A band with the word “Devil” in its name evokes darkness. A group either shies away from that, or — as in the case of California’s The Devil Makes Three — delves deep into the shadows.
The band’s members — guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and guitarist and tenor banjo player Cooper McBean — have found a way to embrace their inner demons and unleash them in an accessible way.
On May 25, The Devil Makes Three headlines Red Rocks for the second time. We caught up with Bernhard and asked him about the group’s soon-to-drop, yet-unnamed record and what inspired the album’s mood.
Westword: You just finished recording your sixth full-length. Tell us about it.
Pete Bernhard: We recorded down in El Paso, Texas. It’s cool, because Cooper lives in Austin, so it was easy for him. We recorded there at this place called Sonic Ranch. It’s in the middle of nowhere right down by the Mexican border, about an hour outside of El Paso. It’s really cool. It’s like a huge ranch, and it’s very isolated.
We had nothing to do but play music. We’re in the middle of the desert, and we just moved in there. It’s a residential studio; we stayed for three weeks to track the record, and it was really fun. We’ve never done that before. Moving into a studio is a new thing for us, and it was great.
Usually, we’d make a record in L.A., Nashville or New York — wherever the big studios are. It could be really distracting. Here, we didn’t get distracted. There was nothing to get distracted by.
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How did that isolated environment affect how this record sounds?
We were there in the wintertime, so nothing was growing. There are no leaves on any of the trees, and we’re in the desert. It’s very dark and a little bit creepy down there. I think that definitely comes across on the record, very much so. The record feels like that place, and I don’t think that necessarily happened on purpose. It was just like that’s where we were while we were writing the songs, so it snuck its way in. It has kind of a sparseness and a creepiness to it.
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Cool — so that’s the total mood of the record?
Very much so, and maybe more so than on other records. We put a lot of baritone guitar in the record. It’s a lot heavier of a record than we’ve ever done before. This is the first album where we brought our drummer into the studio with us, so it’s heavier and creepier than other stuff we’ve done before.
I know you’ve played Red Rocks before. Talk about what that means to you.
Oh man, it means so much for us. It’s, first of all, the biggest show we’ve ever played, which is huge for any musician, but also the most beautiful venue that we’ve ever played, which is just awesome. We’ve had the chance where we opened a bunch of shows at Red Rocks over the years, and I remember the first time we played there, it was such an overwhelming feeling to have that many people. And also the way Red Rocks is set up, the way you can see the whole crowd — that’s really rare, you know? I mean, usually when you’re playing to a crowd, even if they’re big, you can only see the front hundred people cheering, and then it just disappears. Red Rocks is really like a crazy experience to get a wall of people. Yeah, it was really intense.
I’ve got to say the first time I ever played there, I was so nervous, and I don’t really get that nervous. It’s really huge for us. We worked our way up opening shows there, and honestly, we were just stoked to be playing there at all. And now to be able to do our own show — it’s just really amazing and so great.
The Devil Makes Three
With the Wood Brothers and Murder by Death, Friday, May 25, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, $42 to 52, 720-865-2494.