California trio The Devil Makes Three have served up their singularly spooky blend of blues, folk, and rockabilly for the past decade and a half, but on their new collection, Redemption & Ruin, they’re taking on the tunes of some of their revered influences. “When I was really young, my older brother knew I was interested in blues music,” guitarist and singer Pete Bernhard tells EW. “He bought me a collection of Chess Records recordings. Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson — all these people were a huge influence on me when I was a kid and then became a big influence on The Devil Makes Three.”
Accordingly, Redemption & Ruin‘s twelve tracks encompass multiple strains of American roots music, whether on the blues pioneer Robert Johnson’s “Drunken Hearted Man” or country luminary Hank Williams’ “Angel of Death.” Among the cuts is the band’s take on “Champagne and Reefer,” penned by Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters for his final album, 1981’s King Bee. “It was a song that I hadn’t really heard that many times before,” recalls Bernhard, noting that he’s more fluent in Waters’ earlier, more acoustic work. “We had a ton of tunes — blues, country, and gospel — that we were listening through. This one really stuck out. Not to mention, everybody in the band is pro-legalization of marijuana.”
The band have now shared a thoroughly pro-pot video to go with the cover and Waters’ famed lyric, “Give me champagne when I’m thirsty / give me a reefer when I want to get high.” Directed by Black Balloon, the clip repurposes footage from the sensationalist 1936 film Reefer Madness to critique the absurdity of marijuana prohibition. “It was our intention just to sort of point out how ridiculous the whole thing is,” Bernhard says. “Reefer Madness was a propaganda film about the evils of marijuana, which now most people know are a complete myth. We thought it was funny to re-edit the video and just sort of focus on the parts that are really ridiculous.”
Bernhard says The Devil Makes Three — which hails from the left-of-center enclave of Santa Cruz, Calif. — saw the benefits of legalization when they performed a sold-out show at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre in May. “It’s really crazy to be in a state where they’ve legalized it and it’s done nothing but good for their economy,” he says. “It’s amazing. Colorado has extra money, they’re putting it into social programs, things for kids, schools. Just being in that state and looking at what’s happened there, it’s hard to not be like, ‘Oh god, this is something we all need to embrace.'”
Redemption & Ruin drops September 16 and features contributions from Emmylou Harris, Duane Eddy, and Jerry Douglas. Check out the video for “Champagne and Reefer” below.