Back in the day
Rusty's origins are in One Free Fall, a band from Wolfville, Nova Scotia who moved to Toronto in 1988. That band's core members were vocalist Ken MacNeil, guitarist Sandy Graham, bassist Jim Moore and drummer Bob Vespaziani. That band signed to independent label Handsome Boy Records, released the album Mud Creek in 1993 and collaborated with Art Bergmann on a cover of "Prisoners of Rock 'n Roll" for the Neil Young tribute album Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute to Neil Young, but broke up in 1994 before achieving any notable success.
Following their breakup, MacNeil, Moore and Vespaziani hooked up with former Doughboys/Luther Victim member Scott McCullough to form Rusty, and recorded their eponymous E.P. in 1994. A video for the song "Wake Me" would become a hit on MuchMusic and the single charted on both U.S. and Canadian commercial radio. The video was also featured on the MTV show 120 Minutes, leading to a bidding war amongst U.S. labels to sign them. Released on Handsome Boy Records, the EP was also popular on Canadian campus radio, and led to a major label distribution deal with BMG Records in Canada for their full-length album Fluke in 1995. Vespaziani left the group after the E.P. release and was replaced by Mitch Perkins.
Led by the hit single "Misogyny", which featured a video consisting of clips from Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce's film Hustler White, Fluke was the band's commercial breakthrough, also spawning the singles "California" and “Groovy Dead” while earning a Juno Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. The album was produced by Chris Wardman, who also played acoustic guitar on the tracks "Groovy Dead" and "California".
While remaining independent in Canada, the band signed in the U.S. with Atlantic Records imprint TAG and spent the bulk of 1995 touring the U.S. opening for Collective Soul. Wake Me and Misogyny both got airplay on U.S. alternative rock radio but record sales were somewhat disappointing. When the band handed Atlantic the demos for what would become their second album, the label asked them to write another complete record as they didn’t hear a ‘hit”. The band refused, and TAG bought them out of their contract and parted ways with the band, while Rusty returned to indie status back in Canada. Fluke ended up selling nearly 50,000 copies in Canada, as well as another 25,000 in the U.S.
In 1996, the band contributed the Rusty/Michael Turner collaboration "Let's Break Robert Out of Jail" to the compilation album A Tribute to Hard Core Logo. Also in 1996 the song "Punk" was featured in the Chris Farley movie Black Sheep.
The band's follow-up album, Sophomoric, was released in 1997, including the singles "Empty Cell" and "Oh No Joe". It was recorded at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver by Garth Richarson, and mastered in NYC by Howie Weinberg. The video for Empty Cell, again directed by Bruce LaBruce, proved so popular that the band were forced to make a second video to keep it in regular rotation. The first video featured Danko Jones and Floria Sigismondi in acting roles and earned LaBruce and the band their second MuchMusic video award. Conversely, the video for Oh No Joe, also directed by LaBruce, was banned by the music station for being set within a strip club. The band were forced to scramble and quickly film a second one on the cheap, although that one also received zero airplay Perkins left the band that year and was replaced by John Lalley, but not before recording some of the tracks featured on their third and final album.
In 1998, Rusty released Out of Their Heads. The single “Soul For Sale was a Top 15 hit on Canadian radio and the video received heavy rotation on Muchmusic. However, declining sales led to financial strain and the band split up in March of 1999, then played their final show on November 25, 2000.
In April 2011, Rusty reunited for the 2011 NXNE festival. John P. Sutton, formerly of the Weatherthans, started playing bass with the band. The band is continuing to play shows, write and record and has released a new album called Dogs of Canada.