Interviews

The Devil Makes Three: Making Music From Vermont to Santa Cruz Sans Drummer

If you'd like a trip to the past, Friday night at Culture Room might be the right setting for you. There, Santa Cruz band the Devil Makes Three will take the audience down a musical wormhole to mountain honky-tonks and country juke joints of yesteryear.

Like its name implies, the group is a trio that includes singer/guitarist Pete Bernhard, guitarist Cooper McBean, and upright bassist Lucia Turino. New Times exchanged correspondence with the succinct Bernhard to learn about the band's origins, influences, and the uniqueness of making music without drums.

New Times: You've said in interviews you were raised by hippie parents whose musical tastes influenced you. What bands and songs did you really enjoy, and how else did your childhood inspire your music?

Pete Bernhard: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Lightning Hopkins, Woody Guthrie, Django Reinhardt. My father, uncle, aunt, and brother were all musicians. They inspired me to learn to play.

How did the three of you come together to form the band?

We all met up in Santa Cruz while working at a café, but we already knew each other from high school in Vermont. We're all from the same small town in Vermont. We migrated out west and started playing music.

How did your name come about? I read you formed in 2001, which is right after the O Brother Where Art Thou movie came out with a song with "me and you and the devil makes three" in the lyrics. Did that soundtrack influence you guys, or was it just a coincidence?

We loved that movie, but a friend suggested the band name to us. There was no connection to the movie as far as we know.

You said your new album is about things dying. Were there events that inspired such a happy-go-lucky theme?

It has been a hard couple of years. A few friends passed away.

Are you guys working on new songs now?

We are working on new songs, but they're just getting started, so to be honest, I'm not sure what they are all about yet.

What are you guys doing in your downtime on the tour?

We barely have any downtime these days, but when we do, reading, sleeping, documentary-watching. Food Inc. is a movie I think everyone should watch. Also The Fog of War. I'm currently reading Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I love to read. When we're home, I try to avoid driving as much as possible.

What can audiences expect at your show at the Culture Room?

They can expect to have a great time! They can expect some songwriting and music they can dance to without a drummer.

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland