For Pete Bernhard, one of the guitarists and the primary singer for The Devil Makes Three, the process of creating the band's most recent album, I'm a Stranger Here, was surprising. It was the first time the trio did not produce the record themselves (country singer Buddy Miller took the reins), and they were matched up with musicians they had never played with before.
"What I'm most surprised about is how easily it all came together," Bernhard says. "We did a lot of rehearsal and demo'd songs, so by the time we got in there, we were ready to go."
There is a palpable energy to the record, and some of this comes from the ease the band members felt about the process. The trio even went so far as to record the songs differently from what it had done in the past -- live in the studio, in this case -- which gives the album a more immediate feel.
Some of the songs on Stranger definitely have a breezy feel to them. "Worse or Better" is a funky, foot-stomping good time, the fiddle-led country number "Dead Body Moving" is perfect for a hoedown, and the bluegrass song "Spinning Like a Top" is as groovy as anything on the album.
But it's "Hallelu" that highlights the band's penchant for juxtaposing upbeat music with serious lyrics, as the gospel-flavored song comments on how it should come as no surprise that Jesus hasn't returned yet, given how flippant we are about God and Jesus. "I'm a big fan of gospel music," Bernhard says. "I was listening to a lot of old vocal gospel groups that were just a mix of five voices and one instrument -- a piano [or] a guitar. It's classic. They were really awesome, and what they did is a lot more complicated than what we did."
This willingness to add elements not necessarily commonplace on a TDM3 record is part of the reason fans have helped support the band for over a decade. The group is always trying to think outside the box, and as a result, has evolved as performers over time. The fact that TDM3 is not an overnight sensation has further endeared the band to its fans.
"I like that, for us, it's been a slow build," Bernhard says. "We're not the type of band that got really famous off of one song in a matter of months or something. We've been making steady progress for 10 years."
For Bernhard, music is something that goes back a lot further than TDM3. It's something he treasures, and it's clear that as time goes on, that love is only going to grow.
"It's been a big part of my life since I was young," he says. "My dad, my brother, my uncle, my aunt, most everyone in my family played music, so it was a really important thing. Everyone I looked up to was a musician or an artist, so it just seemed like the natural thing to do and I was always really drawn to it. I still love music as much as I did then. I feel like I'm always learning more about it and that it's never going to stop."
The Devil Makes Three is scheduled to perform Sunday, February 16, at Crescent Ballroom.
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