Pete Bernhard from the Americana band The Devil Makes Three discusses the band’s new album, the artwork for their albums, producing music for other artists, and what’s next for the band
By Emily May
Santa Cruz Americana band The Devil Makes Three, comprised of Pete Bernhard, Lucia Turino and Cooper McBean, released their latest album, Chains Are Broken, in August of last year, an album that took them in a bit of a different direction as a band. Although they usually have various collaborations when writing and recording an album, they stuck to their trio for the new album, with the addition of their touring drummer Stefan Amidon. As a result, they translated the spirit of their love show into a studio recording. It is a much more personal album about what it takes to be an artist or a writer of any kind and what you have to do to make your dreams possible. The album marks the band’s 6th full-length album and their first album of original songs since their 2013 album I’m A Stranger Here. Having formed in 2002, the band has gained a large and loyal following from their constant touring over the years and have been praised by Entertainment Weekly, American Songwriter and The Boston Globe among others and have performed at festivals such as Hangout Fest, Lollapalooza and Shakey Knees. They have upcoming tours with the DiTrani Brothers in May and with Flogging Molly and Social Distortion in August/September, as well as a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater on May 24th. You can follow the band and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour news, as well as stream and purchase their music via the following links. Check out the video for “Bad Idea” below, shot live at Red Rocks in May of 2018.
iTunes/Apple Music- https://itunes.apple.
The Devil Makes Three recently released its latest album ‘Chains Are Broken’, which saw you move in a different direction as a band. You have said that you all try to do something different for each album. Do you tend to have an idea, well in advance of each album, of what you want the sound/direction of the album to be?
We usually road test all of our new material for a while before we go into the studio but once we’re in there, plans tend to change. We like to come up with new ideas on the spot whenever possible. With this record, we had an idea of the direction we wanted to go but everything came together in the studio. We got to use the studio and time was on our side.
What can you tell me about the process of writing this record?
This album was recorded at Sonic Ranch in El Paso Texas – far away from the city in the middle of a pecan orchard. It was a residential studio and we lived there for three weeks. We approached each song like we had never heard it before and dug in a lot deeper than we usually have a chance to do.
The album reached #1 on The Americana Music Association albums chart, which I read was a first for the band! What was that moment like?
It was a great moment to be sure; and even better that it stayed there for quite awhile!
You recorded the new album near El Paso, TX with Ted Hutt, which was the first time the band recorded an album in a residential studio. You worked in the studio for 3 weeks and had more space and time then previous recordings. How do you feel this environment changed your approach to the recording process?
The environment allowed us a level of focus that we had never experienced before. We just had more time and access to the studio for three weeks of tracking, which was a great change for us.
You have worked with some great producers and studios over the years, from Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, Butchershoppe Studio in Nashville and Ted Hutt on the most recent album. What goes into deciding what studio you will be recording in for each album? Is it based on specific producers you want to work with?
For us, it always depends on where the producer wants to work and feels most comfortable. We let them lead the charge in that and it has worked out well for us so far. Every producer has a studio that is home for them, and we like to go there and move in for a while.
I read that when you have time off from the band, that you like to work on other artists’ music and have produced some records. What do you love about working with other artists on their music in addition to your own?
I love being in the studio working on band songs, solo songs or other people’s albums. It’s like being at the office for me and I love to be around as much music as possible! We have our own record label Kahn Records that puts out our back catalogue and a few other artists.
You have said that you grew up reading comic books and planned to be an illustrator someday but turned out to be a better musician then cartoonist. What was your favorite comic growing up?
My neighbor growing up was an artist named Steve Bissett. He was an illustrator for Swamp Thing and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles among other comics. Those two were my gateway into the world of comic books. Also, Vaughn Bode and Mark Bode are two other artists I read when I was a kid.
Was there one in particular that inspired you to want to become an illustrator? Do you still read comics?
I do still read comics from time to time and it was mainly those two I mentioned that I loved. That was my inspiration.
What is the process for creating the artwork for your albums? Do you tend to have specific artists in mind for each one?
Yes, always. And they are almost all friends of ours. Tattoo artists Kai Smart, Alex Zablowsky, and Wyatt Hesemyer are all go-to people for great designs. We have worked with them on so many designs over the years. Kristen Olson, who is a San Francisco-based artist we first met in Santa Cruz, has made us some great designs that have become logos for our band at this point. Last but not least, Janina Larenas from Santa Cruz has designed posters, albums and backdrops for our stage set. Everyone should go check out these artists – extremely talented people one and all.
You have said that you are proud of coming from the DIY side of the music business and that everything you know you learned the hard way. What do you feel is the hardest lesson you’ve learned over the years and what accomplishment are you most proud of?
No one owes you anything and never give up.
Being from smaller towns/cities yourselves, you always make a point of playing places that a lot of other bands don’t. What are the crowds like at those shows? Do you feel they are a more appreciative crowd?
Not more appreciative but just as enthusiastic and engaged as any other place in the US. I think more bands should play smaller towns – they need shows just as much as everyone else and some of our best shows have been in out of the way places.
What can you tell me about your recent LR Baggs artist videos for “Chained To The Couch” and “Native Son”? How did those videos come about and what was the experience like?
Our fiddle player Kellen Wenrich has a friend at the company and we all use their gear and have for years. Also, our friend JP Harris lives in Nashville and suggested we do a session. It was great – good people and great videos.
You are currently on tour in Europe. What have some highlights been?
The whole tour was sold out! Three days straight in Dublin, Ireland was probably the highlight for me. I love the country and especially the city of Dublin. My father actually lived there when he was young. We would like to extend our thanks to Dropkick Murphys and their crew for having us along! We had a ton of fun and played some amazing shows.
You will be touring the US in May. What are you looking forward to with the upcoming US dates? What’s next for the band after tour?
Red Rocks on May 24th! We also just released a live album of our last show at Red Rocks on our label and it’s available on our website. Next, we’re headed on a nationwide tour with Social Distortion and Flogging Molly in September and after that tour wraps we’ll spend a solid year in suspended hyper-sleep to psychically prepare for our next album.