Growing up in rural South Carolina, religion was a way of life for Justin Osborne. His parents were devout Christians who took him to church on Sundays and enrolled him in parochial schools. It was expected that Osborne’s faith reflect that of his parents. But when he first revealed to his friends and family that he was no longer religious, Osborne felt as though he’d lost himself.
“It was just such a hurdle to get over in my life,” Osborne says. “It was like I lost my family, I lost my friends, I lost my own identity. And in some ways that’s why I named the band SUSTO.
A result of fright, extreme stress or emotional trauma, susto is a cultural condition found in Hispanic populations that is believed to stem from someone’s soul leaving their body. It can result in insomnia, depression and even physical symptoms like fever.
For Osborne, music was his medication in a family that struggled to accept his beliefs, or lack thereof.
“It’s a part of my life that I’ve worked through,” he says. “And the music has been really helpful.”
Although he has been recording music since high school, Osborne began his current project, SUSTO, in 2013. Joined by singer/songwriter Johnny Delaware, the two-man band released their self-titled album on the Hearts & Plugs record label in 2014.
From there, SUSTO has grown with the additions of Corey Campbell, Jenna Desmond and Marshall Hudson on the guitar, bass and drums. Their second album, & I’m Fine Today, was released on ACID BOYS and Missing Piece Records in 2017.
Throughout their songs, SUSTO blends genres like country, rock, pop and punk while Osborne grapples with his worldview.
“It’s really this kind of internal dialogue of just trying to make sense of the world,” he says. “We kind of go everywhere emotionally. I want (the audience) to feel like they’re not alone and that there’s hope in life, and to remember that the highs are only high because the lows are low.”
Osborne, no stranger to the lows of alienation, has used his connection with audiences as a high, filling the void left by his family after his self-proclaimed lack of beliefs. SUSTO has toured with internationally-recognized acts such as The Lumineers and performed at Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California and on CBS This Morning.
“I live for the live shows,” Osborne says. “That’s where it all comes to life. All these people who have been listening to the albums on their own get to come and share their enthusiasm with me and I, and the rest of the band, get to share our emotions that are behind it all with them.”
SUSTO’s 2018 tour includes venues across North America and Europe and brings them to the Hi-Fi tonight at 8 pm.
“We want people to leave not only uplifted but also to feel like ‘damn that was a fun show,’” Osborne says. “We can groove for a moment, we can be explosive and yelling at other moments. It’s cool to electrify a room like that and I feel super fortunate to be able to do that for a living. Hopefully that’s what we’re going to do tonight in Indianapolis.”