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  • Greta Van Fleet

    An interview with Greta Van Fleet's Jake Kiszka
    by Tommy Rage
    June 2017

    Greta Van Fleet plays 'Shake The Lake'

    Greta Van Fleet plays 'Shake The Lake'

    Greta Van Fleet played ‘Shake The Lake’ in Madison on Saturday June 24th.  The Hammer Gods did part the skies briefly during the performance with a downpour of rain. The young bothers: Josh (vocals), Sam (bass, keyboards) and Jake Kiszka (guitar) along with childhood friend Danny Wagner (drums), got to hang out with fans during a brief rain soaked intermission. The response to both the show and my review of their debut EP Black Smoke Rising was incredible. I caught up with Jake Kiszka (lead guitar) and discussed recording their first release (available through iTunes & www.gretavanfleet.com), their Dad’s musical influence and hanging out with fans in Madison during a storm. 

    Maximum Ink: You guys just played Madison’s Shake The Lake. Tell me about the reception you got here in Madison. 
    Jake Kiszka: Madison is fantastic.  That was a great reaction.  We planned on a 45-minute set, and when we got to where we had 2 songs left, a storm came in and instantly it started down pouring. The wind came in within 5 seconds, and I could feel the stage moving under my feet. We got off the stage, and tons of people stayed out in the rain to just meet us. We just hung out in the rain with the fans getting soaked even before we finished. We were taking pictures with the fans in the rain.  That is really a rare thing for an audience to do. It really separates Madison and we just hung out with the fans the entire time; fans in Madison are beautiful.

    MI: So, if you had your choice of living in a big city or one the size of Madison, which would you prefer? 
    JK: You are subject to your environment, so if I had to choose, I would probably prefer somewhere in the country or somewhere like Madison, because of where we grew up [Frankenmuth, Michigan]. Madison reminds me of my home.

    MI: Speaking of home, you and your two brothers, Josh (vocals) and Sam (bass, keyboards) grew up in a musical family. What type of music was playing as you guys were growing up?
    JK: A lot of classic rock and blues. I remember I was very young and sitting home with my Dad and he put on a VCR tape of a Cream documentary. I remember that really well.  I remember him playing Janis [Joplin] and Hendrix records that we all listened to growing up.

    MI: Your Dad being a blues fan, he plays harmonica.  Any chance we might hear your Dad on future songs? 
    JK: We are definitely contemplating that. Josh (vocals) has written a couple songs which we are going to try to incorporate [Dad’s] harmonica.

    MI: How would it feel to have you and your brothers record a song with your own Dad? 
    JK: We are really excited about that and trying to wrangle him in to do that.  We have an acoustic song we recorded which, conceptually, would be great with his harmonica. There are other bands which have been family based and brought in a family member to play harmonica. Blackfoot, I know, brought in their grandfather for harmonica on Train, Train. Its always been an incentive to have Dad play a song with us.

    MI: With you and your two brothers being raised by a fellow musician and hearing a lot of classic rock growing up, do you and your brothers listen to the same style of music now?
    JK: We have a day off today. Sam (drummer) and Josh (vocals) are here at my place, and there is something different playing in the garage and something different playing in the living room.  You can walk through the house and hear something totally different playing throughout the house.  If I’m in a rut, I just walk through the house and Sam or Josh might have something on that I haven’t hear before. Josh listens to a large selection of music from different cultures, and even music scores as well.

    MI: The Black Smoke Rising EP, highlights some of your acoustic guitar with “Flower Power”, while the first release “Highway Tune” has a gritty riff. Do you have a personal preference when it comes to writing or performing with a guitar?
    JK: There are certain elements of acoustic that I can’t trade with electric, and then there are certain elements of electric that I can’t trade for acoustic.  I like playing both acoustic and electric equally.  There is just a different approach to when you are playing either one. I really like playing mandolin and ukulele too. I play mandolin quite a bit and that helps me gauge the feel of a song.

    MI: Only four songs made the cut on Black Smoke Rising EP, but you guys spent some time in the studio recording additional songs?
    JK: We have about 25 songs we recorded.  We are putting together the songs, and what it should sound like for an album.  Right now, we are doing a lot of touring for the EP. 

    MI: How is touring and playing with brothers, any sibling rivalry? 
    JK: It depends.  We are really good at respecting each other and giving each other space. But there have been times when we get on each other’s nerves in the hotel, but when we walk down to van to leave everything is fine.  It’s always in a big city that the tensions are high.  We are a bunch of small town guys, we aren’t used to that type of big city energy.  Maybe that’s why we like Madison so much, it reminds us of our home town. 


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    CD: Black Smoke Rising Record Label: Lava Music/Republic Records
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