This Michigan-born band is creating some of the most explosive rock ‘n’ roll you’ll hear on the charts today.
Greta Van Fleet, comprised of three brothers Jacob Kiszka (guitar), Joshua Kiska (vocals), Samuel Kiszka (bass/keys) and so-close-he’s-also-practically-a-brother Danny Wagner (drums), gives a fresh take to classic rock ‘n’ roll. They keep things smooth and sultry, but still free-spirited and unattainable—just like rock ‘n’ roll should be. Their music paints a picture of passion and chaos by using vintage inspired melodies and vocals, similar to Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, but keep it contemporary with their fresh and impressive instrumentation.
“There are a lot of human elements that we like to include in our music—it’s something that everyone can relate to lyrically and instrumentally,” Wagner tells BTRtoday over the phone. The band has been busy touring, having just returned from Europe and was in the midst of a small US tour. “We’ve been recording an album too, all at the same time. It’s a lot, but kind of all that we’re doing, so in a way it’s not as overwhelming because it’s what we love to do,” Wagner says.
Their debut full-length is set to come out this summer, which Wagner says is going to set some boundaries to who Greta Van Fleet really is. Having blown up after only the release of an EP (Black Smoke Rising) and double EP (From The Fire), the group has yet been able to show the world what they’re really capable of. Wagner says he has always dreamed of living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but never thought it would actually come true like it is now—with an on-the-spot record deal, world tours and studio recording. Nevertheless, the group is still able to concentrate on what is really important and focus on the music.
Currently in Europe, Greta Van Fleet will be playing NYC’s Panorama Music Festival on July 29 and will proceed with a full U.S. tour after. Read the entire interview with drummer Wagner below—we chat about the music, becoming rock stars over night and trolls on the internet.
Greta Van Fleet “Highway Tune”
BTRtoday (BTR): You guys have been very busy this year. What have you been up to?
Danny Wagner (DW): We have. Well, we’ve been over to Europe and right now we’re smack dab in the middle of a US tour, a little East coast/down South tour. We’ve been recording an album too, all at the same time. It’s a lot, but kind of all that we’re doing, so in a way it’s not as overwhelming because it’s what we love to do.
BTR: Right now you only have the EP and double EP out, tell me about what your debut album is going to be like compared to these EPs.
DW: What kicked it all off was Black Smoke Rising and that was our way to test the waters and get our first piece of work out there. It just so happened that it started doing very well and it started happening very quickly. And our single “Highway Tune” from the first EP started traveling worldwide. So we started touring more and there was a demand for more material and we decided that we would take Black Smoke Rising, since it’s just a small EP and not a total complete thought, and we would add onto with the four more songs—just to keep it small enough still that we wouldn’t quite call it a complete album. But it definitely finishes that little saga of introducing who we are. And that’s why we included the covers that kind of showcase our collective influences as a unit.
So, that segways us into this new album, which is going to have at least 10 or 11 songs and it’s going to be all new material, which is exciting.
BTR: You guys snowballed very quickly into popularity, how did/does that feel to you?
DW: It’s almost hard sometimes to realize exactly what’s happening because along side of the music getting out there and reaching all these new grounds, we are also becoming busier with touring because of it. Because of that we tend to kind of stay out of the social media world at times. It’s not like we can control it, it’s just how busy we are. So, it’s very nice, every once in a while, to have those realizations to soak up what is happening. It’s very surreal and very humbling.
BTR: Did you guys always dream of living this kind of rock star lifestyle?
DW: I know from a very young age it was something that was talked about amongst my family. When I saw a performer was on TV or when we were out seeing performers it was always kind of like, “you know, one day that’ll be you,” sort of thing. But I never actually realized that it would start to happen.
BTR: What kind of inspirations are going into this debut album?
DW: There are a lot of human elements that we like to include in our music. It’s something that everyone can relate to lyrically and instrumentally. What started this new album was a lot of material that we even still today have yet to release and it’s stuff that has been written for a couple years now. So back in January we decided we wanted to go into the studio and start recording these songs that we’ve been playing live and have had for a couple years already.
While we started recording, it was kind of our first time off from touring. So we were able to delve into this creative mindset. We started actually writing songs while we were working on the older songs in the studio, which is always so fun. Then it keeps the memento increasing and increasing and eventually you have so much inertia that you don’t want to stop. So that’s kind of what happened with this album. We just started writing new material and recording the old material and revamping a lot of the stuff and it came along very smoothly. I’m really looking forward to finishing it up soon.
BTR: Did you guys experiment with anything new?
DW: There are definitely a lot more elements. I feel like we have a lot more creative liberty on a full-length album, because it’s more of a statement piece. So instrumentally [and] lyrically there are a lot of new boundaries and aspect to the Greta Van Fleet world, so I’m excited to introduce those as well.
BTR: You guys are all so close, some of you actually being blood brothers—has that closeness been beneficial for the band or hinder certain things?
DW: It’s tremendous, actually. There are a lot of skepticisms about the whole brother thing, since three of us are actual brothers and then there’s me. It could very potentially be set up for disaster. In a lot of families that is the case. But I think it has a lot to do with where we grew up.
It was a very small town, four to five thousand people and because of that they [the Kiszka brothers] all grew up living in the same household and being in that household for a lot of their life and being close with a lot of their family. I’ve known Sam since first grade. He and I have been going to school together and the other guys were older than us, but we all went to the same school. So it’s really nice that we’ve all been able to learn as musicians and artists and as humans together. I think because of that we all have this mutual relationship with each other and this mutual respect. I think it’s working pretty well.
There are definitely a lot of advantages [of being so close]. One of the reasons The Beatles were one of the biggest bands of all time was that they allowed each other to bring in their own creative freedom. We’re all multi-instrumentalists and we all enjoy writing and being creative personally and all of our songs come from every direction. The ideas can come from any of us that we bring to the table and finish it together. In terms of keeping the momentum going and keeping the creative spark alive there is definitely an advantage.
BTR: What do you have to say to the trolls who say you guys are copying Led Zeppelin?
DW: I think everyone has a right to their own opinion and human nature classifies things—that’s how we learn and understand people in the world. Honestly, it’s all perception. Yeah, there are some statements where people do say that, but in a way we try to make the best out of all of them. We take it very humbly actually—to us and to a lot of the people we grew up with Led Zeppelin and all those other bands [from that time] were significant figures of history. Whether people realize it or not, so it’s very humbling, it’s a compliment actually. Capturing that type of sound and that type of energy is not easy to do. So it’s pretty cool. But also we don’t have a lot of material out and we’re still developing and I’m so excited to get some of this new stuff out, because I really think it’s going to set some of that boundary.