Somewhere beyond existential dread lays “susto,” Spanish for “scared” but more deeply understood within Latin America as a condition of spiritual trauma, akin to a panic attack. For Justin Osborne, leader of the band SUSTO, songwriting is the vehicle through which one combats life’s more frightening downs, or rather, susto. As it pertains to the upcoming album, Time In The Sun, SUSTO’s first on New West, Osborne is found within the territory of middle life, in between the death of a parent and the birth of a progeny. “We’re all just products of the sunlight, revolving around a big ball of fire,” observes Justin. “I was thinking of the meaning of life as I’m sure many of us were in 2020. I’ve come to believe life is all one big chance happening with no deeper meaning other than what we make of it. Every album is like a timestamp, and Time In The Sun was about trying to express this moment in my life. I was stuck in the middle of losing my father and also becoming a father myself. Through these songs, I’m expressing what it felt like and how it’s changed me.”
The songs were nearly finished when the pandemic cut the end off of the band’s last tour in early 2020, so the time was there to focus in the studio with producer and engineer Wolfgang Zimmerman (Band of Horses) and work through the arrival of Osborne’s daughter, loss of his father, and the treasure of close friendships. Early on in the record we daydream “Summertime” memories of “those wonderful things that happen, but aren’t in your life anymore,” and first single, “Get Down,” tackles the struggles of substance abuse and accompanying mental health challenges of a close friend but with hopeful results as together they move through the dark days.
The middle of record holds the heaviness of “God of Death,” a haunting confrontation of loss. “Be Gone From Me” casts out negativity, and leads into the uplifting “Good Right Now,” the first song written when Osborne found out he would become a dad. The end of the record marks the covenant life has with each of us – there will be good, and there will be bad, but we all move forward together. “I was exorcising a lot of emotions,” Osborne explains. “I hope people connect to Time In The Sun enough that I can keep doing this again and again. I’m just excited to make another record and keep going. Maybe it will help someone work through their emotions. This was my dream at 12-years-old. It’s still what I want to do.”
SUSTO’s brand of dreamy psychedelia is on tour now and “Get Down” is spinning for listeners of KCSN, WRLT, KROK, WMOT, KMMS, WUIN, WNRN, and more. Time In The Sun is out on October 29.
Photo by Sully Sullivan