If there is a breakout band in South Carolina right now, it has to be SUSTO. The rootsy, laid back vibe of the Charleston band’s new album on the nationally distributed Caroline Records, **& I’m Fine Today** is generating major attention.
SUSTO (Photo Contributed.)
A tour with Lumineers is imminent, and the band just made their network TV debut on a recent CBS This Morning. They’ll be appearing Thursday night at New Brookland Tavern in West Columbia; bandleader Justin Osborne spoke with Cola Daily in advance of the show about their rising fortunes and the new album.
“I’m a little hesitant to celebrate too much, but I’m happy with how it’s going,” Osborne said. “I started playing music and being in bands at 15 and I’m 30 now, and my goal all along has been to be in a legitimate, nationally touring band.”
SUSTO released their debut in 2014 and promptly hit the road, playing club shows all over the country, touring with fellow Charleston act Band of Horses, and building their fan base the old-fashioned way. By taking the music to them.
“I’m not sure where we’ll be a year from now, but we just got back from a short run of sellout shows on a headlining tour,” Osborne said. “It’s good to know there is that level of support for what we’re doing already, so anything else is going to be icing on the cake.”
The new album is a step up from the debut, with extra production flourishes, more added instrumentation including strings, and a woozy psychedelic Americana vibe throughout. If it sounds bigger, there is at least one specific reason for that, Osborne admits.
“The space we recorded in with Wolfgang Zimmerman (Charleston studio wizard and record producer, and member of Brave Baby) was twice as big this time,” He said. “When we recorded the first album he was only using one storage unit but between then and now he got the one next door and expanded.”
Osborne co-produced the album with fellow SUSTO member Johnny Delaware, who has since left the group but whose fingerprints are all over the new recordings.
“I didn’t even know Johnny when I started SUSTO, and his input was on the first album but not like it was this time around,” Osborne said. “We got better at producing ourselves, and we also had Jenna (Desmond, bassist) singing and Corey (Campbell) doing lots of fancy guitar stuff, and neither of them were in the band for the last record.”
The result is a greatly expanded sonic palette on songs such as “Far Out Feeling”, with strings added to the full band lineup, but in many ways it was still a low budget affair, Osborne revealed.
“We coordinated the strings ourselves by bringing in some College of Charleston student musicians,” He said. “We were able to pay them in beer.”
Osborne is the band’s principal songwriter, and he’ll readily admit to drawing lyrical inspiration directly from his life and stories from friends. The way it comes out tends to wind up saying much more, however.
“Some of the songs include a lot of personal storytelling and others are just observations, but in hindsight the goal is always to find those universal truths in what I write,” Osborne said. “The song ‘Waves’, for example, is just me hanging out with my high school friends at the beach and contemplating the beauty of the ocean, the dolphins, and being at peace.”
It is that peace and understanding that drives Osborne these days, he admitted.
“We all are getting caught up in our differences right now and that concerns me,” Osborne said. “There is a contemplative side to this record but also there is hope. People are generally good, and everyone has a reason for their own political leanings but there are way more similarities between us and you can find common ground with anyone.”
Osborne recalled one particular time on a solo tour with just his girlfriend for company, when he came upon a community that made him feel welcome.
“I played a country buffet in Bozeman, Montana at four in the afternoon and it was filled with senior citizens,” He said. “They were really sweet, and we ended up at a house party with people twice our age, playing darts and talking about our experiences, and I slept in somebody’s RV that night.”
For now, Osborne and SUSTO are content finding that common ground with their growing legion of fans, he concluded.
“Hopefully we’re roping people in and getting them involved in what we are doing; we try not to be too lofty but we’re also not afraid to be ourselves.”
Thursday February 23
New Brookland Tavern
State Street, West Columbia
$12 advance, $15 day of show