Big cities like Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York City have long been revered as musical hotspots, overflowing with unique blends of new artists and bands. Then, there are new rockers, Greta Van Fleet, emerging From The Fires of Frankenmuth, Mich. A town of only 5,131 people, has given rise to rock’s hottest quartet, comprised by three brothers — vocalist Josh Kiszka, lead guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka — and their good friend, Danny Wagner, on drums.
With falsetto vocals, heavy beats, funky riffs, and countless publications referencing to them as the “modern Led Zeppelin,” Greta Van Fleet have stormed the scene. Add two EPs, a No. 1 iTunes hit — “Highway Tune” — and sold-out shows, and these four are just getting started. Eager, passionate and steadfast as they work on their first full-length and gear up for tour, both Jake and Sam took time to discuss their chaotic new lives.
I know a lot of publications have been making the Led Zeppelin comparison. Do you take it as flattering, or kind of daunting, or are you tired of the comparisons all together?
JK: No! I think we are definitely honored by the assumption that we sound like Led Zeppelin, I mean, how could you be offended by it? Being it that they are one of the greatest rock bands of all time, you know. I don’t think that we could, you know, nobody could be Led Zeppelin by certainly to have some of the elements that they had is certainly an honor, you know?
SK: Well, I think overall it’s really probably the biggest compliment that you can give any rock band. And, you know, we’re flattered by it, so definitely no offense taken. We can never be sick of that, that never gets old. We are just glad that people think we’re that good, because we’re fooling them. [Laughs]
When you guys first started making your music, did you have a set idea on how you wanted yourselves to sound when you started recording?
SK: Well, I guess the way that the sound formed was just as haphazard as the way the band formed. It kind of all just came together as “Uno!” Like the fun, little hang out thing. You know, because we all love playing music and so Jake started to bring home a buddy from jazz band, the new kid, and we would play around a bit. It really just came about very naturally. We never set out and said, “Ok, let’s play rock and roll!” You know, it’s just how that came around.
JK: No, I don’t think that we had anything or any preconceived idea of that. And then initially when we first came together we had been listening to similar things and similar influences, but the fact that we had such a diverse background and influences, and they all varied between us. I think we all brought something different to the table and the sound has sort of evolved on its own.
Absolutely! And I think that even showcases in your work, too. The opening riff to “Highway Tune” is a monster, whereas the intro to “Flower Power” is more of a gentle progression. Do you guys enjoy playing around with the band’s range?
JK: Yeah! I think that is some of the most fun and intricate we can get with the work of trying to find different dimensions to how a song can work. Sort of, “We haven’t written something like this yet,” so trying to do something new and sort of being expansive and free to try to experiment with different things and just elements of what we are doing; sort of push ourselves. It is definitely a great time doing that.
You guys have released both an EP and a double EP, and you’re working on your first full length. What kinds of things do you want to keep and what do you want to toy with moving forward?
JK: Yeah, I think that there’s a large majority of songs that we have written already and there is sort of an archive a songs that have a sound that we are drawing from, and there is a lot of stuff that has been newly written and we recently went into Tennessee. We went to write in, sort of, in Chattanooga area. We got a cabin and we were up there for about a week, and we wrote like five new songs. It is really inspiring for us now in that time, for we have a ton of old material and a lot of new material.
It’s going to be the same light as what has come out already, you know, in regard to contemporary stuff and stuff we have had for awhile, and yeah, we are exploring with range. Each song has its own life and I think that is something that will be showcased on our first full length, sort of, a set amount of songs that show diversity and different complexities. I think that is something we want to capture, so we are looking forward to that.
SK: Well, I think that there has been, there are, a lot of dynamics that we haven’t been able to show yet in our music, just because there are eight songs out there. And I think that the closest thing you can get to that now is seeing a live show. You know, seeing all the different influences and aspects that we truly have. So, what I am most excited about in the album is showing those dimensions that we haven’t added yet. So, one thing that people will always see in our material is an aspect of new. I think that is important for any kind of art. Keeping it fresh, doing what you want kind of with things. It maintains a lot of continuity, also, you know? We are not super far on the first full length, but we have a lot of songs that we can sort through. We have a lot of stuff that we have already done. We have a lot of demos and things like that. It is all about picking out the dynamic of the album.
Absolutely! Now, as you’ve really started to pick up recently — selling out shows and touring more often, like you said, working on the first full length — how have your parents reacted as you’ve garnered this popularity?
JK: You know, I don’t think any of us expected to garner such immediate attention, and with that being unexpected, I think everyone has been taken by surprised. They really are quite happy for us and proud. That’s no more than you can ask for, I guess.
SK: They are still excited to this day when there are new songs. I remember when we were writing “Highway Tune”, the first couple minutes we came up with the riff and stuff and Dad came out and said, “That one’s a hit!” And we were like, “Oh!” So, I guess he is the hit identifier. We don’t really care about it [hits], but we just find it kind of funny that Dad would come out and say that, ‘cause he’s just sitting there doing lab work or whatever and he can hear us from the garage.
Dad always knows best. He’s going to want to give a listen to everything now!
SK: Oh, yeah!
In the past you’ve both talked about coming from a town that is a smaller, tightknit community. How do you think this inspired you guys musically?
JK: Well, I think that, being sort of isolated in a small time, where there wasn’t a particularly large music scene, it sort of gave us the ability to have a very unconventional, intelligent music taste. You know, no one was listening to records and stuff like that, stuff that we had, it felt like sheer isolation. I think that was helpful in developing unique music talent. Whatever we could get our hands onto really. The first time we really heard pop music and anything like that was on the school going to school. We would sit there and say, “What the hell is this?” [Laughs]
It didn’t really do much for us. We were used to listening to all the vinyl that we had like Sam Cooke, Neil Young, and stuff like that — real music, it was truthful and was not so manufactured sounding. Yeah, that sort of set of circumstances coming from a small town with the total isolation sort of bred a unique influences, I guess.
As you head to New York on tour, is there anything you want to say to fans coming out to those dates?
JK: Yeah! I think that we are all really excited for those shows and they are coming up really fast. We are just ready to rock and roll with everyone, you know?
SK: Well, I would like to tell them to bring lots of love. I know that New York City will bring nothing short of that!
Catch Greta Van Fleet performing at The Bowery Ballroom in NY on Dec. 5 and 6.