“SUSTO is a Spanish word referring to a folk illness in Latin America that Osborne learned as anthropology student, meaning “when your soul is separated from your body,” and also roughly translates to a panic attack. For [Justin] Osborne, the music of SUSTO was something he had to get out into the world.”
Katherine and Zaria got a chance to speak with Justin Osborne of Susto before Hangout Fest! Check out the interview below.
Katherine: You’re listening to WSOE 89.3 Elon/Burlington. I’m Katherine-
Zaria: And I’m Zaria, and we’re here with Susto’s Justin Osborne as part of of Hangout with WSOE.
Katherine: Susto will be playing at Hangout Fest May 19th through the 21st. Welcome, Justin. We’re so honored to have you on WSOE today!
Justin Osborne: Yeah, I’m glad to be talking to you guys. Thanks for calling me.
Zaria: Awesome! So how are you doing?
Justin Osborne: Doing well! I’m on the road right now, which is where I spend most of my time. Um, but yeah-riding down the highway to our next show tonight. We’re playing in Savannah, Georgia tonight but we’re looking forward to getting to Hangout in a couple weeks.
Zaria: Awesome, so let’s get started!
Justin: Let’s do it!
Katherine: We wanted to first start by asking you a little bit more about Susto. So, we know that you spent some time in Latin America. Can you tell us a little bit about the influence of that experience on your music?
Justin: Yeah, so basically I’ve always just been playing in bands. There was a time in my mid ‘20s-I was like 25-and I decided to kind of take a break from all of it, and I moved to Cuba. I lived in Havana for about six months. I was kind of trying to get away from music and step away and kind of just, focus on different things. But then kind of immediately, once I got down there I started playing music with people and going to shows and recording. I also kind of fell in love with the different styles of music they have. In Cuba specifically, the different afro-Cuban kind of influences. Also, just kind of the confessional style of some of the trova songwriters down there. That was inspiring to me, and also my friends I was playing with really encouraged me to come back to the states and give music another shot, so I came back and put out the first Susto record-still doing it. We just put out our second record. So that’s kind of how this whole situation got me in the path I’m on now.
Zaria: Awesome, so I’m actually an anthropology student-
Justin: Oh cool!
Zaria: And we were reading a little about how the inspiration for the name of the band kind of came about. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Justin: Yeah so before I went to Cuba, actually, I kind of had the name. I had a few songs floating around in my head before I left. But I was an anthropology student and I had studied Latin American cultures, and I discovered-or not discovered-I kind of learned about this folk illness, Susto, that they have in Latin America. The word susto literally translates as “when your soul is separated from your body.” In Spanish it can mean something as mundane “to be scared or afraid,” or something like a panic attack, but then there’s something like a deeper psychological folk illness called susto that kind of intertwines Latin American catholicism too. Based on some traumatic event happening to you and your soul leaving your body, you have to go through these rituals to get it back inside of yourself. It’s basically like a state of being beside yourself, and I was definitely feeling like that when I started the project. I think a lot of us feel like that, you know, from time to time so I think susto is supposed to represent that whole side of living and kind of going through the challenges of life.
Katherine: And so another question about the band: how exactly would you describe your sound? I know it has kind of changed a little bit from the first album to the second, but how would you describe your overall sound?
Justin: Yeah, so, you know, I think a good basis genre would be to say like alt-country or either like, americana music. But at the same time, we expand on that a lot. We include a lot of different influences, ranging from electronic music to different types of world music. We also like to have these kind of cinematic moments with big horn sections and string sections, so it’s kind of like an expansive version of americana I think. There’s definitely a lot of rock and roll woven in there too, but I think if you’re gonna start somewhere that’s probably the best way to describe it. Our first record was a little bit more in the americana/alt-country vein, but we really wanted to explore the boundaries of that with our second record and that’s what we did.
Zaria: Awesome! So we know & I’m Fine Today, your most recent album, came out in January. Tell us a little about the album as a whole.
Justin: As a whole, the album is just kind of a narration of the culmination of two and a half years of stories and different experiences that kind of went on, and just kind of like, expressions and dealing with what’s going on in the world too. I think the overall message of the record is kind of that, you know, the world is crazy and there’s all this seemingly bad stuff happening all around us and happening to us as individuals. But at the same time we are fortunate to be alive and to be able to go through existence; to breathe and have relationships with people and converse with people and make art. So the whole message of & I’m Fine Today is that despite all the stuff going on in the world that can be disheartening and hold you back, it’s important to try and realize that you’re still breathing; you still get to be here and be fine today despite all that stuff.
Katherine: Yeah, that’s a really cool message overall. We had read online that you had said that your first album focused more on inward stuff and this one was more about the world beyond, so it was really cool to hear you say that.
Justin: Yeah, you know, I think with the first record there was a lot of self reflection. I was really panicking about my own self and my own life, and where I was going and what was going to become of me. Then through that first record I kind of found a career, started touring, and really being in a band for real. And so, whenever it came time to make the second record, my concern was turned away from myself and to, like, the people and the world around me.
Zaria: Awesome! So we saw that you’re about to tour with The Head and The Heart. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Justin: Yeah! Well that kind of came as a surprise to us. We got the offer in-well, not that long ago-and we’re excited about it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the people, I love their music, and we’re excited to play a few shows with them leading up to Hangout Fest. It should be a lot of fun.
Katherine: So Hangout Fest: what are you most excited to get out of this experience?
Justin: I think we, as a band, we just love playing music festivals. It’s really just an experience that can’t really be matched. You get to meet these other artists that are playing and get really easy access to all the shows and everything too, so it’s a really fun way to be at a music festival. But Hangout particularly I think is gonna be a lot of fun because of the whole beach environment. We live in a beach town so we love hanging out on the beach, and I think being at a music festival and having all the benefits of being right on the coast-you know, having a good time with all your friends and such-it’s an opportunity you don’t get too often. So, we’re excited for that kind of pairing of two things we really enjoy.
Zaria: Awesome! So we’re gonna change gears a little bit and ask you sort of a hypothetical question-
Justin: Ok, let’s do it.
Zaria: If you could collaborate with any band, any musician, who would you choose and why?
Justin: I mean, that’s a bit of a hard one. But I think there’s a lot of different people that all of us in our band would like to collaborate with; the list would go on and on. Um, I’m trying to think right now though. It’s hard to choose. I think it’d be really cool to maybe collaborate with someone in the hip hop world. You know, there’s different people I would choose. I think it would be really fun to work with Chance the Rapper. I know a lot of people would probably say that, but I’m so fascinated by his process, the way be goes about creating-but also the storytelling that’s in his songs, too. I think it’d be really fun, and he seems to have a great disposition too-kind of like a chill guy-and I think that would be a fun collaboration.
Katherine: Definitely. And he’ll be at Hangout Fest so you never know, maybe you’ll run into each other!
Justin: I know, right? Maybe he’ll hear this; maybe I’ll run into him on the beach or something.
Katherine: That would be the dream.
Zaria: So, tell us a little bit about your plans for future music.
Justin: Well, uh, so we did just release our record in January so I guess as soon as you get one out you’re already thinking about the next one. So, we’ve got a bunch of new songs kind of in the works. We’re just kind of ready to get started again, to get back to the drawing board again. With the touring schedule we have, we haven’t had the chance to get in the studio or in the rehearsal space to work out some stuff. There’s not really much to talk about yet except for just a bunch of demos and ideas we’re really excited to kind of, get into and explore and bring to fruition over the next couple of years. So we’ll definitely have something on the horizon coming soon, but we’re all still kind of in the creative planning stages right now. We’re really excited to get to work on something new. That’s one of the parts of our job, to get into the studio and create. That’s kind of one thing that’s enjoyable, getting to reach the fans and travel around and play shows, but it’s always really cool to be in the studio and essentially make something out of nothing.
Zaria: Awesome, well we’re looking forward to it.
Justin: Well, I’m glad.
Katherine: Just to wrap things up, do you have anything else you want listeners to know about Susto or anything else you want to add about yourself?
Justin: You know, I just encourage people who haven’t heard us before to to check our music out. We’re available all over the place, and if we’re coming near you come see us play. If you’re gonna be at Hangout, come catch our set: we’re playing twice. We’re playing Saturday and Sunday so come catch us.
Zaria: Well, thank you so much for tuning into our interview! That was Justin from Susto. Make sure to check out his music, and he’ll be playing at Hangout Fest May 19th to 21st. Thank you so much, Justin! We really appreciated you coming on WSOE today.
Justin: Absolutely! Thank you guys for talking to me, it was great.
Zaria and Katherine: Thanks! Bye.
Justin: Bye, cheers.