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Pete Bernhard of The Devil Makes Three

By the Beat of Their Strum

With a sparse arrangement of three stringed acoustic instruments, The Devil Makes Three channel bluegrass, folk and country styles of yesteryear with narratives about whiskey, heartache and bloodshed, among other topics. The trio, that formed in Santa Cruz in the early í00s after childhood friends Pete Bernard (guitar, banjo, harmonica) and Cooper McBean (guitar, banjo, musical saw) linked with aspiring standup bassist Lucia Turnio, returns to San Francisco to celebrate the re-release of the self-titled debut that was originally released in 2002. It will be available on vinyl for the first time when the band performs on November 23rd and 24th at The Independent. Bernard spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from his home in Davis.

SF Station (SFS): What is the secret to getting a crowd moving with three acoustic instruments and no drums?

Pete Bernhard (PB): I don't know. I doesn't always work for us. We always try to talk to the audience and encourage people to loosen up a little bit and have a good time. We also make sure that none of our shows are seated and if they are seated we make sure there is a good amount of open space for dancing. If people are on their feet, eventually they will start to dance and I think the music lends itself to dancing anyway. It is just a matter of people figuring out that it is okay to dance even though we don't have drums.

SFS: Writing songs about Tennessee whiskey could lure a certain element out too.

PB: Yeah, most definitely. Drinking doesnít hurt.

SFS: Are you a big whiskey-drinking band?

PB: Not really. Not that we donít like whiskey, but itís not the only thing we drink. Cooper is pretty into whiskey. Whiskey is good; itís not an all-around band drink, but itís liked in the band.

SFS: Cooper has a tattoo that spells Vermont on his neck. You are from that state, too. Do you have any body art that pays tribute to Vermont?

PB: No, I donít have any. I love Vermont, but not enough to get tattooed. Cooper also has Nintendo tattooed on his knuckles. You never know what you are gonna get.

SFS: When you and Cooper started playing music in middle school in Vermont, was it unusual for kids your age to play country and roots music?

PB: It was unusual for the age we were at. It was not a very popular thing to be into at the time. All the kids our age were into punk and metal. Although we did listen to punk rock, Cooper was the only kid that I knew that was into finger picking and old styles. It was real unusual and a really weird thing to be interested in that type of music at that stage of our life.

SFS: Do you consider yourself an old-school type of guy?

PB: I try to keep my songwriting fairly modern. I definitely get into old music and the old style of how shows were put on. Iíve always loved that. I read a lot of history and Iím pretty into the past.

SFS: The two shows you are doing that the Independent are album release shows, but these songs have been around for awhile, right?

PB: Yeah, they have. The majority of the album, except for four bonus tracks has been out for awhile, but we are finally able to put the album out on vinyl. The beginning of the record is really kind of mellow, so we added four tracks at the end that are live recordings, which balances it out. All the material is from the same time period. We wanted to put out a record on vinyl for a really long time, so we added the extra tracks to fill it out.

SFS: What time period were the songs recorded in?

PB: It was 2002 or 2003. Itís hard to tell with the live tracks because we recorded so much stuff we donít really know where it came from. I know it was right around that time.

SFS: Rolling Stone came out with an article around that time that said UC Santa Cruz was the most stoned campus in the country. Did that have any influence on what you guys were doing?

PB: No, weíve never really been a weed-smoking band, even living in Santa Cruz. We never were super into it, but I might agree that there is some truth in that. Although, we did not partake. We didnít inhale.

The Devil Makes three performs at the Independent on November 23rd and 24th. Doors open at 8:30pm and the concert starts at 9pm. Tickets $15.