Level headed

American Flat

Larry Peyton, Mike Bellione, Darrel Bernett and Eric Olivas formed American Flat two years ago.

Larry Peyton, Mike Bellione, Darrel Bernett and Eric Olivas formed American Flat two years ago.


American Flat will play alongside other bands during a parking lot party at Lucky Beaver Bar & Burger, 3655 S. Virginia St., from 6 to 10 p.m. on June 8.

What’s American Flat? If you were to pose this question to locals, undoubtedly, some would tell you about a place where they partied as teenagers. Some would talk about a haven for graffiti artists and others about an excellent spot to play paintball. And they’d all be talking about the same place—the ruins of the United Comstock Merger Mill, better known as American Flat, which stood abandoned a few miles outside of Virginia City for more than 80 years.

If you asked drummer and vocalist Eric Olivas, who grew up in the Virginia Foothills, he’d be one of those to tell you about parties he went to there in the ’90s, about people breaking “their bones like crazy out there—people getting crazy, climbing up on things while on acid and falling off … getting lost in the tunnels.”

He’d also likely tell you American Flat is the place for which his four-piece rock ’n’ roll outfit is named. It’s homage to the old mill, which was demolished by the Bureau of Land Management in 2014, but—a conversation with the bandmates reveals—not particularly sentimental.

The members of American Flat all recall Facebook pages dedicated to saving the mill and news coverage of its destruction, but Olivas is the only one who ever went there. He went there with some friends on the day it was demolished, too.

“There were all sorts of protesters up there,” he recalled. “We just kind of wanted to watch.”

When he and his bandmates adopted the name two years ago, it was after batting around many others.

“Free Beer never stuck,” joked bassist and vocalist Mike Bellione. “Free Beer at the Saint, you know? Think of the draw.”

“They wouldn’t hire us,” laughed Larry Petyon, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player.

All kidding aside, Bellione said the guys passed “around 3,000” band names before American Flat finally stuck.

Olivas said they just hope people won’t mistake the name for homage to country band Rascal Flatts, if American Flat gains notoriety beyond the Truckee Meadows.

“It seems to fit, though, for our style,” he said. “And people from Reno know what it is.”

At least for now, Renoites are the ones whose attention the bandmates seek. And just as they took their time choosing a name, they’ve been happy to take their time with this. The band only recently began playing live shows. They’ve spent the last two years cultivating their style. But it’s another thing they haven’t quite put a name to.

“We haven’t figured that out,” Olivas said. “Larry kind of figures it’s rock with a country feel to it, which, that’s pretty much what it is. But I can’t think of a band, except for maybe some old rock ’n’ roll—old Southern rock and stuff. It’s kind of that feel, where everybody’s singing, and it’s a lot of harmonies and hooks.

Rock ’n’ roll with a bit of country sounds about right. Olivas and Bellione sing backup vocals. Peyton and lead guitarist Darrel Bernett sing leads. And at the suggestion of the Eagles as a comparison in lieu of some Southern rock counterpart, the bandmates all nodded. In fact, they’ve spent a fair amount of time practicing their vocal harmonies by singing Eagles songs. But they’re quick to point out that they’re not a cover band.

“We’re really excited about the music that we’ve written,” Peyton said.

And now that they’ve played it for some local audiences, the bandmates are preparing for the next step. They expect to start recording American Flat’s first album later this summer.