The four members of Greta Van Fleet gave themselves a day to sleep in back on Dec. 7.
Then they woke up to something of a maelstrom.
"When I got up my phone had been, like, exploding — I thought the Pope was dead or something," singer Josh Kiska recalls. Bassist-keyboardist and younger brother Sam Kiska had a similar experience. "I woke up to probably 3,000 text messages that morning, which is pretty scary because you go, 'Oh, great, what happened...?'
"Lucky it was only Grammy nominations, not something horrible."
"Only" is an understatement. The hard-rocking Frankenmuth troupe had scored four Grammy Award nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Rock Album for its 2017 EP release "From the Fires." The Grammy announcement came on the heels of the October release of "Anthem of the Peaceful Army," GVF's first full-length album, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and was "just" another line item in a series of successes ranging from chart-topping singles ("Highway Tune," "Safari Song," "When the Curtain Falls") to sold-out concert tours and support from superstars such as Elton John, Dave Grohl and Tom Hanks.
A Jan. 19 performance on "Saturday Night Live" is also looming.
"It really seems like every day there's something new and there's this and this and this, and every day is wild," Sam Kiszka, 19, says by phone. "It's fun. And sometimes we get to relax — not too often, but sometimes. But it's just, like, nothing seems to really surprise us anymore because it's always amazing. It really is a wild ride."
Guitarist and third brother Jake Kiszka, meanwhile, adds, "There are certain moments where you're kind of forced to stand back and look at things — like when we played with Elton John — and kind of put some stuff in perspective. But mostly things are rolling along so fast it's very difficult to look at it from an outside perspective. We just don't have too much time to think about it right now."
For GVF — which formed in 2012 and includes drummer Danny Wagner — the best part of the year has been releasing "Anthem of the Peaceful Army." The 10-song set was recorded primarily in Nashville ("From the Fires" was done at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak), while some of the material was written in an isolated cabin in the mountains near Chattanooga, which the group felt certain was haunted.
"We really like to isolate ourselves, find somewhere that's really off the grid, where you can be exceeding 120 decibels pretty much 24 hours a day," Sam Kiszka notes.
The "Anthem" album shows growth and evolution for the band. "A lot of the content evolved over the period of writing and recording it," says Josh Kiszka, 22. Some tracks, such as "You're the One," had been around for a while and played on stage, before finding a home on "Anthem." Others, written especially for the album, include "Age of Man," "Brave New World" and "Anthem."
"We were on a mission, conceiving an album that had been a long time coming," Josh Kiszka says. "It was like four men, obsessed."
Twin brother Jake Kiszka adds, "All we've wanted to do for the past five, six years is put out a full-length album. A lot of the content has kind of evolved over the period of writing and recording it. The last year and a half we've traveled a lot more and seen a lot more places, met a lot more people. That insight has really contributed to the evolution of wherever we are now."
Lyrically, Josh Kiszka cites the influence of "philosophical texts that my father had lying around," including writings by philosophers such as Aldous Huxley, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. "The overall story of the album is about the story of mankind," the frontman says. "It's a lot about where we came from, who we are, where we're going." But, he adds, "It's not all completely challenging, sort of deep-think. You've got tracks like 'When the Curtains Fall,' too, and 'The New Day, which is a really optimistic song. I mean ... we're still a rock band, y'know?"
Not surprisingly, GVF's success — accompanied by mostly favorable comparisons to forebears (and acknowledged influences) such as Led Zeppelin — has brought some backlash. A particularly nasty Pitchfork review of "Anthem" stands out, but the group is doing a convincing job of staying out of the fray.
"We hear about this stuff kind of second hand, but we just don't care," Sam Kiszka says. "There's a lot of politics behind it. All you can do is laugh." Josh Kiszka, meanwhile, contends that, "If there are certain people who are getting whipped out of shape, it's a good reminder that maybe what we're doing is substantial."
GVF plans to rock well into 2019. Following its year-ending trio of shows at Detroit's Fox Theatre — where the Kiszka brothers and their family saw "The Lion King" some years ago — GVF is headed to Japan, Australia, Europe and South America before another North American run in the spring. The schedule will stay busy all year long, but the group also hopes to carve out some studio time as well, with a goal of putting out even more music as soon as possible.
"We're ready for the next step," Sam Kiszka says, adding, "album two is in the works — I think the day we released 'Anthem' we started working on new material." Josh Kiska adds, "There's so much music always being written, and has been written. We're really excited to get going on the next full album. As to when we'll have the time to do that is a big question. But we'll get there."
Greta Van Fleet and Ida Mae perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 29-30, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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