Interview with Punk Music Lover Pete Bernhard of The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Jay Westcott)

​Back in April, we got to talk with Pete Bernhard about all the fun that a band who never seems to stop touring has coming for 2019.  While some of the events discussed in the article have now already happened, there is still plenty more coming including their show in D.C.  Read on to see why Pete is a fan of the city and some of our music just as much as we are fans of The Devil Makes Three!

Karin McLaughlin: Okay, ​right off the bat - after taking a look at you​r upcoming ​tour schedule, you're heading overseas and doing a stint with Dropkick Murphys. ​ I know that you guys have worked with the same producer (Ted Hut) as Dropkick, but I  want to know about The Devil Makes Three and Dropkick Murphys dynamic relationship.

Pete Bernhard: Well, we don't actually know those guys very well, but like you said, we worked with the same producer on our last album.  Me and Cooper used to go see them, we're from New England and would go see them in Boston when we were teenagers​.  You'd go see a punk show and there'd be ​nine bands playing and a lot of times Dropkick would be one of the last bands playing ​so we  grew up ​listening to them. ​ At the time, they were a pretty small band ​compared to what they are now.   That's  our connection to them and we've been wanting to play with him for a while. We just played our first show ​on St. Patrick's Day - well ​actually, we did one other one ​at Bank of America Stadium a billion years ago, but this ​was one of the many festivals that they do around St. Patrick's Day and it was really fun. ​

KM:  So that's a really cool opportunity for you guys then, ​to get to play with a band that you  grew up going to see. ​ I'm assuming obviously, there will be some kind of friendship and relationship built during that time, but that's pretty awesome.

​PB: Yeah, they seem like really nice guys and​ we're really excited ​tour with ​them in Europe.

KM: That's another thing I wanted to touch on is what's different about touring overseas, as opposed to the U.S. as far as preparation or maybe anything you guys​ take with you or just even the crowds and the overall vibe.  How different is overseas as opposed to here?

​PB: It's pretty different actually. The audiences are,​ in our experience​ really attentive and tend to be a lot quieter. ​ They don't get as crazy​, there isn't a lot of fighting, they're sort of more subdued and more respectful.  I wouldn't say that they're not having a really good time, but it's a little harder to read. I think we just  become accustomed to people being a little bit nuts and you can tell they're really having a good time. ​ I really like the audience over there a lot, it's great, it's just different.  ​For the most part, it's really nice that they're​ listening and attentive​ and I think what we've all experienced over there has been pretty much totally positive, so we're stoked to​ go over there with ​Dropkick and play to a completely different audience. We have our own audience over there, but of course, ​theirs is much bigger.

KM:  Are there any comforts of home that you guys make sure to take with you when you travel overseas?

Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Giles Clement)

​The Devil Makes Three (photo credit: Giles Clement)

Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Giles Clement)

​The Devil Makes Three (photo credit: Giles Clement)

PB: ​When we're there, we try and​ ask for some things that are sort of​ like foods and stuff that reminds us of home and ​stuff like that.   ​Also, to me, going to- this time we're going to Ireland and England and Scotland-  it's not really ​a big shock culturally, I don't know if you've ever been over there​ but I mean, they're English speaking and​ most of the first people who came here were from there. ​ People tend to be friendly and the language barrier isn't there, which is nice.  ​ This doesn't really feel like you're going that​ far off the map.   Whereas sometimes if we go to like Spain and Italy​ or France, it's a bit ​more of a shock. ​Even Germany and Prague and stuff like that is sort of like​ different, you know what I mean?  ​Generally speaking, the best thing is​ that we tend to go with our American crew and we've all been touring together for so long that it  feels like home in a weird way.

KM: I was reading some stuff on your website and I think that you guys have probably the most awesome descriptors of the band and the music. Two of them especially are "Reckless Rock and Roll" and "Whiskey ​Soaked Ragtime" (laughs).  I was hoping to see if I could get your, not really take on that, but ​reasons why that fits you guys so well.

PB: I think our whole intention as a band, when we started out, was to try and make the kind of music that we like more fun. ​We were really inspired by folk music and blues and classic rock and roll and it was sort of like the people who ​were playing it, that we knew were sort of doing ​it in like a revivalist sort of way.  There was no dancing, no one was​ standing up, and we were really into punk music, so we ​kind of like, 'How do we take this music that we love and ​make it ​the show environment that we like?'  I think that's how those descriptors got started and why they fit the band this because it's our intention when we started the band  - try and make our live shows fun and really bring the energy that we ​first saw in punk music and bring it into the  music we were playing. ​ That was our whole goal.  ​ ​

KM:  Sounds like a really fun show.  It makes me think of​ the 1920s ​and the speakeasies when it was ​the prohibition era and you have to go in a secret place to drink and dance and have a really good time, but it sounds like a blast. ​ 

Now let's talk about Chains Are Broken as a whole and  just how this album is maybe similar to and different from what you guys have done before?

PB: ​I think, with this record, me and Cooper really love like I said, old rock and roll and oldies and shit like that and​ with this album, we really ​lean into that a little harder. ​ ​​ We also brought our touring drummer in the studio, which was Ted's idea, the producer and that was a bit of a departure for us as well. ​ We're just sort of messing around​ every time we make an album and we try and do something a little bit different to color the album.

This one we recorded down in Texas, right on the Mexican border near El Paso​ at this place called Sonic Ranch, and it was really a cool studio, a residential studio way out in the middle of nowhere. ​ We went and lived there for like, I don't know, ​a week and a half I think it was and just recorded every day and it was really fun.  We've never made an album like that. Usually we​ just go to a city and go to a studio, so it was really cool to be ​in the middle of nowhere making this album, it was super fun. ​  ​

Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Jay Westcott)

​The Devil Makes Three (photo credit: Jay Westcott)

Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Jay Westcott)

​The Devil Makes Three (photo credit: Jay Westcott)

KM: Different environment​, totally engulfed in nothing but the music I'm assuming?

​PB: Yeah, yeah, we had no choice. It was residential recording so there would be four or five bands because there's a bunch of different tracking rooms.   ​This one band came and ​asked us, "Hey​ where's the nearest bar?"  And it's like, dude, the nearest bar is like an hour and a half​ away, there was literally nothing. ​ It was ​really actually good in a way.​

KM: Speaking on that a bit - I think this is so important, because everybody has or sets a goal​ there's someone I follow on Instagram that's a local business owner​ and he posted something the other day that rings similar to this. ​ People have these goals or this thing that they want, but they don't think about all the things that are going to be necessary to make it possible.   You were quoted as saying, "It's an album about what you have to do to make your dream possible."​  Seems like you've done that, but what was something along the way that was unexpected or unanticipated about that journey?  A sacrifice or ​something you guys ​might not have realized that was part of the whole process.  You're still  growing and learning as you continue to have years under your belt and make new albums and do new music and hit new places and tour with new people.  Is there something that really sticks out along that journey maybe that you guys weren't expecting and now you feel like is really  something you are ​standing on top of the mountain and ​getting to say that you did?  Like a 'we did it and it wasn't easy, but we did it.'?

PB: Yeah, I mean, I think the main thing that I ​really recognize as being important is being willing to sacrifice.  ​That's a big theme of the album too, sort of ​what you ​have got to give up to get what you want, how bad you want it? What are you willing to ​give up?  

Some people who I grew up with had a similar dream and didn't make it, either because they had drug problems or they just didn't really have it in them.  ​​It's a hard life no matter what you choose to do. ​ For me, ​I don't think I realized when I was younger, quite what it was going to take to do what I wanted to do. ​  I think it was a lot more than I thought, even though I ​did think it was a lot. ​

There's an aspect of ​yeah, we made it this far and it's really great that we were able to do what ​we've done, but I mean, for me, I don't really get a lot of satisfaction out of that.  I'm sort of the type of person that is always looking to what we're gonna do​ and not what we've already done. It just makes me happy to feel like, 'Hey, we're going to Europe with the Dropkick Murphys!'  That's  what I'm looking forward to, what we're doing next​ and touring outside the United States is something we're sort of pushing now. ​

​For the first time this year, we're doing some Canadian festivals and some festivals in Europe and going on this tour with ​the Dropkicks so I'm always looking forward and never looking back. ​ I think in a way, it's better to not think about what you want just to work really, really hard.

KM: Right.  There's always some peaks and valleys, right?  I mean, you guys work so hard, ​and then you ​sacrifice all this stuff and you do all these things and then ​you put out an album and the album is regarded and played all over. ​ Things get a little bit easier for a little while because everybody's ​riding on the success of the album. ​ Then you're going back into a valley where you have to start again and do more stuff and go again. ​ The more fame and recognition you're getting, ​there are certain things that I'm sure get a little bit easier and get handed off to someone else, but then, ​ you have a whole new set of stuff that you guys have to do to keep up with yourselves. 

The Devil Makes Three - Live At Red Rocks

PB: Yeah, ​in a way, it's almost like creating a monster (laughs) and then you have to do it.  The truth is, most musicians​, you choose it as a career, they're going to do it anyway. ​ It's like ​you said, there are peaks and valleys and we go through periods where​ an album comes out and then time goes by and then people are like, "Oh you guys haven't put out a record in a while."  We put out records pretty slow and I'm going to make a really concerted effort to put out a new record sooner this time.  We just put out that record and then in April​ on 4/20, we're going to put out a live recording of us playing our last show at Red Rocks​ online and I'm going to work really hard after that to follow it up with another studio album. ​   We get ​so side tracked w​ith just our touring lif​e and then think​ we should put out a record but we have all these tours and like our year is booked up and we just don't really get around to it. ​ I mean, we've been on tour for 15 years and it's just ​sort of what we do.  ​​

The Devil Makes Three - Live At Red Rocks

KM:  You guys are on tour so much and in very close proximity to each other so you must have a very ​respectable, cohesive dynamic being together all the time.

PB: Yeah, ​we're  like a family at this point. I think any band that's been together as long as we have, it's like a family.  It can be a really dysfunctional family or it could be a a really good family, depending on the day (laughs)  I think the key is that you just you like love each other, even when you don't like each other.  I think when you're when you've been together as long as we have ​it's difficult I mean, I think any band would tell you, it's difficult, but at the same time, I spent pretty much my entire adult life on the road so sometimes it's very difficult for me to not do it too, right?  That probably sounds weird to most normal people, but it's my lifestyle​.  If I'm home for like three or four months, I'm ​feel like, 'Okay, yeah, time to go.'

KM: Talking about some of the new music again, I know that you also have ​said ​"Pray for Rain" is an ode to the state of the world today. ​ ​Being that it is such a tumultuous time and music is definitely therapeutic, musicians have always talked about the 'state of affairs' so to speak, right? So to what extent do you guys kind of feel that you're doing that for the fan​s and/or for ​yourselves?​  What's the what's the motivation behind it? ​  Also the track "I'm a Terrible Man", I don't know if that rings true also to the me too movement of the world, but how much of that -​being that you guys are going through the same thing that everyone else, in this country at least, is going through​ is for yourselves versus the fans?

​PB: I think my hope is that it's always a therapeutic for me​ and then therefore, it will be for other people. ​ Especially with ​"Terrible Man" there are people who are these huge public figures and role models​ ​or policy makers and you've got politicians or people that are supposed to be sort of our civic leaders, and ​underneath it all, ​they're the worst people.  I guess everybody has to act like they're not even though we all know now that they are.

KM: It's funny, to me that some people still act surprised by it (laughs).  ​

PB: Yeah, I mean look at the Catholic Church​ and everything that came out with that as well​, just​ all these people that are sort of hiding in plain sight.  It's so gross and I ​think looking at it, you want to write about I want to write about it because it's just a frustrating thing to watch happen. ​ The hope is to​ inject a little bit of humor into it as well and hope people get a little bit of relief and enjoyment out of it.  The same thing with ​"Pray for Rain" in that consumerism is at an all time high current. 

KM: Ok, in an attempt to lighten the mood here, let's do some rapid fire real quick. ​You said you're a big punk fan, what's your favorite punk band?  

PB: ​ That's a really hard question to answer. ​I will say this, ​I do really like Social Distortion. It's hard to say how you hear it but ​there's sort of like a country influence in Social Distortion, there's a lot of Johnny Cash influence in there.  ​We're actually doing a tour with Social Distortion coming up so I'm really excited about that!  That's a band that is still out there touring but when I was younger I liked a lot of almost unlistenable punk.  Have you ever heard of a band named Crass?

Devil Makes Three (Photo Credit: Jay Westcott)

KM: No, but you know I'm from DC so we've got Bad Brains and that whole scene ​andoutside of that I don't know much about punk music.

PB:​I love Bad Brains!  ​I would put them in my favorite. I also really love Fugazi, Minor Threat and pretty much any punk band from D.C (laughs) ​Growing up, ​​you know, all the bands that we listened ​that were punk were from D.C​. and Boston and New York​, that's like the three cities where punk music came out of it. So yeah, you can pretty much go through any D.C. band.  

KM: That's great!  I know that you guys like to play small venues and you've you've mentioned that you guys like to play smaller venues that other other bands may not be interested in playing - what's one of the small venues or even a city or town that's become ​a place that you always will go back to and play again that you really liked and enjoyed. 

PB: Well, one ​of my favorite places to play is New Orleans, of course. ​ When we first started playing around​ there, we played a place called ​The Dragons Den. ​ It's a tiny little bar on the second floor and that was ​great.   Our last big show there was at ​Tapatios, which was really awesome.

KM: I love that place! I was just in New Orleans actually and saw a show there. 

PB: Me too! Yeah, it was great.  It was ​the first time we've ever played there. ​

Then there's also the spots, like when we first played in Missoula, Montana, it was in a basement basically and now we play biggest place they have to play, you know.   We always made a point of ​that we don't care how small it is. Because we're from ​small towns and those people want to be entertained just like everybody else.  We always made a point of stopping in some places that other bands just ​drive by to get to the bigger cities and it's really paid off​.

KM: Something you're looking forward to for this year?

PB: ​There's a couple bands that we're going to be touring with that I'm excited about ​in addition to the Social Distortion tour and then of course, we're playing again at Red Rocks and definitely excited about that show. ​ Then also, we're playing​ Winnipeg Folk Festival and Calgary Folk Festival, we're doing like three festivals in Canada in the summer, which we've never done before. ​ And then the rest of it I can't talk about (laughs).

KM: That's a lot of fun to look forward to this summer! ​

Associated Album

Associated Album

Associated Album

Performance Details

Performance Details



Saturday, May 11, 2019

Doors: 10:00 PM

Show: 11:00 PM

815 V Street NW

Washington, DC 20001 (Google Maps Link)

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.