Greta Van Fleet: The Rock Group of our Age

Greta Van Fleet: the new age rock band from a small town in Michigan played the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater on August 27th, 2021 as part of their Northern Tour.

The band was originally founded by fraternal twins Josh and Jake Kiszka, their younger brother Sam, and drummer Kyle Hauck in 2011 (who was later replaced by current drummer and childhood friend Danny Wagner). Their love of music brought them together and they released their first studio album Anthem of the Peaceful Army in early 2018. In 2021, the band released their newest album The Battle at Garden’s Gate which was their current concert setlist. The Kiszka brothers and Wagner shared the stage with two other bands that night: The Nude Party and Langhorne Slim, both up-and-coming indie bands.

Within Greta Van Fleet, each member plays an essential role. Josh Kiszka, the frontman of the group, is the main lyricist and vocalist. Jake Kiszka is the lead guitarist. Little brother Sam is a jack of all trades; playing synthesizer, keyboard, and bass. And Danny Wagner is the lead percussionist and drummer for the group. The band’s music is somewhat popular on the music streaming platform Spotify with 3.8 million monthly streamers.

The band began in 2011 when they started playing at local biker gigs and bars around the Frankenmuth, MI area. After two years, drummer Kyle Hauck decided to leave once tensions rose between the group’s members about Hauck’s attitude. Soon enough, rising star Danny Wagner was welcomed in as the new drummer. They began to practice and write music in their unique style, still performing locally at that point (2013).

Photo of Danny Wagner from gvf twitter

One of their songs was featured in a local Chevy dealership commercial, giving them their first real “claim to fame.” Once the group gained enough popularity to sign with both Lava and Republic Records in 2017, they hit the ground running. They began to write and record until they had produced their first studio album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army.” Some of their most popular songs include Light My Love, Highway Tune, Black Smoke Rising, Safari Song, and Heat Above. Local guitar player, EHHS student, and classic rock enthusiast Eddie Villano said of the band: “I just love it when a band starts with a feeling then halfway through changes the perspective on it. They are somewhat versatile though, all the songs [you sent] were pretty different. The solos were also well placed and conveyed the theme of the song.”

The band’s fanbase is a wide variety of people, ranging from alternative-style teens to flower-power hippies of the 70s. Many older classic rock fans are open to the band, as they have a similar sound to the 1969 rock group Led Zeppelin. With that idea in mind, others concluded that the band was “a ripoff” of the rock legends, claiming the band stole their distinct style and appearance. Josh Kiszka’s voice is often compared to Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, who was also the frontman of his group. Jake Kiszka has also been unofficially dubbed the “Jimmy Paige of modern rock” by members of the rock community in multiple sources, agitating fans of the original guitar legend. In a Rolling Stones interview, Josh said, “We hear the similarity,” he says. “That’s one of the influences of ours. But at this point, it’s like, “Okay we’ve acknowledged that. Let’s move on.” (Kiszka, Rolling Stone). Rock legends like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles have been the group’s idols ever since they were little boys. The Kiszka

Photo of Sam Kiszka courtesy of Shannon Wilk

brothers have all stated in interviews that they grew up in somewhat of a bohemian household, listening to varying styles of music and being taught to think outside the box. Josh said that he draws lyrical inspiration from famous writers like Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, and even John Steinbeck. Josh was always involved with theater throughout middle and high school, which helped his artistic presence and confidence bloom. For Jake, listening to legends like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix helped him burst forth as the guitarist he is today. He always loved the guitar and grew up playing it for years. Sam didn’t quite start the same way as his brothers - he was originally a golfer along with Danny. Although he too was brought up in a bohemian way, he leaned more towards sports. One day, Sam had a change of heart; he decided to follow a music tour in Sweden, and the rest is history. Sam says he draws inspiration from Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Joe Cocker, The Beatles, and Cream.

Last but not least, the adopted brother Danny Wagner. Danny was a childhood friend of Sam Kiszka and his brothers, always being around them and their music. Danny started playing both guitar and drums at a young age, mostly on his own time because he hates schedules. In addition to those two instruments, Danny can play the french horn, mandolin, piano, and bass! Danny was also an avid golfer as well, competing with Sam in tournaments throughout high school. After former drummer Kyle Hauck abruptly left the scene, Danny stepped right in and took over his role. He says he draws inspiration from Alex Van Halen, John Bonham, Keith Moon, and Ringo Starr.

Photo of Sam Kisika courtesy of Shannon Wilk

Despite the barrage from the media and claims of fraudulence, it has not stopped the band from living their best life. They have continued their Northeastern Tour, with the Bridgeport concert being one of four US tour dates. In that same Rolling Stones interview, Kiszka said “There are times you wake up and have no idea where you are,” he says. “We’re getting along great. We’re getting strong. Being family helps, especially in the way we can communicate on-stage and in the studio. And for right now, we aren’t feeling any sense of exhaustion. We’re anxious to get back in the studio and explore and be creative.” (Kiszka, Rolling Stone). If you’re a die-hard rock fan, check out Greta Van Fleet’s songs “Age of Man”, “Age of Machine”, “Black Smoke Rising”, and “Highway Tune”. If you’re more of a bohemian flower child, try the songs “You’re the One”, “Flower Power”, “Heat Above”, and “Light My Love”. For those just testing the waters, “Safari Song”, “Talk on the Street”, and “Broken Bells” are the songs you want to hear.