The Devil Makes Three may be the most tattooed band in folk music. Guitar and tenor banjo player Cooper McBean has the group's home state — "Vermont" — tattooed across his neck's collar line for all to see. Singer/guitarist Pete Bernhard's arms are heavily inked, but he says stand-up bassist Lucia Turino has even more.
"Everybody thinks that I have more tattoos than Lucia, but I actually have less than anybody in the group," Bernhard says. "Cooper takes most of the percentage, though. He has more than almost anybody I know, except for people who are actually tattoo artists."
McBean, in fact, has worked in a tattoo shop, one of many ways of making the ends meet since forming the Devil Makes Three in 2001 in Santa Cruz, Calif. Childhood friends growing up in the area outside Brattleboro, Vt., McBean and Bernhard toured the country as a duo around the turn of the century. After their car broke down in California, fellow Vermonter Turino lent them her truck. When they finished the tour, they returned the truck to Santa Cruz and never left.
The band's music is often described as "folk punk," but their roots are hardly in banjos and acoustic basses. Both McLean and Bernhard played in punk bands before forming the Devil Makes Three. "We were experimental and incredibly loud," says Bernhard of one project.
"The idea we had when we started this band was not to approach it in the same way as a folk band or bluegrass band," explains the guitarist. "We wanted it to be more like a punk rock show where you never tell the audience to quiet down."
Their eagerness to play to a boisterous, noisy room may bode well for their first-ever appearance in Charleston. They arrive in support of the live disc Stomp and Stash. It's their fifth release, following 2009's Do Wrong Right.
"We've started touring a lot more, trying to build up the whole country," says Bernhard. "We have a big following in California, and we're really excited to play on the East Coast. It's where we're from, and where a lot of the music we play is from."