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Interview:
Greta Van Fleet makes hot rock out of Frankenmuth
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

Sam Kiszka and the rest of Greta Van Fleet know exactly when they started to feel like rock stars.

It was on Sept. 7, when the Frankenmuth quartet was standing in Saginaw’s Dow Events Center, listening to a sound check by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, who Greta Van Fleet was opening for that night.

“I think that was the real moment where I thought, ‘Wow...,” Kiska, 18, GVF’s bassist and keyboardist, says during a break from recording new material at Rust Belt studios in Royal Oak. “Not everybody gets to open for Bob Seger, gets to meet him. Growing up, if we listened to radio it was classic rock radio, and every other song around here is a Seger song. We’ve listened to him right from birth.

“So, yeah, that was an amazing moment. That was a defining moment for our career, so far.”

Kiszka and his bandmates -- twin brothers Josh and Jake, 21, on vocals and guitar, respectively, and Danny Wagner, 18, on drums -- can rest assured more of those are coming, however.

Since the April release of its debut EP, “Black Smoke Rising,” GVF has become American rock’s hottest acts. “Highway Tune,” one of EP’s four tracks, hot No. 1 on Billboard’s Active Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. The group -- which formed during 2012 and took its name from a Frankenmuth town elder named Gretna Van Fleet -- has received worldwide media attention, including a mash note from music industry gadfly and blogger Bob Lefsetz, who declared that “you’ll be astounded that the songs are good. Full of hooks that make you want to listen to them again. And again.”

This week the quartet, which has already trooped through Europe, heads to London for its first shows there, and three sold-out nights at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour loom later this fall. And demand for new material is so strong the group is hopscotching back to the metro are between concerts for recording sessions.

“It’s been really surprising, and to see how fast it’s moving...There must be something in the music that people can really hold onto and relate to,” Sam Kiszka says. “We’ve gotten a lot farther than we should on just one EP. Every day that goes by it seems like more and more people are into it, which is amazing for four kids who just want to have fun playing music.”

The fun started when the Kiszkas were toddlers. Their father was a musician, and Josh Kiszka recalls that “our parents had a lot of vinyl laying around,” regularly playing classic rock. blues, folk, R&B and more. Family and friends ski trips to Yankee Springs, meanwhile, were filled with jam sessions that made an impact on the three brothers. “It was really awe-inspiring to see all these people from all over the place come together, and what brought them together was music,” Jake Kiszka says. “That was mind-blowing.”

Jake took to music first, gradually bringing in his brothers and, later, Wagner. The sound, not surprisingly, references some of the four young musicians’ favorites while growing up, and direct comparisons have been made to bands such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC -- though Jake says the influence comes organically.

“We liked to see how the English bands had reinterpreted the blues, and we wanted to interpret it again,” he explains. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if an American band came right back and reinterpreted the reinterpretation that the English did?’ I thought there was something there that needed to be created.”

Sam, meanwhile, says the group takes the comparisons as nothing less than a compliment.

“It’s kind of unreal, because the people that we’re compared to, they’re pretty amazing,” he says. “I’m not sure we deserve the comparison. I don’t think we’re that good, but I think it’s very flattering, and it tells me we’re going in the right direction.”

GVF plans to keep moving forward with new music in the near future, with details to be announced soon. Meanwhile the group plans to keep doing more of everything -- touring and recording with producers Al Sutton and Marlon Young -- and finding a few more “defining moments” for its still-young career.

“It’s a difficult thing to juggle, going out to play shows and giving the people more material, but we’re finding a happy medium right now,” Sam says. “There’s a lot of hard work, but there’s not a dull moment, that’s for sure.

“It’s just a really great opportunity and to be able to sustain this life where just have fun, where we make music that we want to make and people enjoy it, there’s no better way to do it.”



If You Go:

• RIFF Fest 2017 with Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, Pop Evil, Greta Van Fleet and more...

• Friday, Sept. 29. Gates open at 1:30 p.m.

• DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

• Tickets are $55-$199 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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