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August 2017 - Greta Van Fleet

Michigan's "Christmas Town" Rocks a Little Harder with Greta

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Greta Van FleetIf they had their choice, many twenty-year-olds wouldn’t pick out a Led Zeppelin or classic rock album out of a record crate. Even fewer could emulate that same passion and powerhouse vocals of Robert Plant, or stand up to the iconic sounds of Jimmy Page’s guitar.

Frankenmuth’s unconventional rock ‘n’ roll band Greta Van Fleet attempted the impossible, and is proving everyday that dreams can and do come true.

Three brothers -- Jake Kiszka (guitar), Josh Kiszka (vocals), Sam Kiszka (bass, keys), and Danny Wagner (drums) form Greta Van Fleet, which hails from a town famous for its chicken. A town, which is quickly becoming famous for America’s next best rock ‘n’ roll band.

The siblings were raised on a variety of music, listening to blues, folk, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll like The Who, Cream, and Joe Cocker.

“We grew up in somewhat of a vinyl playground,” Jake Kiszka said. “We didn’t really listen to too much that was on the radio. We were surrounded by a lot of music early on. We grew up in a very creatively free environment.”

Kiszka admits their hometown -- a German ‘Christmas’ town, is a pretty uncommon locale to be the cultivating ground for an American born and bred rock ‘n’ roll town. The Little Bavaria town has been nothing but supportive, though, of Greta Van Fleet, which formed in 2012.

“It is unconventional that a band, specifically a rock ‘n’ roll band, would come from an environment like Frankenmuth,” he said. “Frankenmuth being so small, I think it was more of a nurturing community – to be able to not shun us more, believing in what we believe in and playing the music that we play. They were accepting of that and they were nurturing it, and the whole community was so supportive of us.”

Greta Van Fleet“It’s difficult if you want the whole world to hear your music and your message, it would be pretty hard to do it from a little town like Frankenmuth,” Kiszka said.

But the little town has continued to show big support for their ‘hometown boys’ who used to play four-hour-shows at Fischer Hall. Now, they’re embarking on a UK tour, excited to see London, France and Germany -- all first-time visits for the band.

Branching out was always the plan, but Greta Van Fleet knows how important of a puzzle piece Michigan is to the big picture. Their recently-announced Grand Rapids show sold out in less than two hours. Kiszka spoke about how the backing support of their home state has been surprising but satisfactory, to say the least.

“That’s the thing that’s been so elating as well, and it’s been very unexpected,” he said. “But I think the fact that we’re from Michigan, all of Michigan supports us … it is a very strong support system. Once you’re known here for what you do, I think the whole Michigan community holds you up. Once Michigan takes you in, they don’t let you down. I think it’s an incredible thing.”

In fact, many of the artists and musicians Greta Van Fleet looks up to in terms of career accomplishments include those born right here in the Great Lakes State: MC5, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Seger.

“We respect any musician in this industry -- because it’s so difficult and it’s so complex. There are people, like Kings of Leon, we look up to their success – and they’re American boys as well, and U2 is another one. There are certainly a handful that you can respect for the lessons they’ve left behind and that they’re leaving behind.”

Lessons of rock ‘n’ roll history for the band include liner notes from The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin and plenty of British invasion groups. The appeal of British rock ‘n’ roll has a special place in the hearts of band members, and drives a unique fiery passion to reinterpret those bluesy sounds, yet again.

Greta Van Fleet - Black Smoke RisingOn their four-song-debut EP, “Black Smoke Rising,” the band recorded with Al Sutton, who the band describes as “nothing short of a genius.” Sutton has also worked with Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. at the Rust Belt Studios. The band spent two years recording close to 30 songs at the Royal Oak studio.

In 2017, as Greta Van Fleet draws so much inspiration and lessons from sounds far beyond the relatively young band members time on earth, they are humbled by fans’ reactions.

“I think that being this young and being accepted as artists and musicians is really interesting,” Kiszka said. It is weird because we didn’t expect to have this kind of reaction. We didn’t expect to have this much respect that we’ve been given and shown by the industry and the fans. I think being this early on in life, and having that reaction of being taken seriously, has given us a very new perspective. It feels good to be respected.”

Perhaps for listeners, it’s not about numbers. Perhaps the initial draw is to the sound, as it should be, the love of the craft in its most pure form.It’s not about Spotify playlists, or ages of those making the music -- but rather, just about the message. As for the band, that’s always been and always will be the focus: the message of peace and love.

“Those are truly things that I think all of humanity needs, and that’s what our music offers—that’s the love, peace and the unity that we can all share with that universal language of music. Those three things are very important for us to bring everybody together and to share a moment.”

One of the band’s favorite moments shared on stage was opening up for Shinedown at the Traverse City Cherry Fest this past July.

“The fact that we were home in Michigan,” Kiszka said, “the crowd was just absolutely crazy for our music. It was a very humbling experience that we got that reaction in such a large crowd.”


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