Greta Van Fleet: Ready For Takeoff

It’s not often that a band will get the bosses up-in-arms over here at Pollstar, but after hearing Greta Van Fleet’s music, the company CEO marched over to editorial to make sure we had something in the pipeline on this dynamic four-piece. Fortunately for us, we could tell him we already had an interview with bassist Sam Kiszka on the way, published below in its entirety.

Greta Van Fleet hails from Frankenmuth, Mich., and consists of brothers Josh, Jake and Sam Kiszka on vocals, guitar and bass/keyboards respectively, and their friend Danny Wagner on the drums. Josh and Jake are 21 years of age, finally able to legally enter the clubs they have been playing for years. Longtime school friends Sam and Danny are both 18, but have likewise been seasoning their skills in regional clubs and bars for years now.

The band dropped its first EP, Black Smoke Rising, earlier this year and, in the author’s estimation, the closest comparison in musicianship and energy would have to be Led Zeppelin.

The guys have just jumped into their first full-fledged headline tour after taking on a run of support dates with

We got a chance to talk with Sam as he and his compatriots were resting in Frankenmuth before the tour.  He explained how their musical tastes influence the sound, discussed the experience of touring as a teenager, and talked about the origins of the band name.

Herftiz PR
– Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet L-R: Sam Kiszka, Josh Kiszka, Danny Wagner, and Jake Kiszka

It seems like the band is taking off!

It’s going full speed! It’s kinda crazy how fast all these things happen and it’s amazing the support that we’re getting. It’s crazy.

Today the

It’s just unbelievable these places that are way off, on the West Coast, overseas, that we’re getting that kind of response there. That’s just crazy. It’s unbelievable.

This has to be exciting, being 18 years old on the road. It sounds like the adventure of a lifetime.

It really is. I think back … we did those five dates with The Struts back in May. Doing those shows, it was fantastic because we were consistently playing these rooms that were sold out. Now we went into the festivals and we opened for Shinedown, we’re also playing consistently bigger shows.

I really love smaller shows, don’t get me wrong. The Viper room, for example. We were able to pack all those people in one room and all of them are so energetic, it’s hot as hell, it’s sweaty, it’s loud, it’s rock ‘n’ roll. You get great energy from that. There’s nothing we love more than playing to a lot of very energetic people who are into it. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.

Have you done a lot of interviews yet?

Oh yeah, lots of them.

We actually just had one with a college station an hour ago. Usually when we’re off on the road we don’t end up doing a lot of interviews, usually it’s when we’re at home, or later when we’re at the hotel or whatever. What’s really fun is when we get to go all around. We just went to New York, to do SiriusXM, just jumping all over the place talking to people. It’s great, we have a fun time doing it. We love people.

Everybody always says it’s a drag doing the same questions, but we all kinda like talking. I think it’s fun. Every time somebody gives me the same question I answer it how I feel right now. Sometimes people get different stuff. I think it’s great. It’s all part of the job and I love the job.

What’s it like having to play in clubs you can’t drink at yet?

That’s an interesting question. It all goes back to the very origins of Greta Van Fleet. When we first started playing, even before we had our first manager, Michael Barbie, we just loved playing, we didn’t care about going out and doing this. We just loved playing in the garage. We had some buddies that had us play at their graduation parties. We did that. Actually a grad party is where we got our first step into the industry. Our now tour manager, Michael Barbie, he was our original manager. He got us to Al Sutton, our producer, and he got us to where we are today.

Where do bands play when they’re at a certain level? They play bars and small clubs. That’s what we were doing a lot. We were hitting the local scene when I was 13 years old. It’s kinda just second nature to me. I haven’t thought about it but it’s interesting that kids my age aren’t privy to the bar scene, and I know it all too well. Because I’m 18 now I’ve been in bars for five or six years now and what’s really great is that my parents were so supportive of that. They know that we just wanted to play. They really believed in our music as much as we did. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that support from our parents.

Even Daniel’s parents, when Daniel joined the band he was probably 15-16. His parents just let him in, they came to the show at

It was also interesting when we went to Sweden. Being an 18 year old I could go in the bar, and I’m like “What the hell?!” I could legally go into bars and order drinks. It’s a crazy world we live in.

Sometimes we have a hard time getting into clubs. On rare occasions we can’t even go in until we have to play, and then we have to get right out, which is a pain in the ass. But most of the time I just don’t have to worry about it, thankfully, because I’m in the band.

So have you gotten the chance to do the classic “life-in-the-van” style touring?

A lot of the stuff in the Midwest, the East Coast, stuff west and south of us like Chicago, Indiana, Madison, Milwaukee, we drive around for that. Because when we do those shows we need all of our equipment. When we go to L.A. we rent the equipment and bring our guitars. We can adapt to that. But for the headlining tour we are gonna be traveling around in the van with a trailer. It’s a lot of fun. It’s big enough where everybody can sprawl out and get some sleep sometimes, and it’s also big enough where we can have guitars in there and play and sing. It’s a great time being on the road.

How much of the musician life is partying and how much of it is sitting in a van hungry?

You know what? Traveling around in the van is not all that bad. We really get along with each other, we’re really all great friends. I would say a lot of the time we are traveling. Sometimes we have 12-hour drives that we do in one night. But what makes it worth it is we get up on stage, and we play our music for however long, as long as we get to play. After that, it depends. If we’re tired, we go to bed. If we have some cool people there we stay up and we have fun.

It’s definitely a real job, as opposed to what a lot of people think about being a musician. It also is a lot of fun. It seems like it’s not all that hard work. But in reality it is. We have to travel in the van for very long periods of time. We have to set things up, move things around. Then you have the mental aspect of getting on stage and putting on the best performance you possibly can. And you have things like this, just talking to people, that’s a really big element of it.

Personally, it’s definitely one of the greatest professions in the world because you get to be your own boss.

I would say there’s a healthy mix of the things that rockstars do and that lifestyle. It’s all in the mix. And we have a helluva time doing it too.

Do people tell you that you sound like Zeppelin? Because you sound a lot like Led Zeppelin.

Yeah, we do get that. You know, growing up, our parents really educated us with great music just by playing it around the house. Some of my earliest days, before I could even form memories, my dad was playing John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Sam and Dave, Joe Cocker. And I think that’s in our soul, its instilled in there just by being around it so much at a young age. We share a lot of those inspirations, as I think a lot of the British invasion guys do and a lot of the ’50s rock ‘n’ roller guys do. And I think the earliest stuff I remember listening to is The Allman Brothers and the Beatles.

I would say the EP we released is very rock. When we have our next release it’s gonna be a full album and it’s going to show a lot more sides of Greta Van Fleet than people hear on the EP. There’s gonna be a lot more dimensions to it. There’s acoustic songs, keyboard pads, very beautiful things that are gonna come. This next release is going to identify Greta Van fleet a lot more as ourselves.

So you are happy to have shared influences with these legends, but the next release will be different?

Exactly. It’s not gonna be one of those things where people are like, “What the hell are they doing?” A lot of bands on their second album really go wild. I think a lot of material that we have in the works right now is very reminiscent of what the EP sounds like. Definitely expect continuity, but expect new dimensions of our work.

It’s very flattering to be compared to these great bands. I’m definitely not offended by that. It’s a very high honor to be compared to Led Zeppelin.

How did Josh find that sound for his vocals?

When he started singing he was trying to emulate people like Sam and Dave, soul singers. I feel like, the way he started to sing, he found out how he could get the most power out of his voice, singing like that. So I think that’s where the comparison comes from a lot of the time.

What do you imagine a meeting with you and

I would probably have some questions to ask him. John Paul Jones is a fantastic musician. I not only look up to him for his bass playing, but his virtuosity in playing keyboards. He’s just a very seasoned musician, a very tasteful musician. He knows his tones and he knows what he wants.

But I mostly learned from Motown, which was a big phase I went through when I started playing bass. That was kinda my inspiration to start playing bass. Pretty much James Jamerson shaped what Motown bass is. It’s very authentic and it moves very sexily.

So you play the keys too?

Yeah, actually for these shows the past two months we had difficulties with the keyboard. When we fly to L.A. I need very specific equipment, which a lot of the time is hard to come by.

But rest assured, for the headlining tour we are going to have a full set, which means an acoustic guitar and a keyboard.

The way we like to build our set, is like a good album. It moves, it reads like a book, you can listen to it and watch it like a movie. It’s light and shade. It has its ups and downs and its dynamic. It was a bummer that we weren’t working with keys for such a long time. But now we’re doing it.

Like on “Flower Power” I’ve just been playing it on bass and Jake’s been playing it on electric, which is a different sound. It’s definitely not compromising the music. But adding the keyboards to the set list really adds another dimension to the sound and the experience you get when you watch us. So I can’t wait to bring that along. It’s gonna be great.

If you could meet any living musicians, who would they be?

First and foremost, Paul McCartney, because his career is so amazing. Somehow he kept his art very fresh throughout his whole lifetime. He’s an artist in the most real form. He’s a fantastic painter. And the way that he’s made music for the past 60 years, it’s very impressive the way that he can keep his material real.

Next, I would be absolutely starstruck by Eric Clapton. Once again, the very long career. He’s seen so much turmoil. He’s been a victim of the lifestyle that he lived with addiction and things. And he’s moved out of it, he’s matured into another person.

I think we can look at people like him and understand that being a musician isn’t about alcohol, it’s not about drugs, it’s about the music. First and foremost always has to be the music and if anything compromises that it has to get out of the way.

I would love to see Eric Clapton. [There’s] something I can relate so well to in his music. He has a very earthy style. Great songwriter, fantastic guitar player.

And then: Bob Dylan, just because he does whatever the fuck he wants. He’s Bob Dylan. And he’s had such a huge impact on modern music, lyrically and his songwriting.

How many people were inspired by him? Especially like me. Me and Jake, back before I had even started playing bass, I was probably 10 or 11 years old. We had The Essential Bob Dylan CDs and we listened to ’em over and over and over. That’s the kind of music that skips the part where it goes into your ears and your brain it just goes directly to your heart. His music is so authentic and real. And once again the impact he has had on modern music is incalculable. So definitely Bob Dylan.

Those three, I think, are some of the best musicians/songwriters in all of earth’s history.

But there’s also Neil Young, actually everybody from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I went through a huge phase where that’s all I would listen to. And that stuff is great, very authentic music, once again great singers/songwriters. Definitely some absolutely phenomenal musicians are still with us today. I’m very thankful for the people that are still doing it.

I’m actually looking to see Eric Clapton at

That’s a great list. Awesome to hear you get so excited. Did you ever listen to The Strokes or Arcade Fire or more modern stuff?

Yeah, we have bands nowadays that we really look up to. Personally, for me, we saw Young The Giant in March and there was a band that opened for them, Lewis Del Mar. We really fell in love with what they’re doing.

I’m really excited for their next album coming up, because they combine a lot of very cool elements. I could never describe it. It has a pop edge, but it’s alternative. What I really love about it is how the percussion, it’s like melodic.

And the way Danny Miller sings, he’s just one of those guys where he sings and you believe him. He has a very earthy, authentic voice and his lyrics are also very real. And I really dig how the format of the song is very high production on the bass and drums spectrum and then you have this acoustic overdubbed, with these one-note melodies. I really hope I get the chance to meet those guys soon, because they’re doing great stuff.

Also bands like Kaleo, Rival Sons. They are also playing great music; they are recording great stuff. We definitely have our modern inspirations.

Josh also has some stuff he likes; The Shins, Fleet Foxes. We’ve had some modern influences, for sure.

I’ve noticed that the music scene in the past five years, we have some really great stuff rising to the top, to the forefront of what’s popular. Because people are getting tired of the same pop song format that there’s been for the same 15-20 years. So it’s nice that real music is coming to the top. We’re seeing great trends with what people are liking.

It’s a great time to be alive in the music industry, that’s for sure. Resurrecting what good music is.

Talk about what it was like getting Danny as your drummer.

It’s really cool because I feel like the age difference, I don’t notice it. I don’t feel like it exists because our souls are so aligned with each other. When we were just kids my brothers were in high school, and I was in middle school.

Usually for a younger brother, it’s like “Get out of here! We don’t wanna hang out with you!” But my brothers were so great about that and they always included me in those things that they did. I’m really grateful to them for letting me hang out with them. It’s always cool to hang out with the older kids, right?

When the old drummer decided to leave, we already knew Daniel. We were friends in middle school. I think the change happened when we were in the 8th grade. And it was interesting because in middle school nobody really listened to good music. … But, as someone who really identified with older music, I was kind of lost in finding people to relate to, in that sense.

Until me and Daniel found out we liked the same kind of stuff. So then we’d bounce music off each other and we started hanging out more and more. He was always a guitar player so he came over, played guitar with us.

And when the change had to happen, Daniel was more than willing to take the position of drummer. And it’s really worked out very well. He’s great. He’s one of the best drummers in the world.

I’ll tell Travis Barker you said that.

You can tell him that. If he kicks my ass, I’ll blame you.

My editor says Frankenmuth is known for its Christmas ornament shop?

Yeah it’s like, WTF, in the middle of summer people are going to get ornaments.

It’s a neat little town, it’s a very safe community. It’s a great place to grow up. It’s very unique because it’s a Bavarian mock-up town. It has all the architecture, style of classic German. It’s really cool. Definitely a great place to visit, especially in the winter time. They have a snow fest where there’s ice sculptures. They have an auto fest in summer. And festivals in between too. I highly recommend it.

It sounds like growing up in a close-knit community provided a supportive environment.

We’ve had a lot of people in our lives that have influenced us and showed us different music. The list goes on and on. There’s family members, uncles, aunts, great family friends. They’ve really showed us a lot of great stuff and really inspired us to be where we’re at today.

One that I can think of, Jon Webb, a friend of the family from Frankenmuth, got us our first big show and that was a really big step for us..

Of course, family, friends and also the support system that comes from that tight-knit community, everybody that’s on board with it that supports our cause. It’s definitely great being from a small town. You know everybody and everybody is really friendly.

Who was the lady who you named the band after?

We didn’t actually know her before we named the band after her. When we played at the local hall, Fisher Hall, in Frankenmuth, her name was up on the marquee: Greta Van Fleet. Everybody was calling her saying, “You’re playing at Fisher Hall? You haven’t played in 30 years!,” because she was an organ player for the church, she was a choir singer and a drummer.

So she showed up to that show and she sat through the whole two-hour set that we played, which was absolutely riveting. Loud, two hours of rock ‘n’ roll. We got to meet her and she gave us her blessing for the name.

I’m just really in love with the name. Every day I like it more and more because it’s unique. A lot of times we were trying to find band names – they were all taken in one form or the other.

You hear band names like

So you just heard the name and decided you liked it?

Actually, it was our old drummer. He was at lunch with his grandpa. His grandpa was gonna drop him off at our house for practice and he said “I have to go cut wood for Gretna Van Fleet.” He heard that and he’s like, “Huh, that’s kinda cool.” So he brought it to us and we decided we would take the “N” off, it rolls off your tongue a little better, and it stuck with us ever since. We needed a band name that morning because we were gonna play at Autofest in the afternoon. But it worked out.

Josh said bands shouldn’t have names because they’re all awkward. It’s kinda true but what else are you gonna call yourselves?

Hertiz PR
– Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet

At press time we got word that the headline tour is completely sold out. Still, if you want to see when Greta Van Fleet is heading to your town, check out the routing on the band’s Pollstar artist page.