The Devil Makes Three plays Breckenridge to open Blue River Series
If you go
What: The Devil Makes Three, part of the Breckenridge Music Festival’s Blue River Series of concerts
When: 8 p.m. Monday, June 1
Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge
Cost: $35 general admission
More information: For tickets, call the Riverwalk Center Box Office at (970) 547-3100, or visit www.breckenridgemusicfestival.com
The Breckenridge Music Festival’s Blue River Series of concerts launches Monday, June 1, at the Riverwalk Center, with punk-inspired vintage American blues band The Devil Makes Three.
Laced with elements of ragtime, country, folk and rockabilly, the drummer-less trio — consisting of guitarist/frontman Pete Bernhard, stand-up bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean — brings a genuine approach to acoustic music that is deeply steeped in rhythm, with finger-picking guitar, a little slide, tenor banjo and upright bass.
We sat down with Bernhard to learn more about the band and how it has managed to remain a strong, cohesive group, steadily building its fan base over the past decade-plus of performing together.
SUMMIT DAILY: What do you dig about old blues and country-style acoustic music? What drew you to those styles?
PETE BERNHARD: I got interested in it when I was about 12 years old and it was through my family. My bother and my dad both were fans of old rock ’n’ roll and blues music, and my dad introduced me to Lighting Hopkins when I was about that age, and my brother bought me my first Robert Johnson record when I was that age, so it was my family that really got me into it. From there, I got into the sort of Chicago blues, Willy Dixon. Blues is definitely the main inspiration, I’d say, behind our music.
SD: How has your music evolved since you released your first album in 2002?
PB: It’s changed a lot. When we started, it was over 12 years ago, so we were sort of just learning how to play our instruments and write songs when we made our first record. We’ve played with different people, added and subtracted fiddle, cello, percussion, pedal steel. We’ve also worked with producers, instead of producing our own records. We’ve just become much better musicians and much better at touring, and we’ve also opened up our musical process a bunch, and I think that’s been totally beneficial.
SD: How do your songs come together? What’s your process?
PB: Usually I write the lyrics and the guitar part and me and Lucia and Cooper get together and we do the arrangement of harmonies and solos and stuff like that. From there, we usually demo, if we’re making a record. We take those demos to the producer and see which ones they really liked and any suggestions for pre-production of the record. When we record, we really like to record as much as we can live. The basic tracks of our last records are live, and we try to capture that live sound on our records as much as possible.
SD: What do you love about performing the old stuff? What do you love about introducing fans to the new stuff?
PB: Once we start playing stuff live, our fans tend to like it. We haven’t had that much trouble breaking in new material. People are pretty exited about it. We never stopped playing old material; we try to do a mixture of both. Some people talk about not wanting to play their old material or stuff like that. I’m pretty happy that people want to hear our old material. The first record we made still sells really well, and I figure that’s a good thing. There are worse jobs out there.
SD: What has The Devil Makes Three done to remain a strong, cohesive unit over the years?
PB: I think we’re all fairly stubborn people, we’re not willing to give up, and I think that’s sort of a big part of it. We’ve taken a much slower route than a lot of other bands to get to where we are today. There was no moment for us where, “and then we were big.” We never had that happen to us. We’ve taken a really slow and steady approach to what we do, and I guess that makes it possible for us to be relaxed about the entire thing. We’re always growing, every year we’re bigger, but not so much bigger than the last. We’ve all been able to change and grow as the band has changed and grown. I don’t think that’s the way most people want to do it, but it has been the best way for us.
SD: Tell me about your Dragging Chains single. Why did you decide to put it out on vinyl? What do you love about vinyl?
PB: We all sort of started out when were younger in the punk scene, and the punk scene always did vinyl, the 7-inch vinyl record was a thing. The bands would sell a 7-inch record that would have four or five songs on it. The songs were about a minute long; it was crazy. I would buy those records at those shows, and they were also really cheap. It was a cheap avenue for people to put out punk music. Pretty early on, I got into the idea of records. … And then getting into country music and folk music, vinyl is really cheap when you’re buying stuff that people don’t want. You can find a pretty good country record for about 99 cents, and if you take good care of it, it’ll last.
I have a small collection and I think we just like the idea that if you’re listening on vinyl, you have to listen to the whole record. It’s sort of like an event. The way that music is listened to these days, a lot of times with my family, my younger sisters have one song from an artist that they like, and they’ve never heard any of the other songs by that artist. We’re trying to make an album that’s good all the way through, that’s the idea, and that’s one the reasons why I like the format.
SD: When you step up to the mic before a show starts, what kinds of things are usually swirling around in your head? Do you still get that giddy sense of anticipation before each show?
PB: We have sort of a ritual of every show, so at this point, I feel fairly comfortable getting on stage. We spend a good amount of our time on stage. It’s my favorite thing that we do, more so than recording, traveling, writing — everyone in the band does, we really love playing live. I’m trying to get focused on putting on the best show that I possibly can. It depends on the gig. Every show is different: Sometimes it might feel completely relaxed, sometimes more nervous, depending on the circumstance. It all depends on the day.
SD: Have you performed in Breckenridge before? What are you looking forward to about the show?
PB: Never. I don’t really know. I don’t have any assumptions because I’ve never played there. Our shows in Colorado are really great. The last time we played in Colorado was a sold-out show in the Filmore in Denver, which I think was the biggest show if our tour. We really love playing there. It’s a really unique music scene that you guys have. Breckenridge, I’ve never been there, Cooper’s father actually used to live there, though.
SD: Where do you see the band going from here? What’s the five-year plan? Ten-year plan?
PB: I think we’re definitely going to stick with it. We made it this far, and it’s a rare thing for bands, especially of our age, to make it this far. I think we’re definitely going to stick with it. We’re getting along better than we ever have in the band. If anything, it’s only getting better as we go along.
I would like to add some musicians to our group. We spend so much time on the road that we don’t really have time to add anyone. It takes some time to find someone that will fit in with a group that’s been together for so long. We’d like to add another multi-instrumentalist to the group. … I’d really like to tour more in Europe. We’ve only done two tours over there. We’re trying to branch out a bit and tour more in Europe, at least once a year.
Another thing we’d like to do, if possible, is to start an annual event, almost like a music festival that we do every year. Not necessarily like a campout, but a show that we put on and play with our friends and people we really love. That’s something we’d wanted to do for years but haven’t really been able to pull off.
SD: Any projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
PB: I think that any sort of project we’re working on I shouldn’t’ really talk about because its not completely formed yet. We have some shows coming up in Colorado but not until next year, and I can’t tell you about it yet, but we’re really excited about them. We’re working on demos for our new record, but that’s not very far along yet.
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