The Devil Makes Three has been playing raucous, acoustic old-time music for 15 years now. The trio has played for thousands of fans at Outside Lands, The Newport Folk Festival and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. They’ve opened for Willie Nelson and shared the stage with Emmylou Harris and Trampled By Turtles. But, as guitarist and singer Pete Bernhard explains, the band’s rise to prominence didn’t happen overnight. It took years of hard work and gradual growth.
Bernhard started playing acoustic, old-time music as a young boy, back when the rest of the kids were into metal, punk and grunge.
“It was totally unpopular and no one wanted to hear it,” Bernhard said in a recent phone interview. “I got made fun of all the time.”
Bernhard says by 2002, when he and Cooper McBean (guitar and banjo) and Lucia Turino (upright bass) formed the band in Santa Cruz, promoters didn’t know what to do with their rowdy acoustic stylings.
“People didn’t consider us a real band. We’re just a banjo, a guitar and a bass,” Bernhard says. “We wanted to play shows where there were kids. We didn’t want to play a sit down folk event.”
He says in the beginning they did everything themselves: booking, recording, driving, making posters, selling merchandise. They played house and punk shows. There was a lot of sleeping in vans and grinding before things got easier.
“We learned as we went along. We started out as a really DIY kind of band. I’ve learned how to do everything I know how to do in my adult life from being in the band,” says Bernhard. “It’s the harder way to go about it as a musician - but ultimately maybe the better one because we all still like each other.”
Bernhard says slowly but surely the band began to find its place in the scene. They just kept doing the next thing in front of them. He says they’re going to continue until they don’t like each other anymore, which he hopes is a long, long time.
The Devil Makes Three plays Ace Of Spades in Sacramento on Friday evening. Bernhard says they’ll be road testing some new material as well as playing old favorites.
“[We’re going to] use you Sacramento-people as guinea pigs for songs that might be on the next record.”
The Devil Makes Three promises an energizing evening of enthusiastic rhythms, lighting fast finger-picking and swelling harmonies refined over years of playing together and hard work.