The Suwannee Hulaween lineup is one of the better groups of musicians we’ve seen in a while. This year, Flat Land is playing alongside Chance The Rapper and Odesza, two huge acts to come to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.
Flat Land is a sound not easily pinned to a particular genre. The quartet layers together dreamy melodies and funk with influences from Stevie Wonder to blues revivalist Jack White. Frontwoman and violinist Fae Nageon de Lestang recently did a quick interview with us to discuss the band’s origins, getting the chance to perform at Hulaween and playing alongside major renowned acts.
Can you tell me a little about how you all met and formed the band? Where’d the name stem from?
All of us live in Gainesville and studied at UF. We were all recruited by our mutual friend, Grant (our drummer). Chris (our guitarist) was in a previous band with Grant called Funkatron, and I had met Grant through the School of Music at UF. We started playing together about 3 and a half years ago, and things grew from there.
Our name is actually from the book Flat Land, which is one of our favorites. It’s also a reference to our state’s topography.
How were things early on in the band? Did you feel like you had something early on? Was there a particular show or moment?
So much fun! I had never really been in a band before, and playing shows was really exciting. I think more than anything, having the flexibility to jump through different genres was a lot of fun for everyone. I studied classical music growing up, so playing funk music really pushed me out of my comfort zone, which I loved. We put together a cover band version of Flat Land when we first formed called Meatwood Flack. We picked a bunch of our favorite songs, and played a going away party for one of our best friends. I’ll never forget that show. We played at one of our favorite bars called The Bull. There were so many people in that little building that we almost didn’t have room to play our instruments … people danced so hard that all of the paintings were crooked at the end of the night. I felt high on life for two weeks afterwards.
Who acted as your biggest source of inspiration when you began? Who are you currently being influenced by?
When we first started, we had a different frontman, and he wrote most of the songs. We were much more influenced by blues-heavy artists like the Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr. Our sound has evolved to be a lot jazzier since then. Currently, our biggest influences are artists like Shuggie Otis, Stevie Wonder and Hiatus Kaiyote.
What does it mean for the band to get the opportunity to perform at a big festival alongside big acts?
It is such an honor! Our dream was always to play Bear Creek … when we heard it was cancelled we felt such a loss. But having the opportunity to play Hula is almost better in some ways. I think it’s fair to call it a dream come true. These large festivals are such a learning opportunity for us. It’s always interesting to see what bands do that is effective. We’re always taking notes. Some of the artists we’re playing with are people we really look up to … we’re kind of nerding out about it.
Who would you guys want to jam with the most at the festival (band or artist)?
Good question! Well, the guys are totally obsessed with Les Claypool. If he were to show up and jam with us, I honestly don’t think they could keep it together. So, that’s a thing. All of the members of Nth Power are KILLER musicians. I mean, Nikki Glaspie … damn. Just, damn. I watched her play 10-plus sets at Bear Creek last year and just SLAY. As a woman, it’s always refreshing to see other female performers, especially with chops like that. Beyond that, anyone from the New Mastersounds, Elephant Revival and, of course, a lot of our friends from bands around Florida that we get to jam with on occasion. Dani (violin/guitar) from Come Back Alice will be sitting in on our set, and I can’t wait. Getting to rock out on the violin together is one of my favorite things ever.
Why should people go to Hulaween? What’s the best reason to check it out?
Hula is going to be nothing short of Fing fantastical. The other day I saw someone coordinate hauling a trampoline to their campsite on facebook (Hometeam shout out). I think everyone is pulling out all the stops to make the weekend a blow-out. It’s not just a festival, it’s an occasion. And, I mean, it’s Halloween, which is already awesome. For most people, this is the one big thing they do with their friends every year. We have several friends that are flying in just to attend. The opportunities we have to spend time together are rare, you know? I think for us, a festival like this is about being with your peoples and having your mind blown by incredible musicians. The random interactions you have with the people attending. But, I mean, if you’re not into all that, then just go for Primus.