To paraphrase the ancient rock god Jim Morrison: When it comes to the ongoing health of rock & roll, the future's uncertain and the end is always near. But even as pop and hip-hop dominate the sales charts in 2018, a quartet of young dudes called Greta Van Fleet has arrived to bring classic hard rock back to the mainstream, tapping into a new generation of fans while sounding as much like Led Zeppelin as another reunion of Page & Plant.
With their just-released debut, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, Greta Van Fleet fully evolves into a modern, worshipful take on the music that inspired them: Zeppelin, Cream, Dylan, B.B. King, Hendrix, the British Invasion, and countless other heroes of rock, folk and blues they heard growing up in small-town Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Singer Josh Kiszka, 22, has a piercing, otherworldly wail eerily close to Robert Plant's. That would make his twin brother, guitarist Jake Kiszka, the band's Jimmy Page, a staggeringly high mountain for anyone to climb. But the new album and GVF's live shows capture the essence and youthful excitement of early Zep: big guitars, catchy tunes, soulful organ melodies and thunderous drumbeats.
The band — also including the twins' younger brother, bassist-keyboardist Sam; and drummer Danny Wagner, both 19 — even dresses the part in vintage style with colorful layers of beads, denim and those tiny shirts and vests that Plant used to wear over an otherwise bare chest. A pair of introductory EPs released last year got some early attention for the quartet, and a growing contingent of young fans in Greta Van Fleet T-shirts now greet them at festival gigs across the U.S. (Lollapalooza, Coachella) and overseas (the U.K.'s Download Fest, Japan's Summer Sonic).
During a stop in Denver, guitarist Jake called in to talk with Revolver about the journey so far.
ALMOST EVERYTHING WRITTEN ABOUT YOUR BAND MENTIONS LED ZEPPELIN. DO YOU LIKE THOSE COMPARISONS?
JAKE KISZKA Absolutely. We continue to be honored by the affiliation. Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest rock & roll bands of all time. It's better than being referenced to something like Wham!
I SAW AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT PLANT ON YOUTUBE THE OTHER DAY, AND HE WAS OPENLY AMAZED THAT GRETA VAN FLEET EXISTS.
As soon as you get the OK from someone like Robert Plant or Elton John — the people who are influential to us — it seems like we must be doing something right. It gives us the ability to do more, knowing we have the respect from the originals and the masters of that trade. It's inspiring.
HAVE YOU GOT THAT KIND OF SUPPORT FROM ANY SURPRISING PLACES?
We were at the end of the recording process of this album at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. [Actress] Rita Wilson was recording next door. We were hanging out with her and playing her some of the music, and she said, "Tom is coming in tonight." At the time, I didn't know she was married to Tom Hanks, so I was like, "Tom? Who's Tom?" Tom Hanks came in and listened to some stuff and said, "Boys, that's just bitchen."
WHAT WAS THE PLAN WHEN YOU WENT INTO THE STUDIO TO MAKE THIS ALBUM?
We had certain objectives for sure. We wanted to do something that had dimension to it — putting things on there that were acoustic, intimate and beautiful, and pairing that with something a lot more heavy, dark and aggressive. We tried to stack all the different emotions.
THE SONG "YOU'RE THE ONE" SHOWS A DIFFERENT SIDE OF THE BAND – WITH A MUCH MORE EMOTIONAL BALLAD.
That was a song we were writing in the garage at home maybe four years ago. I was strumming that acoustic progression and Josh walked out and started singing on it — and I was like, "Wow, this is a beautiful song. There's something special here." We had that in the live set for quite some time. It's the song that took the longest on the album to get right. It's a really pretty, intimate song that talks about love. Many of the girls like it.
WHERE IS FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN?
It's an hour-and-a-half north of Detroit. It's a small town with about 5,000 population, surrounded by farm fields.
THERE'S A PRETTY DEEP HISTORY OF ROCK IN DETROIT. DO YOU FEEL A PART OF THAT?
We definitely feel a part of Detroit. That was always played on the radio growing up and was really influential to us — people like Bob Seger, Grand Funk Radio, the MC5, Ted Nugent — and a lot of the R&B that came out of there too. We went and checked out the old studios where a lot of Motown was done. We feel a part of that history.
WHAT CURRENT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
We listen to quite a bit of contemporary music: The Black Keys, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Hozier, Jack White and the White Stripes. You find things every day. It's about opening your mind and being subject to everything. I actually like Arctic Monkeys. A lot of their stuff is really cool and dark. And we played a festival with Queens of the Stone Age. Everyone in our crew said, "You gotta go see this." We went and watched and it was one of the most powerful performances that I've seen. I like that darkness.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STATE OF ROCK IN POP MUSIC?
It's in a good place — as far as its ability to come back as something that once was so prevalent and is now slightly less prevalent. There are great bands who wave that flag: the Foo Fighters are certainly one of them, and Metallica. It's evolving and figuring itself out once again. There are a lot of people in our generation who are influenced and inspired.
WHO DO YOU SEE IN YOUR CROWD?
The audience we've seen is 8 to 80. It's inspiring to see that multi-generational unity in the audience, where you've got kids in the front, and then their parents in the back, and their parents' parents. Everyone is getting together for a common purpose — for rock & roll music.
WHAT DO FANS IN YOUR OWN AGE GROUP SAY TO YOU?
They share the same love for that music and for rock & roll that we do. It's an inspiring thing, and they are really connecting with it. They have that same excitement.