GRETA VAN FLEET – Muddy-ing The Waters With A New Era Of Blues
September 6, 2017, 10 months ago
If you were to solely judge from what you hear/see/read in mainstream media, newer rock bands could care less about basing their sound around the blues. But dig a bit deeper, and it turns out that there are indeed exceptions to the rule, such as Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet. Comprised of three brothers (singer Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, and bassist Sam Kiszka) and a pal (drummer Danny Wagner), this young band - Sam and Danny are 18, Josh and Jake are 21 - GVF just recently issued their debut recording, a four-song EP entitled Black Smoke Rising, which sonically brings to mind such old school rulers of rock as Led Zeppelin. Jake spoke to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about his band, their name, and future plans.
BraveWords: Please give a bit of background info about the band.
Jake Kiszka: “We grew up in a really musically free environment…not just music, but literature and things like that. So we were always surrounded by music. And growing up in that environment I think nurtured us to be musicians. It was about five years ago that I started bringing a friend of mine from high school over to play drums, and eventually, Sam began playing bass and Josh began singing. So it’s been about five years now that we’ve been playing together.”
BraveWords: Where is the band from?
Jake Kiszka: “We’re about an hour north from Detroit, in a little town called Frankenmuth.”
BraveWords: Who are some of the band’s influences?
Jake Kiszka: “We all share some influences - especially when it comes to the realm of blues. But we all have very varying influences and quite eclectic when it comes down to it. Personally, some of my influences - because I’m a guitar player - are Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, and Robby Krieger.”
(Photo by: Michael Lavine)
BraveWords: It’s impressive that for a band that’s so young, that you’re familiar with a lot of the greats from yesteryear.
Jake Kiszka: “Yeah, we grew up listening to a lot of that stuff.”
BraveWords: Is there a specific reason why the band gravitated towards older music? Would you say the music back then was a little more ‘real sounding’ than the rock music of today?
Jake Kiszka: “Yeah, that certainly has precedence to why there’s an effort to make music like that. And I think growing up and listening, that was our musical make-up, really. But yeah, that certainly has something to do with it.”
BraveWords: What is the story behind the band’s name?
Jake Kiszka: “We were beating our heads against the wall, trying to come up with a name for a very long time. And I think that we had a show the next day - our first show, ever - five years ago. And our old drummer was over, and he said he had been hanging out with his grandfather earlier that day, and he had to cut wood for Gretna Van Fleet. And I think Josh said, ‘That’s a great name.’ It turns out she’s a matriarch for the town of Frankenmuth - one of the town elders. So we thought we would name the band Greta Van Fleet and take the ‘n’ out, and she gave us her blessing.”
BraveWords: Let’s talk about the Black Smoke Rising EP.
Jake Kiszka: “It’s a large range of material that spans back five years, and then some of more of the contemporary stuff we’ve been writing. Like ‘Highway Tune’ for instance is a song that was written five years ago, and so ‘Safari Song’ was written maybe four years ago, ‘Flower Power’ was three, and ‘Black Smoke Rising’ was written this year. So it’s kind of a little bit of an evolution of songs on that. We got together with Al Sutton at Rust Belt Studios in Detroit, and started working on a lot of the songs. We recorded 25 or so, and selective those ones. That’s kind of the background of how that was written and recorded.”
BraveWords: Will the songs not included on EP eventually be released?
Jake Kiszka: “I think a lot of them will be released, yeah.”
BraveWords: Plans to follow up the EP with a full-length?
Jake Kiszka: “We’re looking at putting together a full-length and getting that out before the end of the year. Hopefully before the holidays.”
BraveWords: What sticks out about the “Highway Tune” video?
Jake Kiszka: “That was a video shoot that we did in Nashville. I think that seven or eight months ago that we did that. We all wanted something relatively simple, so you could see what we do. We wanted it to look like how we play live. It was a good time.”
BraveWords: What can fans expect from seeing Greta Van Fleet live?
Jake Kiszka: “Now we’ve brought in keys and my acoustic. There is a variety of things we’re doing live that we haven’t done for a while. We’re going to be showcasing what we’re capable of doing. There’s a lot of new songs that will probably be on the next release that we’re playing live now. I think it’s a fun, energetic show, so I believe that’s what they’ll get out of it.”
BraveWords: And lastly, what are the touring plans for the EP?
Jake Kiszka: “We’ve got this tour to finish up, and then after this I believe we’re in the studio for a little bit, and we’ll try and finish up the full-length release. Then after that, we’re headed to Europe for a tour. That’s what’s on the horizon right now.”
(Top photo by: Ford Fairchild)