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GRAMMY TALK:
GRETA VAN FLEET
Guardians of the Rock Galaxy

A band of brothers from a small town in Michigan—frontman Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka and bass/keys player Sam Kiszka, along with drummer Danny Wagner—Greta Van Fleet knows the tropes of classic rock inside and out and delivers them with genuine verve. It’s as if they’d time-traveled from the early ’70s to a world dominated by hip-hop and smashed through the current conventions, picking up a growing legion of believers and adding to it with each banshee wail and power chord. This unlikely phenomenon is for real, and we’re about to find out whether the band can make good on the promise of debut EP Black Smoke Rising with their first-ever full-length, Anthem of the Peaceful Army (Lava/Republic)—out now. Does Greta’s surprising emergence portend that big, heavy, melodic, ambitious rock music is on the verge of a renaissance in the mainstream? Now, wouldn’t that be something?


You guys are among the leading standard-bearers for rock, which has had a lower profile of late. What signs do you see of a resurgence?
Josh Kiszka: In the world today, rock & roll has become a novelty—something that no longer possesses as much truth as it once did. The resurgence is what’s going on underneath the radar. It’s thousands of kids in their basements and garages who are choosing to pick up instruments and grow. We’re optimistic about not just the resurgence of rock & roll but the resurgence of real music.

The band hails from Frankenmuth. Where on the “mitten” of Michigan is that? What was it like to grow up there?
JK: Frankenmuth is about an hour and a half north of Detroit, somewhere in the no man’s land between Flint and Saginaw. Growing up in Frankenmuth was nothing short of a romantic idea of Americana—a small town with a population of 5,000. We grew up in the country, playing in corn fields and rivers. There wasn’t particularly a music scene happening in this small German town, aside from your occasional polka band. So we really had a blank canvas to start painting on.

What were the records that first made you want to do this?
JK: It was a large span of eclectic records within our parents’ collection, ranging from early traditional blues, folk, and country to R&B and soul. It wasn’t necessarily a handful of records that influenced the band, but individual records that inspired each of us differently.

What music are you blasting on the tour bus?
JK: Joni Mitchell, John Denver, Woody Guthrie, Waylon Jennings, Dr. John, Miriam Makeba, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters. Things people probably wouldn’t suspect us to be listening to; certainly tracks and artists that have influenced us.

 

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