Rusty Berther is one-third of the Cartridge Family. He was half of the Scared Weird Little Guys, and when he takes to the stage in full flight as a standup comedian he’s fully himself. Rusty is performing at Mullum Music Festival this year with the Cartridge Family and he’s stepping out and doing some standup at the Council Chambers-turned-comedy-venue where the jokes are on us.
The Cartridge Family was originally just Suzannah and Sarah Carroll. They were guests on a live RRR radio show called Grand Ole Twang in Melbourne. I was playing double bass in the house band and offered to back them up and sing a third harmony. They said Yes, and the next thing you know I was in the band too, started writing songs for them, and here we are in Mullum.
I googled The Cartridge Family and it says, ‘The Cartridge Family supplies printers, toners, and inks for all popular printer makes and models. My second search said, ‘The Cartridge Family is the fifth ep of the Simpson’s ninth Season’. Google can’t help me. How would you describe the Cartridge Family and how are you going to knock those pesky ink people off your rightful Google position?
The Cartridge Family is basically a band that sings ‘sunshine-filled hillbilly songs of death and despair’. We also sing songs about chickens, marijuana, and Jesus. If you want to find us online you have to put original Cartridge Family into Google, but we don’t tell anyone about that. It maintains the mystery.
What is a Vegetarian Truck-Driving Man?
A man who faces a daily personal dichotomy.
Tell me about Beerijuana, the Cartridge Family Reunion?
Beerijuana the song is about accidentally discovering the meaning of life by watering your homegrown with your home brew.
How much fun is a Cartridge Family gig? Do you ever take yourselves seriously? Music is very serious business; is it liberating just letting loose?
This is a band that exists for fun. It’s the best way to run a band. Once you start doing a band for ‘career’ or ‘a job’ it quickly becomes not fun. Good, fun original music played with your friends who treat it seriously is such a lovely way to be in a band. We all have other gigs, so the Cartridge Family remains a fun and relaxed outlet.
What will the Cartridge Family bring to Mullum Festival?
We will bring some copies of our new album Cartridge Family Reunion to sell. Also the songs about chickens, marijuana, and Jesus. And possibly sleeping bags – we haven’t worked out our accommodation yet.
You are also going to be featuring in a comedy show at the Council Chambers. You are best known as half of The Scared Weird Little Guys. Were you aware at the beginning that this was going to be the act that broke you through?
The Scaredies, you mean? Or the Cartridges? The Cartridges certainly have been my long-awaited breakthrough into Mullumbimby. The Scaredies only got me as far as Lismore.
You have done thousands of gigs. How did you keep it up? Does the enthusiasm wane in time? Do you miss it?
The Scaredies at last count had done over 4,500 gigs over 20 years; it was just what we did. We started young enough with enough passion to keep it going, but we also learned to treat it professionally. We still actually do the odd gig together – we are even doing a week at the Brisbane Comedy Festival next year!
What was it like walking out as a solo act after years of sharing the stage with another person?
That’s a great question. I had never desired to do solo standup. My passion is music and playing with others, but after the Scaredies finished I thought it would be interesting to pursue what solo comedy was about. It took a few years to find my ‘vibe’ and I realised I had to focus on my strengths – music and singing, parodies and impressions, and musical tricks rather than monologues about personal stories.
Did you change your onstage persona much? Is Rusty on his own a very different entity from Rusty in a duo?
In my solo act it’s pretty much me being me, just a little filthier. Performing solo you have to learn to project both the high status and low status in one person; that was something I had to learn.
What do you love most about performing comedy?
I love the travel and camaraderie of touring with other acts. I really just have a passion for performing onstage and entertaining people. It’s what I developed as a teenager and I’m so lucky to still be doing it for a living. Never been that interested in the ‘fame’ side of it.
Okay, what should we expect from you for your comedic performance at Mullum?
Hopefully some well-timed, skilfully executed musical jokes – and some high-brow filth.
Rusty Berther is performing at the Mullum Music Festival, 15–18 November. For program and ticket info go to mullummusicfestival.com.