The Devil Makes Three is in good company.
As if willing themselves back in time, an increasing number of punks groomed on electricity are unplugging their amps, unstrapping themselves from their Gibsons and Fenders, and picking up acoustic instruments.
The Devil Makes Three is young - the trio's members, Pete Bernhard, Lucia Turino and Cooper McBean, are all in their mid-20 - but their aesthetic sounds as old-school as they come.
In the '80s, there were Mojo Nixon and various ”cowpunk” bands. X, already an L.A. band with a healthy appreciation of rockabilly, begot The Knitters. As All Music Guide tells it, cowpunk morphed into its own genre, alt-country, in the '90s, but plenty of punkers continued to move into more traditional, rootsy music.
In the late '90s, Social Distortion's Mike Ness put out back-to-back albums that saw the Southern Californian getting in touch with his inner Johnny Cash. Supersuckers' front man Eddie Spaghetti, who, having already done country material (and whole live sets) with the band, has released two fine collections in recent years, sprinkling covers of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle among his own tunes.
Hank III (the grandson of Hank Williams) may be the amphibious missing link between country and punk, able and willing to play both.
We're sure we're leaving out others, but the point is: Something about the hillbilly ethos lingers longer than a spiky mohawk in some punks' minds.
The Devil Makes Three, aka TDM3, guitarist Pete Bernhard believes the two seemingly discrete genres share similar spirits and overlapping themes.
”I think that they have a lot in common,” Bernhard says. ”It's just sort of hard to point it out on the surface. But if you look at Johnny Cash, and his career and his life, and then look at your average punk band, it's not really that different. It's just that the style of the music sounds slightly different.”
One man's ”slightly different,” of course, is another's ”strange bedfellows,” but, in any event, those who go to hear TDM3 Saturday (see ”If You Go”) won't likely object to what they hear.
”We try to have as much fun as possible, and we really try to get people to dance,” Bernhard says. ”That's a big thing we try to do ... we really wanted to play acoustic music and have people be able to dance and have a good time, as opposed to more of the folk model, (where) everybody sits and is very quiet.”
Therefore, the band's live performances are a lot faster and more energetic than on the group's 2002's self-titled debut. However, he adds, 2004's ”Longjohns, Boots, and a Belt” more successfully captures the band's upbeat concert tempos. The three-and-a-half-year-old band has plans to release a live album recorded in Santa Cruz, Calif., where McBean lives. Turino and Bernhard live in Sacramento, Calif.
Bernhard and McBean were acquainted with Turino in their native Vermont, but only got to know her once all were in California.
Their path to forming TDM3 was hardly direct: Bernhard moved West, to Sonoma, Calif., with his girlfriend when he was 18. He spent some time in Nashville, eventually reconnecting with old friend McBean in Olympia.
They moved to Santa Cruz, where they ”tried to form a band, but we didn't have a bass player,” Bernhard says.
Enter Turino, who lived in Santa Cruz. In her bio on the band's Web site (www.thedevil makesthree.com,) she says she begged to join the group. In punk fashion, she did not at first know how to play her instrument.
”Yeah, she had always wanted to play bass, and she got it in her head that she wanted to be in our band, and we said, 'Sure,” explains Bernhard. ”She kind of learned to play the bass in the band. It was kind of cool, actually.”
Turino is in college now, studying animal science at the University of California, Davis, and McBean juggles jobs at a tattoo parlor and a cafe.
”I'm not really very good at day jobs,” says Bernhard. ”I've had a lot of bad jobs. I've worked in a lot of restaurants, I've worked in a lot of cafes, I've worked picking apples and strawberries, I worked for my dad doing carpentry. I've done landscaping. Any job I could get. If I don't have to do it anymore, I don't want to.”
Responsible for booking the band's shows and other managerial duties, he's made The Devil Makes Three, and music in general, his main concern. Bernhard also has a solo album he just completed.
”I really like doing the music thing full time,” he says.
”I'm a little bit more obsessive. I want to be playing all the time.”
If You Go
What: The Devil Makes Three with David Bowers + Tyler Mason = Snow Kittens Pajama Party
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, doors open 8 p.m.
Where: Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend
Cost: $10 in advance plus service charges at Ranch Records (389-6116), Boomtown (388-1800), Ticket Mill (318-5457); no service charge at Movietyme Video (382-6756), Wall Street Guitars & Collectibles (617-9080), Silver Moon Brewing (388-8331), Artscape Northwest (330-6534) and Paulina Springs Books (549-0866); $13 at the door