A conversation with Pete Bernhard of The Devil Makes Three

By Elizabeth Thomas

May 11, 2016

While listening to Old Number 7, you might picture a prohibition-era speakeasy– with flapper dresses, flat caps, whiskey and cigars abound. While the Fillmore may not be quite that setting, good old Jack Daniels is sure to be flowing and dancers are definitely on tap this Sunday as The Devil Makes Three makes a stop in the Queen City.

The drummer-less trio from New England, by way of Santa Cruz, California, offers up a guitarist, a string bassist and a banjo player, namely Pete Bernhard, Lucia Turino and Cooper McBean. Their tunes are deeply rooted in folk, blues, bluegrass and old country, but their punk influences can definitely be felt—especially in the energy level the group brings to every performance.

Even without a drummer, for nearly 15 years, The Devil Makes Three has been touring and cranking out high-energy, knee-slapping jams that are guaranteed to get you moving, and are played with dancers in mind.

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Lucia Turino (Left), Cooper McBean (Middle), Pete Bernhard (Right) and Photo credit: Piper Ferguson

Currently on tour with the Minnesotans of Trampled By Turtles, The Devil Makes Three’s Pete Bernhard took a few minutes to chat with CLTure about House Bill 2, the passing of musical greats such as Merle Haggard and Prince, and what one can expect from their show at the Fillmore this Sunday night.

Get to know The Devil Makes Three, then make your way out Sunday and burn a hole in dance floor.

CLTure: How did three New Englanders come together in sunny California to form Devil Makes Three?

Pete Bernhard: We migrated West separately. Lucia started college in Santa Cruz but didn’t quite make it to graduation. Cooper and moved there after a brief stint in Olympia, Washington.

CLTure: From where do you draw inspiration, in terms of both your lyrics and musical style?

PB: We draw inspiration from all over the map musically, but we try to keep subject matter coming from personal experience as much as possible.

CLTure: Having been together for nearly 15 years now, how has the band evolved since its inception?

PB: We have changed completely as people and musicians during our time as a band. Luckily we have remained friends through it all. Without that long friendship I don’t think we would have lasted this long.

CLTure: Which artists and albums are you listening to now while on the road?

PB: On this tour, I’ve been listening to Blaze Foley quite a bit and Trampled By Turtles, as we are sharing the stage with them every night.

CLTure: What one moment so far really stands out to the band as your biggest, most-defining moment?

PB: Opening for Willie Nelson last year.

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Cooper McBean (left), Pete Bernhard (middle) and Lucia Turino (right). Photo Credit: Piper Ferguson

CLTure: As a touring band, you spend a lot of time on the road and you’ve probably had some crazy experiences; is there a particular moment that you guys often look back on and laugh about?

PB: We have some strange stories to be sure, from playing for bikers in a rain soaked tarp tent to amateur baseball tournaments in Austria; it has been a weird ride to be sure.

We look back on the fact that we have been touring for 14 years and have survived and even enjoyed the experience along the way. We laugh about that. We never knew what we were getting into when we started this band.

CLTure: For someone who may have never seen you perform, what can one expect at a live Devil Makes Three show?

PB: I think they can expect to hear some different subject matter in the songwriting, and they can expect to dance a hole in the floor if they’re brave enough to do so. We challenge people to dance at our shows.

CLTure: What’s on the roadmap for The Devil Makes Three? What can we look forward to?

PB: Red Rocks in Colorado May 27– our first headline set there. After that, touring Europe, doing music festivals there, and then the release of our new album in the fall.

CLTure: A slew of artists have canceled shows, while many others are making comments during their performances in reference to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2; was there a discussion with Trampled by Turtles on the topic and playing shows in the Tar Heel State?

PB: It was not discussed pre-tour, but I don’t think everyone in North Carolina agrees with the idea and they shouldn’t be deprived of a good show because some do. I’m sure the issue divides the public, but we love North Carolina and had to play in Asheville– it’s one of our favorite spots.

CLTure: It’s been a rough few months for the music world, in terms of legends passing away; which musical legend’s passing had the most profound impact on the band and why?

PB: We have lost so many good ones this year. Merle Haggard and Prince are the ones that bummed me out.

We opened for Merle, and it was a great show; it goes on my list with the Willie Nelson tour as one of the best events we have had the pleasure of playing.

Prince was an amazing musician and human, and it’s so sad to see him go. Prescription drugs are sadly addicting and killing off Americans by the boatload, and no one seems concerned about controlling this kind of drug dealing. Pharmaceutical companies are drug dealers on a scale we have never seen before, and they operate with protection and blessing of our government. Yet someone who smokes marijuana is still put behind bars in most states? Addictive opiates and being prescribed in every state in the union and the companies selling them are getting rich. These drugs are a legal replacement for heroin. Something about this feels completely backwards. It’s not the drugs you do, it’s who sells those drugs. RIP Prince and Merle, and of course, the great David Bowie.

Catch The Devil Makes Three with Trampled by Turtles Sunday, May 15 at the Fillmore

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