The Devil Makes Three goes down-and-out with Chains Are Broken

Vancouver Weekly interview with The Devil Makes Three’s Pete Bernhard

California Americana-ragtime band The Devil Makes Three are on the road once again. This time it’s to promote their latest album Chains Are Broken.

Their last album, Redemption & Ruin, was an anthology of covers, making the new album their first record of original songs since 2013’s I’m a Stranger Here.

Vancouver Weekly spoke with lead singer and guitarist Pete Bernhard ahead of the group’s November 7 concert in Vancouver. As per their rainy city tradition, The Devil Makes Three will once again perform at The Commodore Ballroom.  

These shows can get pretty rowdy. But no show can beat one of the group’s earliest shows in Vancouver. In the early 2000s, the group played The Railway Club. And boy was it memorable.

“One of the rowdiest shows we ever played, hands-down, was in Vancouver,” said Bernhard.

The crowd was so out of control that fans from the back pushed too hard, causing the front of the pack to fall onto the stage, knocking down the band.

“We got back up and finished the show. And after the show everybody went outside and a huge brawl started! The whole street was filled with people fighting. And then the cops showed up and shut down the whole street!” said Bernhard, laughing.

Bernhard said the police ended up arresting around 30 people.

“It was the most out-of-control thing I’ve ever seen in my life. But even though it was a nuts concert, I definitely remember it fondly.”

Chains Are Broken is a bit of a dark album, although one of impactful lyricism and upbeat tempos.

“I’ve always liked the ability of folk music and country music and even punk music to tell sad, down-and-out stories in a really upbeat way,” said Bernhard.

The album carries on this tradition, tackling difficult subject matter that is largely personal for Bernhard.

“I wanted to write a record that was a bunch of short stories about being a musician … being an artist. The different choices and pitfalls of that lifestyle. So many of the parts of the album that are really dark are about some of my friends who were musicians and artists and didn’t make it. For various reasons they’re not with us.”

The songs in Chains Are Broken come together as a linear arch.

“We always like to think of it in terms of a vinyl record. There’s side A and side B.”

While he says most people don’t listen to music in that way anymore, The Devil Makes Three still like to take that approach. The album is presented very much in terms of a chapter 1 and a chapter 2.

“The beginning of the record has a lot to do with addiction and the weirdness of what’s going on in our country right now. The second part of the album is a little bit more introspective. A little bit more about the people in my life who I’ve lost along the way,” said Bernhard. “I think the concept and feeling of the album is one of simply being out of control.”

The Devil Makes Three’s sound has gotten a lot bigger in many ways – the group now incorporates percussion in their albums and live shows, and more than one type of banjo can be heard. But the fans are still as eclectic as ever.

Those who turn up at the Commodore show this week will no doubt see a diverse crowd of punks, metalheads, country lovers and rockabilly fans.

“We’ve always done our best to play a lot of different places. I think a lot of bands try to cultivate a certain kind of fan. Our approach has always been [to play for] anyone who likes us. Let’s just get the weirdest group of people we possibly can together,” said Bernhard.

But this odd mix of folks isn’t so odd for the band, as they love everything from metal to rockabilly themselves.

“The group of people is representative of the kind of people we are.”

The Devil Makes Three will play at the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday, November 7.