We recently spoke with Pete Bernhard of The Devil Makes Three about their new album, playing in Portland, and the possibility of adding a drummer to the band. They play at the Crystal Ballroom on January 31st. You can grab your tix here.
Scott McHale, ELEVEN: Can you give us a brief history of The Devil Makes Three? Where are
you all from?
Pete Bernhard: We all grew up in VT and migrated out to California in our early
twenties. Cooper and I played together in high school and then went out
west separately and met up with Lucia in Santa Cruz. We put out our first
record independently in 2002 and started tour the following year in a
barely roadworthy van.
11: Would “mountain music” be an apt description of your sound?
PB: We did grow up in the “Mountains” but they were very small green
mountains more like hills really. Maybe small green mountain music would
fit as Vt is The Green Mountain State. I tend to shy away from any
description of our music as I feel I usually fail. I hope that our music
will keep the already strong tradition of story telling alive in folk
music. It has always been around and hopefully it always will be. Thanks
11: The new album, I’m a Stranger Here, was recorded in Nashville and it
still has a DIY feel. How did you pull this off?
PB: We worked with producer Buddy Miller and he thought we had a good thing
going and didn’t want to mess with it. We all recorded live in one room
and when we got a good take we stuck with it. That is what you hear on
11: Adding a drummer would seemingly screw up the band name, but have
you ever considered it? Or are you strictly a string band?
PB: We might and we might not…drum hardware is really heavy. We’ve made it
this far so we most likely will not add a drummer at this late stage but
who knows. We are not “strictly” anything band anything could happen…
Next tour only Tubas and kick drums! “No gods, no masters” as the IWW
11: With songs like A Moment’s Rest, it sounds like your song writing
has progressed from storytelling to something more lyrical. Was this a
conscious effort, or just a natural progression?
PB: Natural progression. We just play what comes out for the most part and
hope that our crowd enjoys it. Being conscious can lead to being self
conscious in my opinion. Unconscious songwriting is the only thing that
ever worked for me.
11: Is your song writing a collaborative effort?
PB: I write the lyrics and basic song structure and Cooper and Lucia help
arrange, write solos and we all work on harmonies together.
11: Do you prefer playing at large festivals and arenas, or do you
prefer smaller, more intimate venues?
PB: Both are wonderful in their own ways. We have had great experiences at
clubs and festivals and bad at both. I’d say its more who you’re playing to
than the venue itself. That said we recently played at Red Rocks in
Colorado and that is an amazing venue!
11: That old-timey artwork on the new album really captures your sound.
What was the inspiration?
PB: The inspiration came from old center label designs off some of our
11: You have a show lined up in Portland at the end of the month. How
does the audience here compare to elsewhere?
PB: Portland has always been very good to us. It always seemed to me like
people in Portland are ready to have fun before the bands even started
playing. Its a great stop on tour and a rowdy audience to get in front
of. Some audiences want to be passively entertained and Portland gives
back to us as performers, which is always welcome. It’s what we hope for in
a show and we always find it up there.
11: You guys seem to really have fun on stage, feeding off the energy
of the crowd. Is it difficult to perform without an audience while
PB: We do have fun on stage and yes it has been a hard to capture in the
11: With this last record is was almost like a show honestly therefore we
didn’t run into that problem. We were all in one live recording room and
we just hit the red button and played until everyone was happy with the
take. This will be our preferred method on all future recordings, we had
more fun making this record than any previous album and I think it shows.
11: If you could have a drink with any artist, living or dead, who
would it be?
PB: Muhammad Ali