Indianola, Honey Smoke

All Ages
SUSTO at Hargray Capitol Theatre

Mobility has always helped define America. Don't settle for where you start. Find a new town, new coast, or new state of mind -- then make it yours. "We export this idea of getting in your car and going somewhere, trying to find something new, bouncing around," says Justin Osborne. "We live in some strange, crazy times. There is a sense of darkness. But I'm crisscrossing the country, and people are good and fun. There is a lot of beauty everywhere. I think not forgetting that is important."

Osborne is home in Charleston, South Carolina, reflecting on the personal journey and cultural climate that have led to Ever Since I Lost My Mind, the third record and label debut for his acclaimed project SUSTO. The album is a resounding triumph: a mix of new partnerships and collaborations with old friends, all anchored by Osborne's perceptive songs that explore connection, loss, and transience -- and the pain and joy each brings.

"Ever Since I Lost My Mind is very personal. This collection of songs came together over the course of a couple of years, and they all represent different moments," he says. "It felt cathartic writing all of them, and they were also all fun in different ways."

With a rock-rooted sound that doesn't shy away from radio-ready hooks, SUSTO keeps listeners engaged by refusing to occupy an easily defined space. Produced by Ian Fitchuck (Kacey Musgraves, Ruston Kelly) and featuring key input from Osborne's longtime creative sounding board Wolfgang Zimmerman, Ever Since I Lost My Mind defiantly experiments with synth embellishments, Latin heart, guileless folk, and more. Osborne's mellow vocals comfort without losing the ability to surprise -- delicate croons, growls, and occasional screams take turns.

Osborne wrote his first songs as a 14-year-old in small town South Carolina, sneaking time with his late grandfather's parlor guitar that his parents had actually forbidden him and his three rowdy brothers to touch. "So I'd go steal it out of my dad's closet whenever they were out of the house," he recalls. "It only had like three strings on it. I remember figuring out how to do barre chords, and I wrote a three-chord song about a girl I liked." Drawn to music and supported by parents who just hadn't wanted their boys to break a family heirloom, Osborne played in bands throughout high school, military school, and college.

But SUSTO didn't begin until Osborne thought he was walking away from music for good. Burned out after years of self-booking, self-management, and a relentless grind, he had played a farewell show with his then-band and was prepping for a move to Cuba. He set up an online home for SUSTO as a holding tank for demos he couldn't quite bear to toss.

When Osborne moved to Havana as part of a study abroad opportunity, he thought he was abandoning music for anthropology. But the Cuban musicians and artists he befriended had other ideas. They were among the first to see that SUSTO -- and the music that would ultimately fuel it -- captured him too well to remain an afterthought. Re-energized, he returned to the States half a year later and recorded SUSTO's first album. Just after the release of the band's self-titled debut album, Osborne faced a clear choice. "It was a weird moment. I just had to finally quit keeping one foot out of music and dive in. So, I got knuckle tattoos and haven't stopped trying to make this work since then," he says with a laugh. SUSTO's acclaimed sophomore album & I'm Fine Today made it even more clear that music and Osborne were meant to be.

In Latin American cultures, the word susto describes an intense fear understood as a condition of the soul -- an ongoing, spiritual panic attack. All of the letters of susto also appear in Osborne's full name. "SUSTO was this combination of phonetics and meaning -- it felt like me, like a name for myself," he says. "I chose the name SUSTO for the project because the meaning behind the word -- that deep fright -- was something I was experiencing, and songwriting felt like it was helping me cure it by helping me to process what was happening. Personally, it was a time of so many powerful transitions: abandoning my religion, losing touch with my family, and just having a general sense of being lost, without direction."

That nod to transition reverberates loudly throughout Ever Since I Lost My Mind. While SUSTO began as a band and still benefits from collaboration with peers, the new record also positions the project finally and firmly as what it's really always been: Osborne's vision. "I come from a background of being in bands, so it's hard for me to be comfortable taking complete control," he says. "Even being the only person in a promo photo was a hard thing for me to get used to. It's taken years for me to realize what SUSTO should be -- what it really is."

"Homeboy" kicks off the album. Osborne contemplates friends moving on from Charleston over jaunty acoustic guitar that evokes exploratory rambling before heavier electric guitar adds gravity to all the leaving. He didn't want loved ones to go, but then realized that in many ways -- even though Charleston remains home base -- he'd already left. "The whole album deals with these pulling-apart decisions -- not in a negative or a positive way, but in a reflective way," he says.

Sauntering "If I Was" is a lighthearted stroll through different identities and aspirations, followed by the optimistic yearning of "Weather Balloons," buoyed by punchy percussion and keys. Driving "Last Century" revels in timeless bonds revealed by details: "I can see you in the driveway, smiling, licking your left front tooth," he sings.

"Livin' in America" extols beloved U.S. cities and finding the right people in them. It's a self- aware ode, both gently sarcastic and totally sincere -- a timely love letter to a country whose defining quality today is often turmoil. Stripped down "Cocaine" skulks through dark corners, while "No Way Out" lounges in captivity that Osborne has no urge to escape. Gorgeous album closer "Off You" is bright and honest, an intimate moment of clarity mid-transition.

One of Osborne's favorite tracks, "Manual Transmission," was written on a cold day on tour in Norway when he was hounded by homesickness. He plays lead guitar on the track and relished the opportunity to express himself via aching strings in addition to words. "Esta Bien" soars sweetly and entirely in Spanish. "House of the Blue Green Buddha" is a love song that lands because of its whimsical specificity -- details from the home and closeness Osborne and his wife share.

The title track is a stunner: sad but hopeful, content but restless, nostalgic but progressive -- a beautiful encapsulation of the push and pull that shapes the entire record. Osborne's experiences with psychedelics also play a role, both in "Ever Since I Lost My Mind" and the album as a whole. Warned as a child that drugs would make him lose his mind, he now believes in the freedom and self-discovery that can come with letting go in various ways. He is also convinced that some people from his past think he's insane. "They think I'm a crazy hippie, and really, in a lot of ways, I guess I am," he says with a smile. "I feel more loving and more understanding."

That acceptance of himself and others may be SUSTO's defining trait. "I can lose my mind on stage sometimes -- I will break down and cry or have to keep myself from doing it," Osborne says. "I think about my grandad's guitar, all the bands I've been in, and just seeing these people responding to and connecting with the songs..." He trails off before grinning again and adding, "I just feel so incredibly lucky."

“There’s a duality present in a lot of these songs,” says Indianola’s Owen Beverly. “There’s a push and a pull that’s constantly going on. The music is modern and retro and optimistic and bleak and carefree and apocalyptic all at once.”

Those juxtapositions lie at the heart of ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,’ Beverly’s thrilling debut LP under the Indianola moniker. Recorded at Shovels & Rope’s studio in Charleston, South Carolina, the collection stitches together a broad range of genres and eras, gleefully toying with decades of music history in order to create a sonic collage from an alternate timeline, one in which snarling garage rock guitars flare up alongside 60’s girl group melodies and greasers and punks party with velvet-voiced crooners. Beverly mines the past like a found footage artist, seizing on unexpected moments from long-forgotten productions in order to splice them together in a wholly new context. The result is utterly engrossing and infectious, a pop culture Frankenstein that sounds like Roy Orbison fronting The Sonics or Buddy Holly soundtracking a B horror flick.

“I wanted to create my own universe with this album,” Beverly explains. “I wanted the songs to sound like they came from a world where all these different influences from all these different times and places could exist simultaneously.”

Growing up in Mississippi, Beverly’s earliest influences came from the gritty Delta bluesmen of the early and mid-20th century. As it did for so many before him, the blues led the young guitarist into the raucous world of early rock and roll, which soon blossomed into a love for the psychedelia of the 60’s and the glam of the 70’s. Beverly would go on to spend time living in Charleston and New York City, but he was rarely home due to a relentless touring schedule both with his own projects and as a hired gun for the Danish indie pop band Oh Land. In 2016, Beverly relocated to Nashville, where he quickly found himself pushing back against the sometimes-overwhelming sense of musical homogeny that seemed to saturate the city.

“There was all this folk and country and roots music going on, which I’m of course a big fan of, but I wanted to do something different,” Beverly explains. “I liked the idea of something more rooted in rock and roll, something that had a throwback vibe but also felt ultramodern, like an old science fiction movie’s vision of the future.”

With Shovels & Rope’s Michael Trent at the helm, Beverly began chasing down a swampy sound that mixed Elvis Presley swagger with eerie bayou blues, recording under the name Indianola as a nod to his Deep South roots. The resulting EP, ‘Zero,’ was a critical hit, with Paste hailing the music as “wise beyond its years” and the Charleston City Paper praising its “rock ‘n’ roll fervor.” Beverly was named a 2016 Southwest Airlines Artist On The Rise, and the collection earned him festival performances from Luck Reunion to Wildwood Revival alongside dates with Josh Ritter, Butch Walker, Langhorne Slim, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Nicole Atkins, and more. The following year, Indianola appeared as a special guest on Shovels & Rope’s ‘Busted Jukebox Volume 2,’ collaborating on a reimagining of The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” that prompted the husband-and-wife duo to describe Beverly as “one of the finest singers and writers out there today” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

When it came time to record ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,’ Beverly could feel Indianola’s spirit evolving beyond the Delta noir of that initial EP into a more expansive sound, one that still embraced the architecture of the early blues and the first wave of rock and roll that emerged from but pushed its sonic limits deeper into even more unpredictable territory. At times irreverent, at times hair-raising, the songs are distinctly American in their simultaneous obsession with and disregard for the future.

“The album title is as much an ominous forecast as it is a plea to just forget about tomorrow and enjoy the present,” Beverly reflects. “It’s a bit of a paradox because you can hear this very lively, bouncy music that wants you to drop everything and live in the moment, but at the same time, there’s an element underneath it all that gives you the distinct feeling that things are not going to be okay.”

Beverly sets the stage early in the album with self-assured strut of “1960’s,” a leather jacket-clad rocker that finds him declaring his affinity for an era that ended long before he was born. “I’ve got a thing for the 1960’s / You look like a Marilyn Monroe with your striptease,” he sings almost menacingly. As the album unfolds, it becomes clear that Beverly’s interest in the past isn’t born of simple nostalgia or romanticism, but rather in an off-kilter optimism. These are songs deeply rooted in our thoroughly disappointing present—a modern society defined by political corruption, cultural clashes, and endless war—but they dare to believe in the power of art to transport us to a world in which the promise of post-war America hasn’t failed and rock and roll is still dangerous. “Mid Century Modern” thrusts the 12 bar blues firmly into the 21st century, while “Too Good To Be True” marries Phil Specter and Perry Como, and “Fame Is A Mistress” is a distortion and feedback-laden freakout of epic proportions.

“I wanted to infuse a certain amount of fear into the music,” says Beverly, who produced the record himself. “When you’re a little kid, there’s this mix of terror and excitement you feel about the world, and it was important for me to find ways to capture that in both the chord progressions and the sound design.”

As much as the album is devoted to creating its own universe, Beverly doesn’t shy away from weaving his own personal experiences into the music. The poignant “Awkward Phase” is a sentimental ode to the lostness that comes with letting go of a loved one, and “Want Me Back” wears a brave face even as the pain of heartbreak reveals itself through cracks in the façade. Perhaps the record’s most arresting moment arrives with its closing track, “Write It In Blood,” which finds Beverly musing on the intensely personal nature of life as a songwriter.

“When you look back on the things that have torn you down and crippled you that you’ve somehow managed to survive, your blood is the ink that you bring to the page,” he explains. “As a writer, the things that you experience, the hardship that you go through, that’s what you hang your hat on at the end of the day.”

Ultimately, that sort of reflection is what ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ is all about. Forget the future; for Indianola, the past is what you make of it.

Venue Information:
Hargray Capitol Theatre
382 Second Street
Macon, GA, 31201