Greta Van Fleet exploded onto the scene this summer with their debut four track EP Black Smoke Rising.
The band’s first single “Highway Tune” has been blowing up online having already racked up almost 2 million views on YouTube in it’s first four months. Likewise, the track recently reached #1 in both the MediaBase Active Rock Radio Chart and BDS/Billboard Mainstream Rock Radio Chart. Greta Van Fleet are arguably one of the most exciting new bands we’ve come across in a very long time.
Named after a local elder in their home town, the band’s sound is deeply rooted in the blues and the music of the 60’s/70’s citing the likes of John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and The Yardbirds as influences. Even their father was a musician and a blues man.
Greta Van Fleet comprises of four young men from Frankenmuth, Michigan, Sam (bass/keyboards) and Danny (drums), along with twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) – three are brothers along with their best friend and they may just be your favourite new band.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Greta Van Fleet’s lead guitarist Jake Kiszka whilst out on tour in the US to talk about the band’s new EP, life on the road and their forthcoming debut UK/European tour.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review today we really appreciate it.
Jake: Thank you for the interview.
NRR: So you are currently out on tour across the US, and you’ve also recently been out on tour with The Struts. I just wondered how have the shows been going so far?
Jake: The tour has been going fantastic.
NRR: What has been the highlight of the tour so far?
Jake: I think that the highlight of the tour so far is you know seeing how many of the venues have seemingly become sold out. Having everybody coming to see us has been one of the most humbling things so far.
NRR: Obviously, you just recently released your debut EP, Black Smoke Rising. I have to say I’m based in the UK, and the first time I heard “Highway Tune” I was driving along in my car and the song was played on Planet Rock Radio and it just blew me away. As soon as I got to my laptop I had to see what else I could find online and I found your EP – it’s simply incredible. I was just wondering have you been overwhelmed by the response that the EP has received so far?
Jake: Yeah, I don’t think that any of us had expected such an immediate sort of reaction to the material on the EP. I think that has been overwhelming to see how quickly that has become notable I suppose.
NRR: Obviously, hip hop and pop music have been dominating the charts for some time and so many people have proclaimed that rock music was dead. You guys have been heralded by many as the saviours of rock and roll. I just wondered how does that feel for you?
Jake: I think it’s a difficult question. I think we are just trying to make good music, music that we want to hear ourselves. That’s certainly a humbling thing to hear too as well.
NRR: I understand that your family were instrumental in your musical upbringing is that right?
Jake: That’s correct. Yeah, they listened to quite a bit of music and there was always a lot of vinyl lying around, so that was certainly a contributing factor to a lot of our influences yeah.
NRR: So obviously music has been a big part of your life since you were very young. I just wondered when did you first pick up the guitar?
Jake: That’s difficult to say. I’ve always played the guitar, I’ve always had one with me – so I’m not sure, very, very, very young.
NRR: Do you remember when the first riff or the first song you learnt how to play fully?
Jake: Probably, “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix, that was the first one.
NRR: It seems that the band was built on a solid foundation of the blues. I know that you are a fan of blues greats like Elmore James and Muddy Waters. What is it that fascinated you about that type of music as opposed to more contemporary or chart based artists?
Jake: You know I suppose that growing up listening to that has something to do with it, being familiar with it. I think mainly for all of us, when I listen to the blues it speaks a lot of truth you know. I don’t think that it is someone lying to me you know or trying to throw down a stencil of a song and manufacture it. With the blues, you can’t manufacture emotion and I think that there’s a lot of the truth in the blues and I can feel that and that’s why I personally appreciate it.
NRR: Going back to guitarists like Elmore James, I mean he’s probably one of the best slide guitar players of all time. I was wondering how much of an influence was someone like Elmore on you as a guitarist – do you play much slide guitar yourself?
Jake: I do yeah and I would attribute that to listening to and learning from Elmore James, Duane Allman and Jimmy Page I think are a lot of the ones. But I do play quite a bit of slide, yes.
NRR: Having three brothers in the band and now spending so much time together touring. I just wondered do you all get along?
Jake: Haha. Well yeah, for the most part, I mean it’s come down since the point where it turned into an altercation at some points, but no we are getting along, we are getting along quite well. Yeah, I think we all know how to communicate, you know to get enough and have Danny as somewhat of a mediator between you know situations. So it’s not bad at all yeah.
NRR: In terms of your own songwriting process, I just wondered how does that work within the band. Do you all write together, do you all bring ideas to the table – how does it work within the group?
Jake: Yeah, It’s very much bringing things to the table in a lot of ways, there’s no concise format to which we sort of write. That can change and be very variant. A lot of the times I will be writing riffs and certain verses and things like that and have a song figured out and at that point I can bring it to the table like you said, or you know Danny brings in something or Josh or Sam brings in something as a song construct and we kind of work from that, yeah.
NRR: Obviously, your dad was a musician I believe, he was a bluesman and I understand he was a great harmonica player as well. He must be very proud of what you are doing?
Jake: Yeah, he is, he is very proud. It’s interesting the fact that he’s a chemical engineer, so it doesn’t really make much sense, but he’s a blues man and all. Yeah, I think he’s very proud and it’s very good to make your dad proud right?
NRR: With just a four track EP released to date I just wondered how much material have you got written so far?
Jake: I think we’ve got about 25 songs already recorded that are kind of sitting there for us to you know go in and do some sort of detail work. Yeah, so we’ve got about that many to work from and we’ve written a couple more, so we are kind of trying to pull all that together.
NRR: When can we expect to hear a full-length Greta Van Fleet album?
Jake: Hopefully we are going to get that out before the end of the year, at least before the holidays. After this tour, we are taking some time off to get back in the studio and start getting it together man.
NRR: Your EP has got a real raw, timeless energy to it. I just wondered in terms of the recording of the EP, how did you go about capturing that sound? Were you all in the same room at the same time or did you record the different elements of the songs separately?
Jake: They were all kind of done in different ways. I think a few of them were done you know all in one room. I think that you can certainly say that sort of raw energy that you are talking about comes from doing everything in under probably three takes you know. Everything is kind of pre-meditated, you know what you are going to do, you know what you are going to play, you’ve practised it, so going in and I think giving your all to a take – you know trying to play that because that emotion comes off in one of the tracks. I think we put a lot of soul into it and I think that’s where a lot of that raw energy comes from.
NRR: I understand that you yourself were fascinated by the 60s British Invasion bands like Cream and The Yardbirds and The Who. I know that you are going to be performing in the UK for the first time with two sold out shows in London very soon. I was just wonderdering what does it feel like for you to be performing in the home of those great bands?
Jake: I think it’s really humbling, super exciting. There’s certainly an energy, I can’t wait to get over to England and London and play those shows. I’m really excited to be closer to it.
NRR: Like we just mentioned there, those two initial London shows they sold out super quick. Do you have any plans to do a full UK tour?
Jake: That’s circulating. We are talking about it now, I couldn’t say one way or another right now, but hopefully, we can yeah.
NRR: You are getting compared a lot by critics to Led Zeppelin and obviously they’ve influenced your music to a certain extent. For many years music fans have wanted to see Led Zeppelin reform again with Jason Bonham featuring on drums. I just wondered what’s your opinion on that? Do you think that is a good idea or would you rather the band’s legacy remained in the history books?
Jake: You know I think that certainly, Jimmy Page puts it, I think that as a respect certainly for Bonham, but to sort of keep that legacy where it was and not try to reattain something that I don’t think they feel is capable of re-attaining, maybe for the best. If that’s what Jimmy Page says then ..
NRR: I believe you guys are all a family of vinyl lovers, I’ve heard you refer to the vinyl playground that you lived in when you were younger. I just wondered what was the last record that you actually bought?
Jake: That’s a good question. Let’s see, let me think. I bought one recently in New York. I’m not sure of the name of the album, but I bought a Dylan album, the one that he made in New York. So yeah, a Bob Dylan record.
NRR: What’s the one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Jake: That’s a really good question. Is it appropriate to say all of them? (laughing).
NRR: There must be one.
Jake: I don’t know ..there must be one. I will go with The Who Live at Leeds right now, that’s another one I listen to quite often.
NRR: That’s a great album.
Jake: Yeah, I love that, the live energy, it’s great.
NRR: You know that venue in Leeds is still there, so maybe some day you could play there.
Jake: That would be something.
NRR: What else have you got in store for the rest of this year and going into 2018?
Jake: Well certainly finishing up this tour and then getting into the studio. Then I believe we’re off to Europe and a European tour. Yeah, probably getting the album out, and I think that’s whats on the radar right now.
NRR: That all sounds fantastic, and good look with the touring and hopefully we will catch up with you very soon.
Jake: Alright, well I’m looking forward to it Adam.
The Black Smoke Rising EP by Greta Van Fleet is out now. The band will be touring both the US and Europe through until the end of the year in support of their latest offering.
Greta Van Fleet Tour Dates:
7 Dow Event Center, Saginaw, MI (with Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band)
14 The Stache, Grand Rapids, MI* SOLD OUT
15 The Rave, Milwaukee, WI* SOLD OUT
16 Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN**
20 Les Etoilers, Paris, France
22 Cassiopeia, Berlin, Germany
23 Reeperbahn Festival, Hamburg, Germany
24 Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
26 The Blackheart, London, England
27 Boston Music Rooms, London, England
29 WRIF Riff Fest, Detroit, MI**
30 WJJO – Sonic Boom Festival, Janesville, WI**
1 Louder Than Life, Louisville, KY**
3 Ottobar, Baltimore, MD* SOLD OUT
5 Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, Pittsburgh, PA* SOLD OUT
6 Main Street Armory, Rochester, NY (supporting Hallstorm) SOLD OUT
7 Rock Allegiance, Camden, NJ**
10 O’Connors Irish Pub, Clarksville, TN*
11 SideTracks Music Hall, Huntsville, AL* SOLD OUT
12 One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, LA*
14 Houston Open Air, Houston, TX**
15 97.1 the Eagle, Freaker’s Ball, Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie, TX**
17 The Rock, Tucson, AZ* SOLD OUT
19 The Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA* SOLD OUT
20 Moroccan Lounge, Los Angeles, CA* SOLD OUT
21 Aftershock Festival, Sacramento, CA**
23 Star Theatre, Portland, OR*
24 Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA* SOLD OUT
30 Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
2 Sokol Auditorium, Omaha, NE
* headline date
** festival date
Greta Van Fleet
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