Greta Van Fleet at the Grammy Museum Los Angeles
Grammy Museum executive director Scott Goldman recently asked music guests Greta Van Fleet a series of questions which included Goldman saying to the rising band that they have been called the future of Rock N’ Roll, which Goldman felt was an unfair mantle to hold them to. Greta Van Fleet bass player Sam Kiszka fielded the question by telling Goldman that if he meant as the spirit of Rock N’ Roll being dead then yes, they will gladly pick up the mantle and carry it.
Great save by Sam I thought since I am guilty of saying that a few months ago and the fact that Sam was wise enough to pick up on that took me to a memory of Frank Zappa tutoring me on the components of Rock N’ Roll poolside in Indio, CA when I was 13-years-old. It was Zappa’s belief at that time that “in order for Rock N’ Roll to survive it needs to evolve and change.” Zappa was passionate about this because he had just been turned down by yet another record company because, as Zappa said, they didn’t understand the value of his “Avant Garde” style of music.
Who can forget when former Beatle John Lennon’s son Sean Ono Lennon announced that Rock N’ Roll was dead? I know that I cannot and how confusing it was when Ono-Lennon had made that pronouncement. Ono-Lennon isn’t the first and only one to have said it, but it is the one that remains in my psyche. As one Greta Van Fleet fan posted recently “Rock never died, it was waiting for Greta Van Fleet.” Another fan wrote that they hoped that Greta Van Fleet’s new song “When The Curtain Falls” starts a revolution. I’m thinking revival.
Like it or not, Greta Van Fleet’s musical prowess has forged a new beginning for Rock N’ Roll in the minds and eyes of their growing legion of fans who embrace the band’s raw “what you see is what you get “ attitude. Could that attitude be a result of honing their chops at a biker bar where drugs were sold openly and Led Zeppelin was the music de jour? Is it any wonder that their core fanbase are music lovers of a certain age?
All of Greta Van Fleet’s members that were present agreed that they want to produce music that is authentic and free of studio magic, gimmicky add-ons and things that cannot be replicated on stage. This is good since so many acts rely upon those elements in order to draw in their fans and use prerecorded inserts. Greta Van Fleet doesn’t do that and I pray that will always be the case. If guitar player for Greta Van Fleet Jake Kiszka has anything to say about it it’s a safe bet it’ll remain thus and so since as he pointed out, “We grew up playing live so when we record we play live and that energy translates.”
Goldman threw in a few Led Zeppelin references which I guess could not be avoided but my takeaway was how they did a cover of Fairport Convention’s “Meet Me On The Ledge,” which was done with a more folksy version while Greta Van Fleet’s is more Rock. As I was listening to the banter of the band with Goldman, Fairport Convention’s singer Sandy Denny came into my head and remembered that she had sung with Led Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant on “The Battle of Evermore.” No one else had done that before Dennis. The guys also made a reference to the Led Zeppelin comparison by juxtaposing it with the British Invasion that began in the 60s and seeped into the 70s and how much of that music was Blues oriented and how the British musicians were being influenced by American Blues artists such as Muddy Waters. Lots have compared Josh’s voice to Plant’s, but I hear a bit of Cinderella frontman Tom Kiefer in there as well.
When it comes to the creative process that brings out the many influences that have helped to shape Greta Van Fleet, Sam, Jake and drummer Danny Wagner agree that the music that has most influenced them has withstood the test of time and that they have waded through the “slosh” to find the authentic and that it was always a goal of theirs to create their own material.
Jake believes that their music evolves organically as it comes from a rift that someone has come up with, or someone will be fiddling around with a rift during a sound check and they will work around it. Incidentally, that is how the guys came up with a rockin’ version of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” They had been doing a soundcheck and were tired of doing the same songs so Josh began belting it out and they eventually covered it.
There was one line of questioning about their early days together that elicited laughter from their audience that occurred when brothers Sam and Jake were telling how it was when Wagner came to audition to replace their original drummer Kyle Hauck. According to them, Wagner did everything except play with his toes. It didn’t hurt that Wagner grew up four miles from the Kiszka brothers as well. Hauck is the one that had suggested to name their band Greta Van Fleet.
When the interview and Q&A wrapped up, Greta Van Fleet took up their instruments and played a few songs for their guests. The opening song was “Highway Tune” which the guys labeled as their “youthful” phase. They also gave us a live peek into “When The Curtain Falls” that is featured on their soon to be released debut album “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army.” The debut release is due to premier on October 19 on Lava/Republic Records. According to the band’s press release, the 10 songs are a collective effort by all four members of Greta Van Fleet and explores a variety of topics that include fresh starts, love, integrity and peace. How Jake manages to coax a sitar sound out of his guitar on “Watching Over” is truly a mind-blower for me. Truly an amazing composition and has me using the word “phenom” when It comes to this young band. Greta Van Fleet is a high-energy band that exudes a stage presence that one cannot help but sit up and take notice of. Style and panache create an aura of edginess that goes a long way in explaining their collective prowess on their chosen instruments. Jake has already been featured on the cover of “Guitar Player” magazine which has a focus on his sizzling riffs which is guaranteed to wake up any slumbering Rock fan that believes that Rock has gone the way of the dinosaur. In fact, the debut album Is a guitar driven, standout of riff flurries. Sam fills in the layers of music with his unique brand of bass lines and keyboards. Man can he make those keyboards sing in a way that adds to the fullness of Josh’s strong vocalizations. Wagner’s chops are sharp and precise and deliver the percussion goods in such a way that I haven’t seen in a while. Has Wagner surpassed Blink -182’s Travis Barker as my favorite drummer? Well that remains unanswered.
Greta Van Fleet’s music has had millions of Youtube hits on their March 2017 release of their debut single “Highway Tune” and held the #1 position on U. S. Rock Radio Charts for five weeks. And 2017 was definitely a wild ride for the developing band and 2018 is closing out with a big bang as their new album hits the airwaves. Congrats to Greta Van Fleet on their meteoric rise in the field of their chosen craft.