Flat Sun Society: We Call it ‘Thresh’

Calling both Santa Cruz and Big Sur home, Flat Sun Society makes psychedelic music inspired by the jam band scene, but incorporates other musical elements. “Something that we’re always working on is finding that balance of improvisation and structure,” says guitarist Jake Padorr. “The magic is in the balance.”

The group was born out of the pandemic era; early gigs took place at the Henry Miller Library on an open stage. Padorr suggests that the group’s sound is in part a reflection of those roots. “People want to reflect, tune in a little deeper,” he suggests.

Padorr’s fellow guitarist Hugh Allan says that when the group plays live, that balance is informed by the audience. “Some shows, we’ll jam a lot,” he explains. “Sometimes that can be successful, but there could be a bit of a disconnect.” When the band senses the latter is about to happen, the players lean more into song-based structures.

But not too far. “If we all just play songs,” Allan says, “we’ll feel like we didn’t explore as much as we wanted to.” In the end, what happens is a function of how the band feels, how the audience reacts, and how the band reacts to those reactions.

Padorr and Allan are circumspect when asked to cite influences, but they admit a shared fondness for everything from ambient to krautrock to Eastern musics and space rock. “We have definitely delved into textural, droning sounds in our improv,” says Allan. “But we never play the blues!”

Yet for a band rooted in psychedelia, Flat Sun Society is unique in that it isn’t built on a foundation of electronics. Allan and Padorr are joined by Emilio Rios on bass, and a trio of percussionists: drummers Jack Reed and Jacob Gilmore plus hand percussionist Tubbyz (David Clark-Riddell). Gilmore does double duty, playing in Floratura as well. “Half of our bandmates were – or are – in that band,” Padorr says with a laugh.

Padorr says that the group typically plays renegade gigs and community artistic events. “Those are the environments in which we best express ourselves,” he says. Such all-night or all-day gatherings in nature seem to bring out the best in Flat Sun Society. “There are no rules as to how long you can play, or even how entertaining you have to be to the audience,” he says. “The band grew out of the consistency of this crew of six of us jamming together.”

The multimedia nature of community events lines up neatly with the music that Flat Sun Society makes. “It’s really personal music, and we like playing on our home turf,” Allan says. “Because there’s an artistic community here that surrounds the music.” He describes the meeting of art and music as “a mutual transaction where we’re playing for our friends, and they’re there to see us and have their art displayed.” He says that the band takes inspiration from that art, and he hopes that the reverse is true as well.

Presented with the genre label question, Padorr reveals that Flat Sun Society has coined a term all its own. “We call it ‘thresh,’” he says with a mischievous smile. “The heavy jamming should be ‘thrash,’ but for some reason it feels more like the harvesting of an experience. So we call it ‘thresh.’” flatsunsociety.bandcamp.com