Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet, performing at the KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas in Inglewood, Calif., are up for four Grammy Awrds.

Sunday, February 10, 2019 1:00 am

Rock saviors Greta Van Fleet decline title

MARK KENNEDY | Associated Press

NEW YORK – When the members of the rock band Greta Van Fleet put their last touches on their first full-length album, they didn't celebrate with a round of beers or a fancy dinner. They immediately started working on new songs.

“Once we finished 'Anthem of the Peaceful Army' – the very day that we'd OK'd all the mixing – we started writing the next album,” said Jake Kiszka, the band's guitarist. “If we're stagnant, it becomes boring.”

The young Michigan rockers whose sound and classic rock look is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin have done the opposite of stagnate in the last 18 months. It's been more like an explosion, capped by four Grammy Award nominations, including best new artist and best rock album.

Since their April 2017 breakthrough with the song “Highway Tune,” they've put out two EPs and their “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's rock chart and No. 3 on the all-genre albums chart last year. It has also reached the Top 10 in Canada, Italy and Germany.

They've played “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” count Elton John as a fan and have been embraced as the four guys who can save rock 'n' roll, a tag they politely decline.

“It's a silly thing to consider anyone a savior of rock 'n' roll. In our opinion, no one king can wear that crown,” said Kiszka, 22. “There's always someone who carries the torch and takes that into the future and interprets that through their influences.”

Jason Flom, who signed Greta Van Fleet to his Lava Records, said there's nothing calculated about the band, saying they make music because it's what they were born to do: “It's almost like they were sent in a time capsule to save rock 'n' roll,” he said. “They wouldn't say that, but I will.”

Keeping the members grounded through all this fuss is blood – three of the members are brothers. Kiszka's twin, Josh, is the howling singer, and his younger brother, 19-year-old Sam, plays bass and keyboards. The quartet is rounded out by drummer and family friend Danny Wagner, 19.

The Kiszka brothers are so passionate about what they do that they used to get into fistfights when they were younger over musical choices. Now they rely on each other to get through the noise.

“When someone starts to steer one way or another away from the herd, it seems like there's always someone there to pull you back in,” said Jake Kiszka, who called the past year “being in the eye of a storm. There's so much chaos around you but the very center seems so calm.”

At the Grammys, the band is up for best rock song (“Black Smoke Rising”), best rock performance (“Highway Tune”) and best rock album (“From the Fires” EP). Competition in those categories include the late Chris Cornell, Arctic Monkeys, twenty one pilots, St. Vincent, Weezer, Fall Out Boy and more.

Greta Van Fleet, whose name was inspired by the octogenarian bluegrass musician Gretna VanFleet, also are nominated for best new artist.

Asked which of the four awards the band most coveted, Jake Kiszka was diplomatic. “I think best album and best performance would be some of the more highlighted categories I'd like us to win. It seems to me the best new artist is sort of a cursed category.” Does that mean they won't accept it? “We'll accept it,” he answered, laughing. “That would be rude.”