The boys from Frankenmuth, Michigan in embellished jackets and tight jeans inhabited the intimate GRAMMY Museum Clive Davis Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Before Greta Van Fleet invigorated the 200 people before them, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner had a conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman on everything from the origins of singer Josh Kiszka’s distinguished wail (he was just trying to be louder than the rest of the band) to the future of rock and roll.
Goldman kicked off the discussion by inquiring about Greta Van Fleet meeting Bob Seger. The three collectively agreed it was a surreal experience, with Wagner noting Seeger’s longevity as an artist: “music really is a superpower.” With the boys being so young (they range from 19 to 22), musings would often come back to their age. It made for an interesting point when they described playing in bars as young as 14 (“Every time you went to the bathroom, you were like ‘please don’t be a drug deal’”) or denoting the importance of John Denver on their music. While music and cinema are noted significant influences, as Sam said, “John Denver is a really important part of our upbringing.” After all, as Jake put, “John Denver was very rock ‘n roll.”
As Greta Van Fleet are 75 percent brothers, with Wagner being friends with them most of their lives, Goldman’s curiosity of their dynamic was imminent. The band came together after each already had established their musician skillset. As for the songwriting process, Jake explained, “It happens really quite organically… Every song we’ve written has been written differently.” However, intense closeness can breed animosity. Jake talked about an encounter with Josh, his twin, leading to a broken door. And still, Sam pointed out the silver lining: “The act of always trying to one-up each other makes us great.”
Greta Van Fleet released their EP From the Fires and will follow up with their debut album next month, entitled Anthem of the Peaceful Army. Goldman acknowledged that the rock quartet is often designated as the future of rock and roll. Josh knows new, good rock music is out there, reasoning that “one person cannot wear that crown. It’s a movement.” Sam followed that whenever people make that point, he responds that he didn’t know rock and roll was dead, but that they will gladly take the responsibility of its revival. The boys have already begun, but have hinted at their timelessness. Goldman asked about their recurring themes of positivity, love, unity and harmony. Sam reasoned: “[They’re] important to a society at any time.”
After the chat, with Josh now at the helm, Greta Van Fleet packed all the drama and fervency of a stadium rock show into a five-song set in a cozy theater. They kicked off the set with their first single “Highway Tune,” giving Josh the opportunity to immediately prove skipping the conversation was worth the holdout. Each time he hit his extended cry, his arm went up as if he was presenting his voice as a gift. “When the Curtain Falls,” their debut album lead single, followed, and then the set continued with “Flower Power,” featuring Sam on keys, and “Edge of Darkness.” Throughout, Sam and Jake constantly bounded about what small space they had, as if they were unrestricted. They shifted front to back, plucking and strumming their respective instruments with speed and vigor. The night culminated with the seeming fan favorite “Safari Song.” A hub of men in the crowd (the ones seeing the music of their youth manifest before them) was immediately on their feet. It was a feelgood rocker jam meant for some dancing. During the chorus’ main line, Jake leaned onto Josh to assist with vocals: “Oh mamma what you gonna do with all that love in your heart.” Just before the song’s end—and putting his protective gloves to good use—Wagner had a moment alone to display the intensity at which he can hit his drums. A standing ovation began and after one more chorus run-through and an in-sync-final-beat jump, the entire crowd was on their feet cheering.
- Highway Tune
- When the Curtain Falls
- Flower Power
- Edge of Darkness
- Safari Song
Photo Credit: Boston Lynn Schulz