Often pegged as “the new Led Zeppelin,” Michigan-based quartet Greta Van Fleet came out of the gate strong with its debut for Lava Records, Black Smoke Rising. The EP’s lead single “Highway Tune” quickly reached the top spot on the U.S. Mainstream Rock radio chart, while second single “Safari Song” came close to the Top 20. As if two radio hits and sold-out concerts everywhere were not enough, about six months after Black Smoke Rising hit stores, Greta Van Fleet won the “Best New Artist” award at this year’s Loudwire Music Awards.
November 10, 2017, brought the release of Greta Van Fleet’s second EP for the Universal/Republic-distributed Lava, From The Fires, as featuring four new songs plus the four songs of Black Smoke Rising. I had the pleasure of speaking with bassist Sam Kiszka by phone as he and his bandmates — which also includes vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner — were driving through California.
What was your first concert?
Sam Kiszka: Wow, you mean the first concert that I went to see?
The first concert that you chose to go.
Kiszka: I would say that the very first concert, well I am kind of actually embarrassed by how recent it was that I saw my first concert. It was March of this year, so it was only about six months ago, we got a big group together, me and Danny, and we planned to go and see Young The Giant in Grand Rapids at 20 Monroe Live.
Check out the band’s video for their hit single “Highway Tune”.
Why did it take so long to go to your first concert? You were playing gigs for years and years before you were going to concerts.
Kiszka: Yeah, totally. I think that it just took the amount of interest to, it just took that extra little mile to make us to go to a concert, because we have seen so many bands play in our time. Coming out of the bar scene, when I was in 8th grade, so I think it just really took something that we enjoy to be able to make an excuse to go and see them. Young The Giant, they are great, but I think who really stole the show was the opener, a real band that I came to fall in love with named Lewis Del Mar out of Rockaway Beach. They are absolutely fantastic and I will definitely see them live again.
I looked up your town, and it looks like there are 5,000 or so people that live in the town.
What is the closest rock venue to where you guys are?
Kiszka: Well, I suppose the one that we really put a staple in our community is called Fisher Hall, and it sure as hell is not a rock venue. But we played a lot of shows, we would always played there two or three times a year. I am looking forward to revisiting that. It’s a very old wooden hall built in the 1800s that it is just all wood. It was not made for rock & roll, but as far as actual rock venues go, the closest one is The Machine Shop. That place has a lot of history.
Where was your first gig as a band? Were you guys by any chance like the cool high school band where you played the talent show?
Kiszka: (laughs) Well, it is actually funny. In middle school, I would say 8th grade, me, Danny, the old drummer played as a trio for graduation. So I think the band name was Hollywood, that was a nice one-off kind of thing. We just basically jammed out and it was really cool. It is an interesting line up, isn’t it? Danny on guitar, I was on bass, the old drummer was on drums.
Your EP has been on Spotify for six or seven months and out in the world and all that, and “Highway Song” is a huge success on radio and all that, but it is very interesting that you only have an EP out. I heard a rumor that you guys are planning on doing two or three more EPs and them combining that into an album. Is that true?
Kiszka: To a certain degree, but I don’t think we are going to do three… We’ve got something coming up to hold people’s appetites fairly soon and then the full-length is in the works, for sure.
Will the full-length have songs from the EP on it?
Sam Kiszka: The full-length will not, no. It is going to be a whole new release.
Pretty much every tour date that you have has sold-out well in advance. How does that feel? Is it surprising to be this successful so quickly?
Kiszka: You know what? It really is and you just kind of opened my eyes when you said that the EP has been out for six to seven months. I thought about it and I was like, “Holy shit.” It’s felt like not even three months, you know? The past half-year has gone by so quickly, because we’ve been all over doing this greatest stuff, so it is an amazing opportunity.
The EP has garnered so much attention and I am so thankful for that. I think it is a statement really, I think people are ready for real rock & roll again. Not saying that it is not out there, there are great bands out there, like Kaleo, Rival Sons, we all love The Black Keys. There is great stuff out there, you just have to go about finding it. I suppose what’s great about this movement is that rock & roll is getting so much attention, which is seldom done. I think it is about time that people start recognizing rock & roll as one of the biggest genres out there.
So, in closing Sam, any last words for the kids?
Kiszka: If you are playing music, or if you are doing anything in the arts, you have to believe in what you are doing. That is what we’ve done this whole time and it is just something that is very organic. Believe in what you are doing, and if you know you are doing the right thing, keep doing it. Never stop, because that is what we did and it has really worked out for us.
Check out the track “Safari Song” played live in the Sound Lounge.