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On The Rise: An Exclusive Interview With SAM KISZKA Of GRETA VAN FLEET

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Monday, October 30, 2017 @ 7:20 AM

“I think that music has magic powers. It brings people together. It makes people happy.”

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Photos By "Gnarly" Charlie

What defines an instant classic?

For the members of GRETA VAN FLEET there was a lot of influence drawn from their parents’ record stash. The Michigan-based band, made up of singer Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist/keyboardist Sam Kiszka, and drummer Danny Wagner has become a rock phenomenon by simply playing music with a timeless appeal. While classic rock might denote a sound or fashion from yesteryear, GRETA VAN FLEET’s allegiance to the core of that sound underscores their appeal.

The three brothers and their childhood friend, all between the ages of 18 and 21, have been enjoying huge success in the past six months, selling out a string of headlining dates in the U.S., and topping the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart with “Highway Tune”, number one for five weeks. At the recent 2017 Loudwire Music Awards, they won Best New Artist. From the Fires, the follow-up to their Black Smoke Rising EP, is set for release on November 10th.

Oh yes, the critics and fans have compared them to LED ZEPPELIN. Having seen them last month in Los Angeles, I would not be the first to say that Josh’s soaring vocals (and look) are derivative of Robert Plant. Most definitely so. Jake’s guitar playing sounds a lot like Jimmy Page at times, and the bruising duo of Sam and Danny lay down a rhythm characteristic of John Paul Jones and and John Bonham (Bonzo). But to dub them “Led Clones” (to quote the late guitarist Gary Moore) would be limiting.

At 18 years old, bassist Sam Kiszka has the chops of a seasoned session player. He cites THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, THE BEATLES, and CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH as major influences:

“All that stuff really grabbed me at a young age because I think it’s just fundamentally fantastic music. That’s the kind of stuff that can really grab anybody. They’re very talented,” he adds. “Very heartfelt lyricists and just amazing songwriters. You can tell that there’s the raw factor of emotion in each of the songs. It’s really beautiful stuff and I think that it’s something that anyone can latch onto and really enjoy.”

“I don’t think any one of us set out to make a certain type of music,” Kiszka says when asked what kind of sound he and his band mates wanted to establish starting out. “But the way that it worked out was interesting. Jake was always bringing home a buddy from jazz band. They would play guitar and drums for hours and hours after school. Josh would sometimes come out and sing on it.” Soon Kiszka discovered his dad’s old bass guitar lying around and a band was born. “I just kind of picked it up and I was listening to a lot of Motown at the time. I learned from the Motown recordings. I later came to find out that it was pretty much all (legendary Motown sessions bass player) James Jamerson on all these different Motown songs. I think the way we make music is very natural and I think it’s very organic. I think it comes from a riff and it’s organic. I can’t wait to get our next release out and really show people what we’re capable of.”

Kiszka describes his relationship with drummer Danny Wagner (also 18) as “identical to the chemistry of a blood brother. I’ve known Daniel since probably kindergarten, so it doesn’t make too much of a difference. He’s really the closest thing to a brother. Music definitely was the thing that brought us together, because in middle school when everybody was listening to the bullshit that they’re playing on pop radio, somehow we figured out that we had interest in the same kind of music. And then we would bring this new music to each other—bring it to each other’s attention. That’s really how we started getting along really early on.”

So why this meteoric buzz about the band?

“I think it’s a statement, really. I think it’s showing people are ready for rock and roll again. I think people are tired of hearing the same pop hit every week on the radio. You know, people are listening to more authentic music. I think that music has magic powers. It brings people together. It makes people happy. That’s the great thing about rock and roll.”

“It’s been absolutely wild how everyone’s been responding to it. It’s been a really amazing thing that people are enjoying it so much that they’ve been selling out shows and listening to the EP. That’s just fantastic. Overall it’s been an amazing experience. I can’t wait to get our next release out and really show people what we’re capable of. Once again, the support we’re getting from everybody is just so unreal. I don’t think I’d personally be doing this without the absolute monstrous response.”


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