Local favorite The Devil Makes Three returns with new album, two Catalyst shows
It’s hard to miss the freewheeling spirit which permeates nearly every nook and cranny of The Devil Makes Three’s latest album, I’m a Stranger Here. It feels and sounds loose and fresh, almost as if the making of the album was more recreational than it was work.
“[This] ended up probably being one of the funnest records we’ve ever made,” says guitarist/singer Pete Bernhard, who admits that, at first, the band wasn’t sure what direction the album was headed. After all, they had never worked with a producer before.
“We’ve always self-produced our records, so we were a little hesitant, not knowing what it would be like,” Bernhard explains. “It was also our first time working with New West Records, so I think we were all excited about it, but also a little nervous and not quite knowing what to expect.”
Once Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean got used to no longer being in charge of the production, and the assortment of guest players who appear on the album, Bernhard says things went smoothly. A lot of this can be traced back to the band’s decision to work with veteran producer Buddy Miller (Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris). His largely hands-off approach to making the album helped the trio feel at ease and play more organically.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to work with Buddy Miller in the first place is because his records have a really natural, live feel to them,” says Bernhard. “That’s the sort of sound we’ve been trying to capture but have had a hard time capturing. He really helped us do that.”
Stranger is a solid addition to the band’s catalog, juxtaposing serious themes with upbeat melodies and refrains. “Spinning Like a Top,” for example, is a blitzkrieg ragtime track about teetering on the edge of being out of control, while “Stranger” is a stomping bluegrass-meets-country number that reflects on the temporary nature of human existence. For Bernhard, combining disparate musical and lyrical components just makes sense.
“That’s just where I tend to go; those are the kinds of songs I write,” he says. “But also, we like our live shows to be a lot of fun, and I think playing the kind of music we play is an opportunity to sneak in a lot of subject matter that people aren’t expecting. We tour a lot—we’re predominantly a live band—so it’s good to write songs we enjoy playing.”
As Stranger proves, The Devil Makes Three has matured both lyrically and musically over the last 10 years. But there is at least one thing which has not changed, and that is the band’s appreciation for the fans that have supported them from day one.
“We’ve been 100 percent dependent on our fans [from the start],” says Bernhard. “We’ve really had a connection with our fans, and that’s what’s kept us afloat. People knew when they were supporting us, they were supporting us directly, and that was a big part of building our band up. Our fans knew when they bought a CD the money would help us keep touring and making more albums, and [allow us to] keep doing it if they would keep coming out.”
The Devil Makes Three will perform at 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30 and Tuesday, Dec. 31 at The Catalyst,
1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets for Monday’s show are $25/adv, $30/door. Tickets for Tuesday’s show are $35/adv, $40/door. For more information, call 423-1338.