Punk rock bluegrass folk rockers, The Devil Makes Three, are no strangers to Northern California. This group formed and brandished their unique sound in Santa Cruz. and slowly built up an audience playing smaller venues such as Henflings Tavern in the mountainous town of Ben Lomond and the Phoenix Theater in the farm-friendly town of Petaluma. Officially uniting in 2002, they gained a reputation for their rowdy and energetic live shows. They worked their way up to venues like the Catalyst and Mystic Theater, eventually becoming festival fixtures at Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
The trio, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Pete Bernhard, upright bass player Lucia Turino and lead guitarist, mandolinist and banjo extraordinaire, Cooper McBean, stop through Oakland for two nights at the Fox Theater on January 21st and 22nd, starting off 2016 with a month long tour and setting the tone for an exciting year. “I’m glad it’s a new year,” says Pete. “I’m excited to leave (2015) in the dust. There’s a lot of good stuff on the horizon. These shows in Oakland is the first double show since our band started in Santa Cruz. We’re going back to Europe this year…We have some music festivals lined up [as well]. I’m just more excited about what we have going on. 2015 was a good year, but this year is gonna be better.”
The Fox Theater holds more sentiment to the band than most venues and cities they play, being close to home and having been one of the first bands to grace the stage since its reopening. “All of us have friends and family in the area,” explains Pete. “When we play in the Bay, it’s a friend and family reunion. It’s the same with the people that we work with; promoters and managers we’ve been working with since the beginning of our band. It feels like a homecoming in a lot of ways. We played the first show that the Fox did when they re-opened and we opened for Social Distortion, which was really fun.”
That loyalty and hard work has paid off for Pete, who currently abides in Vermont. “It’s very cold and snowy” Pete admits with a tint of excitement to travel west. “I love it, it’s great…but it can be a little bit frustrating if you’re trying to get somewhere.” On this current tour, Pete and DM3 won’t totally avoid the cold weather and possible snowy conditions, making stops through Canada and the East Coast with shows in New York and Washington D.C. “It’s gonna be a great tour. We’re doing two nights in Vancouver. That’s an awesome city. We’re doing two nights in D.C. at the 9:30 Club, that’s a really cool venue. I’m really excited about playing in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. That should be pretty crazy, we’ve never been there during Mardi Gras.”
For those used to seeing the band over the years, it’s not unusual to expect guest appearances and a few tricks up their sleeves. “We’re gonna have a friend of mine in L.A. join us for some Pedal Steele if it works out. Spencer Swain will be playing fiddle with us on this tour, and Stefan Amidon will be playing percussion. We’re trying to get more and more noise makers to play.” So what does the addition of percussion mean for their sound going forth?
“We’re gonna keep evolving our songs. Nobody likes change, but we really enjoy it. We like playing with others…We’ll keep evolving as we meet people we want to play with.”
If this tour isn’t reason enough to get excited, the band is already booked for a show at the majestic Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado with the Wood Brothers and Shakey Graves. “Colorado is really great for our band. We’ve always wanted to headline some shows there. It’s like a destination and it’s well worth it to go to see your favorite band. You’re in the middle of the national park and the sound is great. It’s an amazing place to see a show. And marijuana is legal in Colorado.” As far as Pete’s stance on the legalization of marijuana, he believes that “no one should go to jail ever again for marijuana.”
It’s now been three years since their last record, I’m a Stranger Here, so could this be the year fans hear new material? “We’re recording some stuff and working on a new studio album. We’re gonna record our entire tour this time around and hopefully put out our own bootleg version of the tour on our record label.” This should be a promising year for Devil Makes Three, one of the Bay Area’s most esteemed homegrown talents.