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Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet plays Sonic Boom 2017

Greta Van Fleet plays Sonic Boom 2017 CD: Black Smoke Rising
Record Label: Lava Music/Republic Records
Artist's Facebook
by Tommy Rage
September 2017

It’s not often that a young band can top a few heavy weights such as the Foo Fighters, Green Day or Metallica.  However, Billboard’s Top 20 has Greta Van Fleet at # 2 this month with their first single: “Highway Tune” (http://gretavanfleet.com/music). Having played Madison for “Shake The Lake” at the Monona Terrace, Greta Van Fleet returns to Wisconsin for WJJO 94.1 FM’s Sonic Boom on Saturday Sept 30th (http://www.wjjo.com/sonicboom). The debut EP, Black Smoke Rising fuses the classic rock sound with a modern texture and has propelled the Michigan band to sold-out shows across the US. 

When you begin to list the comparisons to the bands that Greta Van Fleet reminds you of, you come to realize that these young rock stars know what they are doing and whose footsteps they are following in.  Brothers Josh (vocals), twin Jake (lead guitar), and younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass) along with longtime friend, Dan Wagner (drums) were exposed to rock at an early age, “We grew up listening to 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”, shared lead guitarist, Jake Kiszka.

You can certainly surmise that the vocals and guitar riffs remind you of a true classic British rock band, and along with the Moog synthesizer & bluesy undertones, it leaves you wanting more than just four songs from their first release.  With extensive time spent in the studio with producer Al Sutton (Kid Rock & Hank Williams Jr), the young rockers recorded approximately 25 songs in total, some of which they will be playing live at Sonic Boom.  In addition to listening to a lot of classic rock while growing up, the three brothers also have a father who is musically inclined.  When asked about the potential to record with their father, who plays harmonica, guitarist Jake Kiszka shared, “We are definitely contemplating that. Josh (vocals) has written a couple songs in which we are going to try to incorporate [Dad’s] harmonica…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’. That has been an incentive to have Dad play a song with us.”

Jake recently posted videos via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gretavanfleet) of the band playing a few songs in their hotel after a concert, as well as an acoustic song the band played while traveling in their van for the tour.  When I asked Jake recently about how much the band enjoys jamming together for the pleasure of playing, Jake told me, “We do that quite often. We just bring guitars or mandolins, and Sam (bass) has an electric keyboard he can play, and we just bring them along with us or to the hotel, we can’t stop playing usually.”  Asked if they ever have played a cover song just to see if they could do it, “We did do a cover of an Adele song. We did ‘Rolling In The Deep’. Josh’s vocals are pretty incredible. It’s a rock and roll version, with a little folk”. 

With extensive touring and sold out shows, bass player Sam Kiszka has had to learn to deal with the ‘off-stage’ boredom. In addition to playing the bass, Sam has taught himself to play the 6-string guitar, drums, mandolin, keyboards, Hamond M103 organ, ukulele and saxophone.  Most recently he has decided to also teach himself to play the autoharp as well.  “We pride ourselves on being able to play multiple instruments, and it’s an intentional approach of showcasing what we are capable of doing, especially during a live show”, shared Jake Kiszka.

Asked if he was surprised about have a streak of sold out concerts and great reception to the tour, Jake noted, “I didn’t think we would get this much attention as early as it’s come. It’s shocking to all of us, but sometimes it’s difficult to feel. It’s like being in a storm, and you’re in the ‘eye-of-the-storm’ mentally. It’s very calm in the center.  I think it’s easy for us to be grounded. Going home is refreshing.” Asked if life on the road is different from being at home with his family, “When I get home, the first thing mom tells me to do is the dishes.  I do them, as I know she will yell at me until I do them.”

When asked about the last time they played Madison for “Shake The Lake” this past June during a rain storm, “Madison reminds me of home”, Jake declared, “that was a great reaction…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.”   

There is no doubt that these young rock stars are poised to be the next “big thing”. With a perfect blend of blues and the gritty classic rock grind & vocals, they have grown from a small-town band from Michigan to festival showcases and headlining show-stoppers.  The band is excited to perform at Sonic Boom, “Festivals are great and if the fans can bring some energy, we can feed right off of that and it would be a great gift from Wisconsin fans.”

Purchase Black Smoke Rising on Amazon.com
Download Black Smoke Rising on Amazon.com

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