Citizen Staff Writer
At first listen, The Devil Makes Three could be mistaken for a typical old bluegrass, country band.
Pete Bernhard sings songs of love, loss and whiskey to the twang of his old guitar. Accompanied by Lucia Turino’s thumping standup bass and Cooper McBean’s banjo, the illusion is complete. However, it’s not long before you realize The Devil Makes Three isn’t your grandpappy’s folk band; it is much, much more.
“We’re not a nostalgia act,” Bernhard says. “We sing about topics that are currently relevant. We don’t sing songs about mining, trains or covered wagons.”
The Devil Makes Three will play Plush on Monday as part of Tucson’s West by Southwest festival.
The band was formed six years ago by a group of Sacramento musicians looking to create their own style of modern yet traditional music. By fusing influences such as Johnny Cash, Gary Davis, Django Reinhardt, swing, jazz and folk, The Devil Makes Three has created a sound that is all its own.
“We play as many styles as we can get away with in a string band with no drums,” Bernhard says. “If you take all the music we love and run it through the filter of us as musicians it just comes out sounding that way.”
While the band’s sound is a unique mix of styles and influences, there are still some old-time conventions that the band holds true. One is their style of songwriting. Much like the folk and bluegrass greats of the past, The Devil Makes Three’s songs often tell a story.
“The Bullet” starts out with a fast finger-picked guitar rhythm reminiscent of folk legend Bob Dylan and breaks into Bernhard singing about a 19-year-old boy who stole “everything the eye could see” and “drinking ’til (he) don’t know the meaning of alone.”
“A good song is a good story in my opinion,” Bernhard says. “I’ve always tried to write that kind of song. It’s just what I find most appealing.”
As for the characters, Bernhard says that some are fictional but that he tries to write all songs with at least some degree of personal experience and reality.
Members of The Devil Makes Three say their concerts are as unconventional as their music.
“In a good live show there are no seats and everybody stands. We usually play a rock venue or a big concert hall type place and everybody dances and it’s more like a rock show than folk show,” he says. “We try to play a great upbeat show and just have some fun.”
The Devil Makes Three will play Tucson’s West by Southwest festival, when local venues book bands that are passing through the Old Pueblo on their way to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. West by Southwest will take place Sunday-Tuesday and then will pick up the next week from March 22-24.
IF YOU GO
What: The Devil Makes Three in concert during the West by Southwest Music Festival
When:10:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Plush, 340 E. Sixth St.
Info: 798-1298, www.plushtucson.com