Flat Earth Society
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Flat Earth Society

Gent, Flanders, Belgium | Established. Jan 01, 1998 | MAJOR

Gent, Flanders, Belgium | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 1998
Band Jazz Adult Contemporary




"The Telegraph"

“The music is full of bizarre and shocking juxtapositions...but once you’ve got over the
sheer oddity, the juxtaposition becomes poetic, though in a surreal way. It’s as if a night scene in a Raymond Chandler novel were suddenly invaded by a flock of seagulls. Vermeersch’s approach is risky, which is what makes it so energising.”
Ivan Hewett – The Telegraph - Ivan Hewett

"The Guardian"

“Flat Earth Society, a tight 14-piece band led by clarinettist and composer Peter Vermeersch, late of X-Legged Sally. Two brilliant sets confirmed how accomplished they are, twisting
rapidly from theatrical bombast to tenderness, collective improv, mad movie-chase music and back to swinging anthems... Wet is Wet presented jazz as envisaged by Goebbels. Vermeersch grins impishly, like a young Daniel Libeskind, as he directs his close-knit ensemble. He is a monster talent, with an outrageously original band.”
John L. Walters – The Guardian, about the concert at the London Jazz Festival, November 2007 - John L Walters

"New York Times"

Mr Vermeersch’s score, far removed from the historicized big-band sounds one mostly heard these days in the United States, sounded fresh, inventive and witty.
New York Times - New York Times

"Downbeat Hotbox"

The ‘90s downtown New York aesthetic and mutated. Flat Earth Society, hailing from Belgium, has every bit of the circusy, genre-jumping, soundtrack-esque, Raymond Scott-like, smirky moodiness that characterizes the Knitting Factory diaspora. Where that sound can sometimes turn snarky and sarcastic, the group wisely remains earnest and open, though they are sometimes
too clever for unqualified endorsement. The 14-strong band, weighted toward lower horns and brass, is punchy and dynamic, playfully romping through clarinetist/leader Peter Vermeersch’s charts. With a big sound and juicy arrangements, they’re stacked with able improvisers, perfectly exemplified on “In Between Rivers”, which breaks down from the huge orchestral sound to an intimate trumpet/drum duet. On “Withhout,” the intimacy happens –this time jittery free play from drums and trombone– in the company of a sedate composed part for piano and band. Drummer Teun Verbruggen deserves special mention for his wide ranging
abilities, even if he does cop mercilessly from New York drummer Jim Black on Uri Caine’s ‘Snaggletooth’.
Downbeat Hotbox, John Corbett - John Corbett

"All About Jazz"

‘Sit up and listen. Flat Earth Society is a big band with the integrity of a magpie, in the sense that it goes for the shiniest elements of a cultural outlook that takes in a kind of homage to Kurt Weill, incidental music for old TV detective series, and perhaps a touch of Henry Cow at its most formal. All that makes for listening that could have you laughing out loud or wondering happily over the sheer bravura of it all.’
www.allaboutjazz.com, Nic Jones - Nic Jones

"All about Jazz"

‘This is an acoustic big band with the energy of an electrified punk band. But much like punk, the group’s enthusiasm and vigor is sonically accessible: it’s never so extreme that it drifts into cacophonous excess. (...) There are few contemporary ensembles in modern music that quite
fit into the same category as this energetic and zany outfit. As unique and
virtuosic as it is creative, the FES has a sure-fire winner with Psychoscout.’
www.allaboutjazz.com, Troy Collins - Troy Collins

"All Music"

‘The players are all great, with some especially nice piano by Peter Vandenberghe, fiery solos from Benjamin Boutreur on alto, Vermeersch on clarinet, and the addition of organ or synth on some tracks which gives the big band quite a different flavor than most big bands. (...) They really know how to use dynamics to keep the pieces moving, and Vermeersch’s horn charts are fantastic. If you thought big band music in the 21st century was confined to repertory bands, think again. Flat Earth Society is a hard-swinging outfit that knows the past but has its eye on the future, and Psychoscout shows that there’s a whole lot of life yet in the big band tradition.’
www.allmusic.com, Sean Westergaard - Sean Westergaard


‘Due to the band’s rambunctious nature each FES album displays multiple personalities,
but Isms compounds this schizophrenia by drawing material from such distinctive records as 2002’s Minoes, the soundtrack to a children’s movie, and 2003’s The Armstrong Mutations, on which the group re-interprets the works of Louis Armstrong. As a result this collection undergoes such violent mood shifts from track to track that you’ll either be enthralled by FES’s seemingly bottomless creativity or else you’ll feel like you just spent an afternoon on the Tilt-A-Whirl after a heavy lunch of ketchup and mustard.’
Pitchforkmedia.com by Matthew Murp - Matthew Murp

"All About Jazz"

Fifteen-piece Belgian big band Flat Earth Society is the sonic equivalent of a freak show—weird, wonderful and like nothing you've come across before. Cheer Me, Perverts! is bursting with the energy of punk—sharing some of the anarchy, too—yet the CD exhibits intricate section harmonies and wonderful contrapuntal melodies. The soloists revel in their freedom, and the playing is characterized by idiosyncrasy and skill in equal measure. Zappa-esque and Ellingtonian in turn, Balkan brass meets 1970s prog rock, Cheer Me is a stirring concoction, which could be the soundtrack for a Terry Gilliam film about a traveling freak show careering through post-industrial Eastern Europe.
Founder Peter Vermeersch leads the band over rocky musical terrain. Pulsating brass rhythms comingle with eerie funfair keyboards on the opener, "Vole Sperm Reverie." Peter Vervloesem's guitar solo has an earthy '70s feel and contrasts nicely with Michel Mast's tenor solo, which squeals and writhes like a pig on the way to a slaughterhouse.

Brass buzzes like a swarm of angry bees on "Blind Inside," while on "Rearm, Get That Char!" Luc Van Lieshout's muted trumpet sounds like a brooding Miles Davis, circa On the Corner (Columbia, 1972), meeting the jungle sounds of Duke Ellington's band. "Kotopoulopology" staggers like an inebriated Zorba the Greek (1946), accelerating briefly as though tumbling drunkenly down an incline; when the clarinet enters, it sounds for all the world like a chiding wife.

Beefy brass riffs run through many of the compositions, and noirish arrangements build like gathering storm clouds. When the brass section reaches a full head of steam, as on the tremendous "Too Sublime in Sin," the dark power summoned is enough to set free the hounds of hell.

There is, however, an obvious subtlety to the music. Bruno Vansina's lyrical flute intro and subsequent solo on "Blind Inside" are gorgeous, and "Too Sublime in Sin" begins with the chamber finesse of the Modern Jazz Quartet, with meditative contributions from accordion, piano and trombone. However, the reverie is shattered by a brass intervention that sounds like a lunatic pounding on his car horn. The song reaches a skull-crushing intensity, with brass chirping and growling over searing guitar before returning to the delicate piano of the intro.

Charlie Shavers' "Dawn on the Desert" boasts lush Ellintgton-like brass arrangements, with velvety baritone underpinning flirtatious clarinet. The closing segment of the number recalls "It Had Better Be Tonight" by Henry Mancini. The spirit of Ellington is heard also in Peter Vandenberghe's piano playing and Teun Verbruggen's tremendously impressive drumming, his percussive coloring and hard swing bringing to mind both of Ellington's great drummers, Sonny Greer and Sam Woodyard.

Thumping rhythms and jungle noises sit alongside Zappa-esque circus-motif gaiety and percussive plonks and tweaks. Bebop jazz is not afraid to raise its head, and occasional abstract passages contrast with ensemble playing of real beauty and power. As riotous as it is infectious, this is a strong contender for big band album of the year.

- Ian Patterson


  • Live at the Beursschouwburg 1999 (1999)
  • Bonk (2000)
  • Larf (2001)
  • Minoes (2002)
  • Trap (2002)
  • The Armstrong Mutations (2003)
  • ISMS (2005)
  • Psychoscout (2006)
  • De Oesterprinses (2006)
  • Cheer Me, Perverts! (2009)
  • Answer Songs (2009)
  • "13" (2013
  • Call sheets, riders and chicken mushroom (2014)
  • The Box, complete works (2014)
  • Terms of Embarrassment (2016)



Major concerts and festivals include:

Strange Music Festival Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (2015, Tokyo Jazz Festival (2014), Ottawa Jazz Festival (2014), Rochester Jazz Festival (2014), Bath Festival (2013), Jazz Middelheim (2012), Tropical Heatwave Tampa (2011), Lincoln Center NY (2011), Kennedy Center (2011), Skopje Jazz Festival (2010), Sziget Festival (2010), Vossa Jazz (2010, Montreux Jazz Festival (2009), North Sea Jazz Festival (2006 + 2008), Dour Festival (2008), Ghent Jazz Festival (2008), The Hague Jazz (2008 + 2010), FMM Sines (2008), Jazz Luz (2008), Low Festival, Budapest (2008), Vancouver Jazz Festival (2006 + 2007), Montreal Jazz Festival (2007), Saalfelden Jazz Festival (2007), London Jazz Festival (2007), Pordenone Silent Film Festival (2006), Jazz Fest Berlin (2006), Japan Tour (2006), Konzerthaus Vienna (2006), Trafo Budapest (2005),

see www.fes.be for a complete listing.

Peter Vermeersch & FES
FES was founded in 1998, when no-nonsense artist, former architect, clarinettist, saxophonist, keyboard player, composer and producer Peter Vermeersch, wanted to explore new horizons after having convinced music lovers all over the word with Maximalist! and the cult legend band X-legged Sally. Vermeersch,who worked with international artists like Josse De Pauw, Wim Vandekeybus, Vincent Bal, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Fred Frith, The Simpletones and Jazzwork from Berlin and wrote music for the Arditti Quartet, Prima La Musica and the Smith Quartet, assembled a pack of inspired and inimitable muscians, forming a big band which has nowadays become much more than just a big band. 

The music of FES, varying from strictly written sheet music to liberating improvisation, is 95% home-made. Streaks of music of other composers are used as inspiration, frequently arranged, adapted and integrated into FES compositions, adding a wide range of atmospheres and styles to the eclectic FES universe. FES, who dares to flirt with other disciplines as theatre and film and owns the ability to seduce a number of different audiences, from more select jazz listeners to a wild young rock public, is at its best live on stage. Toots Thielemans experienced their joy of playing, their humour and technical skill and joined them on stage during Jazz Middelheim 2003. He refers to FES as a a band of rebels! FES must be the most versatile and at the same time the most daring big band phenomena ever.Mike Patton contacted Flat Earth Society in 2004, to report how much he was impressed by the bands music. Patton invited FES as support act for his European tour with Fantmas. Impressed by the enthusiasm, Patton decided on a selection of FES  material and released, FES-ISMS on his American label, Ipecac Records. The album contains a compilation of 19 songs from the six first FES  cds, an introduction to the FES repertoire for the overseas audience,  as it were. Mike Patton said about the album: Its really unique and engaging stuff. Its going to blow peoples minds."

Not all gigs are listed here, for an extensive list please visit our website.

Band Members