The Rust City Project: Crafting a blueprint for success

A new band’s tentative first steps into the Buffalo music scene


A new band has to jump through a lot of hoops just to get a shot. Besides all the unanswered PR emails, conflicting schedules, writing music that everyone agrees on and the awkward, out-of-sync band sessions, a new band can be a pure exercise in commitment and patience.

The Rust City Project – Matt Sacha on vocals and guitar, Dan Heuskin on bass and Anthony Berardi on drums – has been trying hard to establish itself in the local Buffalo scene. For the three-piece, bluesy, riff-oriented alt-rock band, these struggles have defined the earliest experiences of the young band.

The group is in its earliest stages. They are just beginning to understand each other, but all the members believe they have the keys to success – they just need to work hard and have a little bit of luck.

In terms of band chemistry, all three members can agree that they fit together very well, just from the few improvised jam sessions they’ve had.

“I would say we play together very well,” said Sacha, a sophomore architecture student. “Although Dan and I don’t necessarily listen to the same music, we have great chemistry playing together.”

But, despite the good vibes that come from each session, the band’s biggest struggle is getting all three members together.

They only are able to practice one or two times a week: Heuskin, a junior English major, is from Long Island so practicing during school break is out; Sacha and Berardi are neighbors so they can practice together sometimes, but Sacha and Heuskin go to UB, while Berardi just started attending Canisius College as a freshman.

Not only does this affect the amount of practice time the band can put in, it also affects the creative process as well.

While many bands like to sit down together and write each part as a group, the Rust City Project functions more like a puzzle: each member has a piece, but no one knows what piece the other has.

“Matt writes the songs,” Heuskin said. “I write the bass parts according to his chord progressions and what I feel for them.”

In terms of songwriting, Sacha is the lynchpin of the operation. He writes the lyrics of the songs as well as his guitar part and then he sends the parts to Berardi and Heuskin – the songwriting process is disjointed, with multiple steps.

Sometimes, when all the members are free, the three will just jam together for inspiration, but most of the gritty work happens with just one or two members playing together and forcing themselves to make accompaniments.

Each of the members has varying degrees of musical experience.

Berardi has the most experience, having played piano and subsequently the drums since he was 5. Sacha has been playing the guitar for about ten years, while Heuskin has only been playing the bass seriously for about two years or so.

However, despite the eclectic and widespread nature of the band and its members, the outfit is still making small steps towards their future.

They just booked their first show at Broadway Joes on March 25.

For the upstart band, the Broadway Joes show will be their first appearance as a band. And for most of the members, it will be their first experience playing in front of a crowd. Heuskin and Sacha have played in an open mike before, but March 25 will be Rust City Project’s official debut.

Despite their lack of live show experience, the band only sees the show as a stepping-stone into more opportunities. They are staying focused on the biggest picture.

All the members say that, for them right now, developing and honing a solid aesthetic for the band is more important that working on live performance.

“To prepare we just practice,” Sacha said. “I think we want an energetic cool vibe at out concert – I personally care much more about how the music is played and sounds than what the stage presence of the band is like.”

Like most things in life, all the Rust City Project can do is work hard and take it day-by-day. Sacha, Heuskin and Berardi all have ambitions and big dreams of playing on big stages with bright lights, in front of thousands of people.

But they are trying to stay realistic and grounded in their pursuit of attainable goals.

“I’ve always dreamed of being in a band,” Berardi said. “But realistically the chances of making it big as a musician are slim to none, so I like to keep things light, have fun and be creative.”

Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at