The Devil Makes Three is not a band that is easy to quantify. The trio’s eclectic sound is a mixture of garage Americana blended with folk, jazz, bluegrass, ragtime, and vintage country. The band is fueled by guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and multi-instrumentalist Cooper McBean. On Thursday, November 16, TDM3 will return to the Knitting Factory along with special guest Scott H. Biram. Tickets are only $22.50 and can be purchased here.
“There’s a road that goes out of every town,” offers Bernhard. “All you’ve got to do is get on it.”
The guitarist/singer and his cohorts in the raw and raucous trio The Devil Makes Three have found their way onto that road numerous times since they first left their picaresque rural hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. Back then, they had no idea it would lead them to such auspicious destinations as the Newport Folk and Austin City Limits Festivals, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and on tours with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Trampled By Turtles. Along the way, they drew numerous accolades from a growing fan base and press alike.
Bernhard and McBean, a multi-instrumentalist who plays banjo, musical saw and bass, forged a particular bond. Unlike most of their mutual friends, they both liked to play acoustic music, with McBean showing Bernhard the wonders of Hank Williams and Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. They kept in touch after high school, when nearly everyone in their clique relocated to the west coast like the characters in Delbert McClinton’s song “Two More Bottles of Wine.”
“It was a mass exodus of kids who went out to start bands and be creative, searching for the unknown, dreaming of something different,” Bernhard says. “We wanted to get away from where we were from, as many kids do, and California was the farthest we could get.” Eventually they landed in sunny Santa Cruz, California, where TDM3 took shape in 2001. Their early gigs were house concerts, then small bars, punk shows, bigger rock clubs and theaters and festivals, all the while defying genre and delighting whomever turned up to listen.
Turino learned bass to join the band, but her unremitting sense of rhythm comes naturally from being raised by parents who were dance teachers, and from her own dance background. Attacking the strings of her upright, she understands how to infuse songs with the force it takes to get a crowd moving.
The Devil Makes Three is currently touring in support of its fifth studio album, Redemption & Ruin, a collection of cover songs that have inspired them upon their journey. The album has two distinct sides; it’s half gospel songs with a proclivity towards the darker end of the spectrum of religious music (Redemption) and half songs of vice (Ruin). In a very strict sense, the band-members were looking for songs which fully and wholeheartedly fit in one of those two categories. There could be no in between; it was all or nothing. “Drunken Hearted Man” is the first “ruin” debut and a new spin on the original by blues ghost Robert Johnson.