The Devil Makes Three’s ‘reckless’ music mixes blues, folk, punk and more

devil makes three interview

THE DEVIL MAKES THREE

The Devil Makes Three performs a unique blend of what has been described as “wandering folk, Delta blues, whiskey-soaked ragtime and reckless rock ‘n’ roll,” while some have claimed that the group’s music borders on bluegrass as well.

“We’ve been together for 17 years; we’ve been together a long time,” says singer-guitarist Pete Bernhard, who forms the group with guitarist Cooper McBean and bassist Lucia Turino. “I was a teenager when I started playing out live by myself and then in a few punk bands and then I started The Devil Makes Three in my early 20s.”

Even though their latest release, Chains Are Broken, has broken into Billboard’s Top 10 Bluegrass Charts, Bernhard set the record straight and explained the band’s style prior to a recent show at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City.

“Technically we’re really not bluegrass,” said Bernhard, who grew up in Vermont but formed The Devil Makes Three with McBean and Turino when they were all living in California. “We do have similar instrumentation but what we do is more akin to old blues or old time music than it is bluegrass. Bluegrass people make a severe distinction between the two so I always like to say so. … We kind of take old traditional American music and try to do it with a punk rock spirit.”

This is the band’s first headlining tour since Chains Are Broken came out. “We’ve got a guy named Matt Heckler opening up for us,” said Bernhard. “We met him when we were on tour with The Lost Dog String Band. He does kind of a more traditional thing than we do; he plays fiddle and banjo and sings. He’s a really talented guy.”

The cover of The Devil Makes Three’s album, “Chains Are Broken.”

Prior to the Jersey City show, the band last performed in New Jersey when it opened for Social Distortion on the Stone Pony Summer Stage in August.

“We just did an opening set for that one,” said Bernhard, “but this time and on this tour we are using a different bass player. Our longtime bassist Lucia Turino decided that she wanted to take some time off the road; she’s been playing with us for 17 years and decided that she wanted to take a break.

“Basically, we didn’t know what to do at first, but luckily we found our friend MorganEve Swain who played with a band called Brown Bird, who we have toured with a lot. They’re out of Providence, R.I. She was looking for work and she’s already a friend. She’s actually played with us on multiple tours playing fiddle but not bass; she played bass in her old band. So we were able to find a pretty good solution to the problem.

“Lucia sort of left the band of her own accord but she’s welcome back at any time. There’s a possibility that she might come out on a tour and sit in with us or she might do a tour. It’s really up to her.

“We’ll be travelling with me, Cooper, MorganEve and drummer Stefan Amidon and he sings, too. When you come to see us, I think that you can expect to hear a lot of old material and a lot of the new material, too. We always like to do as much as we possibly can, wherever we go. We really squeeze it in; somehow we’ve always been associated with jam bands and none of our songs are more than three minutes long (laughs).”

Bernhard and his bandmates may tip their hat to one of their influences on their next album.

“The Ramones, most definitely,” he said. “We’re actually talking about covering one of their songs, but we haven’t gotten it together yet.

“We have a lot of live records: probably six studio records and three or four live albums. We like to record our live shows; it’s just something we’ve been doing for years. Our last live record was Live at Red Rocks, which was a really great gig and a really great show. We had a blast at that one but we’re currently working on material for our next studio record.”

For more about The Devil Makes Three, visit thedevilmakesthree.com.

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