The Devil Makes Three returns to Bend

A conversation with guitarist Pete Bernhard

By David Jasper / The Bulletin

Published Jan 24, 2014 at 12:11AM

If you go

What: The Devil Makes Three, with Brothers Comatose

When: 9 p.m. Thursday, doors open 8 p.m.

Cost: $20 plus fees in advance (ticket outlets listed at website below), $25 at the door

Where: Midtown Ballroom, 51 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Bend

Contact: www.randompresents.com

In line at the grocery store the other day, I squinted to read the fine print on the cover of Vanity Fair. It was a Cervantes quote: “Where there’s music, there can be no evil.”

Tell that to The Devil Makes Three, an acoustic trio from Vermont and Santa Cruz, Calif. The group — singer-guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean — returns to Bend on Thursday for a show at Midtown Ballroom (see “If you go”).

Last year, the trio released its fourth album, “I’m a Stranger Here,” featuring 10 songs that scan like they were distilled from seedy motels, decrepit barns and dive bars TDM3 encountered on the road, which they’ve been no strangers to after forming in 2001.

“I’m a Stranger Here” is a richly varied string-band album with elements of folk, jazz, punk, etc., that back Bernhard’s claim: “We bend genres pretty hard.”

Bouncy foot tappers? Yep.

Funereal banjo? Uh-huh.

Wild barnburners? Duh.

Subject matter such as addiction, mortality and relationships? Indeed.

Eerily familiar vocals that sound like they were maybe recorded on analog equipment during the mid-20th century in or near Memphis or possibly a phone booth in Appalachia? Well, now that you mention it…

Last week, the ever-entertaining Bernhard kindly submitted to an email interview with GO! Magazine about the album, TDM3’s live show and other stuff. Here it is, slightly edited.

GO!: Why do you think string music, bluegrass and similar genres have risen in popularity in recent years? Are people craving an escape from technology and/or over-produced crud?

PB: I’m not sure why acoustic music has become so popular but we have always loved it so it’s good to have so many other people entering the fold so to speak. It’s simple music and I think people may be attracted to that simplicity.

In these troubled times of global warming, seemingly endless war and unbridled government surveillance I would say it warms citizens’ hearts to hear a slightly out of tune banjo (they are always slightly out of tune) unceremoniously clanging away in the distance.

GO!: Can you discuss where you were at mentally and emotionally when writing songs for “I’m a Stranger Here”?

PB: I am not even sure where I was physically for most of the writing process of “I’m a Stranger,” so it’s hard to say where I was emotionally and mentally. This album was written in different states and over many years. I was all over the place in more ways than one. I know that I spent many days staring at an empty pad of paper and reminding myself that I had to write something soon. Eventually I woke up in the studio in Nashville and the album was in the bag! It was a pleasure to make this record and I hope that comes through when people give it a listen. We had real fun kids! Remember fun?

GO!: Any particular favorite tracks on the album, or ones that go over the best live?

PB: I would say my favorite track is either “A Moments Rest” or “Hand Back Down” but really, I like them all.

As far as live. “Worse or Better” goes really well live and we love the album version, but “Dead Body Moving” is really fun as well.

GO!: The album has some darker themes about being rootless and wandering, growing up, addiction. Would you call it a concept album, or is that overreaching?

PB: I would not call it a concept album, I didn’t have a plan or overarching theme in my head at the start. I wrote as many songs as I could and we chose the ones we thought would work best for the record. The material is darker and we definitely gravitated towards those songs … I’ve always liked that kind of subject matter and in this album we embraced it.

GO!: Did I hear that you moved back to Vermont? What led to the move?

PB: All of us are from Vermont originally and I wanted to be closer to my family. I love New England and I missed the seasons.

GO!: How do you define success?

PB: Trying to do what you love and not giving up.

GO!: What about failure?

PB: Refusing to try to do what you love due to fear of failure or giving up on your dreams.

GO!: How has your approach to writing evolved over the years?

PB: I have largely the same process but I think that I’m more open-minded and willing to hear criticism than I was when I was younger. I have learned what kind of song will suit our band and what kind of song won’t, and I enjoy writing more now than I ever have in the past. Writing can be lonely but I guess I’ve learned that loneliness is necessary.

GO!: What can folks expect from a TDM3 show?

PB: I think people can expect to sing along, dance, scream, and possibly lose a shoe.

GO!: Do you have any rituals that help guarantee a good show?

PB: We do: We warm up, we dress up, we jump up and down, we yell, we cheer (always looking each other in the eye) and we walk out on stage.

GO!: Anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like readers to know?

PB: This will be our first show in Bend in a very long time and our first show with a new album in three years, I believe. We hope that the people of Bend come forth from their places of dwelling and join with us in calling the great yeti from the forest and the boulders from the earth.

In closing, I would like to share this quote from a great man and ask the people of Bend to always remember: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com