It was chosen before the record was finished and I think it’s not only a great name to describe what the project is about but also a great album title for the collection of songs on our debut record.
photo courtesy of artist
How has the music and arts community in Charleston changed over the last few years? And throughout the state? What are a few things you think brought about these changes?
The scene here has changed a lot in a good way. There’s always been a lot of music coming out of the city but I think in the last 3-5 years you’ve seen a lot of new faces moving here and adding to the mix. Folks from all over have definitely added a special presence. Also, a lot of us have been at this now for a while; not just here but in Columbia too. So when you see bands like Brave Baby
, SUSTO, ET Anderson
etc coming seemingly out of the wood work, everyone behind these project have been honing their craft for a while now. Same goes for producer Wolfgang Zimmerman, David Stringer at SceneSC
, Dan at Hearts & Plugs
, and all of the countless other musicians, bloggers, screen printers, photographers, graphic artists, video producers, and booking and management type people that a truly thriving music scene requires.
What’s your relationship with the road like? You’ve been playing shows for more than a decade now.. What’s changed, and what keeps you going back?
It’s been great getting back on the road with SUSTO. I did my fair share of touring with Sequoyah and eventually got burnt out. Time off and away has made getting back on the road a welcome change. Touring is like an old friend, haha, it’s also one of the only things I know how to do. I like it and I really believe in what we’re doing with SUSTO, so it’s rewarding to be out playing the songs for people.
I understand you spent some time writing and playing shows in Cuba during the infant years of SUSTO? What was that like? Any plans to return now that US-Cuba relations have improved?
Yeah, I moved there two weeks after Sequoyah broke up. Like I said, I was burnt out from beating a dead horse and wanted to make a drastic change. I had been interested in Latin American social movements for a while, I moved to Cuba hoping to connect with one in particular and use Cuba as a spring board for getting involved in something that in hindsight probably wouldn’t have been the best of endeavors. I won’t elaborate on that…I’ll just say that almost immediately my course was changed. Day 1 in Cuba I met Camillo Miranda (co-wrote “La Mia” and “Vampiro 66”) and we became close friends. We even recorded a 5 song album called Vampiros In Havana
which I released via my solo Bandcamp
page. So, right away I started getting involved in the music scene, meeting people, writing, recording, playing/going to shows. I got really inspired, for people fervor for life and art. It changed my perspective and bringing that change home with me gave me what I needed to really give %100 to SUSTO. I hope to go back soon, to hang out with the people who taught me so much and to play shows. I miss Havana everyday.
You all have just wrapped up a fairly busy touring schedule, one that included shows with Iron & Wine and your friend Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, as well as a few amphitheater dates with Boston. Two very contrasting sets of shows – plus a number of club and festival dates. Tell me about how it went?
Yeah, we’ve definitely been playing a wide variety of show, which is both fun and challenging. The dates with Boston were a little surreal. Playing huge amphitheater a with a huge “Boston” gong on stage behind you was a pretty fun time for us. Although we aren’t really similar to Boston genre-wise, their fans were very receptive and seemed to enjoy us. We sold a ton of CD’s and the guys in Boston were very nice to us. Then more recently we had a run with Iron & Wine + Ben Bridwell which was a very special tour for us. We all grew up as fans of both Iron & Wine and Band of Horses so to be on a tour like that where you have Sam and Ben collaborating on each other’s music was a unique opportunity that we were very fortunate to have been given. Their fan bases were right up our alley as well and we were able to gain a bunch of new fans while we were out with them. As far as other club shows go, we’ve been seeing our crowds grow everywhere we play and it’s really cool to experience that. We’re just glad that people seemed to be responding to what we do and spreading the word.
Aside from a string of dates around the East Coast, what are the tentative plans for the band for the rest of 2015?
Well, we have some dates in Europe for late summer which will be just me playing solo. Then we start a few back to back tours that run from mid September to early November and cover mostly the Southeast, Midwest, & East coast. We just signed with Paradigm Talent Agency for booking so we’ll see what they have lined up for us ending out the year and going into 2016. Hopefully lots more bands to play with and new towns to visit!
Any good advice for our readers? On life, love, loss, cooking, etc..(one of these is not like the other)
Never throw water on a grease fire, never confuse love with liquor, and always brush your teeth before bed. Also, listen to Hermit’s Victory
‘s new album. Haha
SUSTO – “Friends, Lovers, Ex-Lovers, Whatever” Official Video
SUSTO TOUR DATES
August 9 – Park Tavern w/ T. Hardy Morris – Atlanta, GA
August 13 – New Brookland Tavern w/ Brave Baby – West Columbia, SC
August 14 – Snug Harbor – Charlotte, NC
August 15 – Radio Room w/ Brave Baby – Greenville, SC
August 16 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
August 20 – Jessye Norman Amphitheater w/ Moon Taxi – Augusta, GA
August 29 – Iris Festivalen – Farjestaden, Sweden
September 6 – Notting Hill Arts Club – London, UK
September 7 – The Islington – London, UK
September 8 – The Windmill – London, UK
September 12 – Iota Cafe – Arlington, VA
October 3 – Yellow River Jam – Covington, GA