We were passing around a post-show doobie-joint in Louisville, watching the security guard of the neighbouring property drive the perimeter of his jurisdiction with a burnt out taillight. “We’ll play the new album for ya tomorrow on the way to Nashville” SUSTO frontman Justin Osborne said to me from the front passenger seat. I sat in my same back row seat the next day when we hit the road and I first heard Ever Since I Lost My Mind.
The sounds of silence hang momentarily before the sharp pattern of acoustic strumming brings listeners into the newest SUSTO album. “Homeboy,” the first track on the album, is a rhythmically fluid and lyrically evocative anthem of the rising tide among Osborne and those he’s come up around in the prolific Charleston music scene. It’s a catchy and inspiring track that causes one to consider their potential, be they a musician or otherwise.
Rolling in as a light alternative, “If I Was” will have you shoulder dancing along before the lyrics come in. “If I was a saviour,” Osborne begins, “I’d help all the people get saved/ Dunk their heads under water just to make sure that they’re all okay, they’re all alright.” The song carries on this theme of giving in the lines “If I was a writer, I’d try to suck you all in/ Put out some real page turners that you’ll never ever wanna put down again.”
As the song comes to a close the instruments gradually drift and mingle, seemingly on their own. The band was sharing an LSD trip in the studio and the music took that wavelength for a ride. At the song’s natural conclusion those final notes hung together, floating along in an unchoreographed stream of celestial interconnectedness.
At the midway point is “Last Century,” a powerhouse track that puts SUSTO’s rock and roll aptitude on display. It’s the sort of groovy tune you’ll turn up every time you hear that first sliding note. In the latter half of the song the band drops into another gear, putting listeners under a psychedelic trance of slow-motion rock and roll euphoria before the tempo picks back up and roars into the closing chants; “Hey man, you got the last century, the last century right; Hey man, I’ll see you on the other side.”
You may have missed too many episodes of Dora to understand what “Está Bien” is about, so I’ve gone ahead and written up the drunken translation Justin gave me on the last night I was on tour with his crew in Macon, Georgia. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see how the song is not only aesthetically beautiful but deeply mantric. “I hope Esta Bien can be used as a tool to teach simple Spanish while sharing a positive message” Justin explained to me that night in Georgia, “something parents can share with their kids to teach them something good.”
After tiptoeing through the dreamscape of the seventh track, “House of the Blue Green Buddha,” you will be ripped back to reality when “Livin’ in America” comes on. This song captures the enjoyment of turning up the amps, subsequently pissing off your neighbours and scaring the dog. “It’s meant to come across as sarcastic,” Justin said while he, Van the Good and I smoked a 5 am joint in Macon. “America is fun as fuck. I mean, I get we’re fucked up, but it’s fun.”
And then you’re back, neck deep in the mellow, lost again in the serenity of the album. The title track, “Ever Since I Lost My Mind,” brings a fleeting scent of freedom; the equanimity of nomadity. “This is our fuckin’ hymn out there on the road,” Justin said, looking out the same windshield through which endless miles have passed him by. “You’ve just entered this life” he nodded to newly appointed tour manager, Van, “and you’ve sampled it,” he nodded back to me, “but this has been my life for 15 years.”
Before you know it you’re at the end of the ride. “Waiting on the rain to just stop/ I’m three weeks off cocaine and that’s rough” Osborne sings, shameless in his humanity in the final track, “Off You.” What many connect with in Osborne’s songwriting is his unrelenting and continual honesty. His lyrics offer personal insight that emboldens the understanding that those who struggle within themselves are not alone. “I can’t seem to get myself off of you” are the words the album closes on, shedding a final streak of light on that which Osborne still works to overcome.
Songs unmentioned here were cut for the sake of relative brevity. Among them is the third track, “Weather Balloons,” which was written the day after an acid trip during a Charleston snowstorm that shut the city down. Much of this album can be heard on repeat until your headphones give out. However, when listened to as a single entity, this album reflects the mind of an artist working through his pains who recognizes the beauty and bliss around him.
I was standing outside the door of Rialto Row on my last day in Charleston, still fairly stoned and about to head to the airport. SUSTO was inside for their first full band practice since recording the album. The peak of “Last Century” roared through the door with the same force found on the album. What the future holds for SUSTO remains to be seen but those last lines I heard through the door paint the picture of expectation; “Exercise in the early mornin’/ Let’s try and get one for the radio.”
Enter your email HERE to be notified when the full piece about my time on the road with SUSTO is published in summer of 2019
Support SUSTO with a purchase of Ever Since I Lost My Mind: HERE