How Greta Van Fleet Remade Classic Rock For The 21st Century On ‘Anthem Of The Peaceful Army’

10.18.18 1 month ago 8 Comments

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Josh Kiszka is talking to me about Led Zeppelin. I assume he does this with other people dozens of times per day, and almost never by choice. Journalists and fans of Kiszka’s band, Greta Van Fleet, constantly drone on about getting the Led out in the 22-year-old singer’s presence these days. And, really, who can blame them? When Kiszka sings, he sounds a lot like the golden god. (Robert Plant has even ragged on him about it.) When his twin brother Jake leans into a thunderous blues-rock guitar riff, he strongly evokes Jimmy Page. (Jake claimed in a Rolling Stone interview that he studied Jimmy so closely that he now knows “how he thought” back in the ’70s — presumably this also makes him an expert on Aleister Crowley and heroin.) As for the rhythm section, composed of yet another Kiszka brother, 19-year-old Sam, on bass and family friend Danny Wagner (also 19) on drums, they swing and slam with a graceful force reminiscent of ol’ Jonesy and Bonzo.

As you might expect, these qualities haven’t exactly endeared the Michigan-based quartet to a music press inclined to viewing classicist rock bands with knee-jerk snark. It’s impossible to imagine a band less suited for the current critical climate than Greta Van Fleet, an unapologetically anachronistic outfit that harkens back to a lemon-squeezing, blues-worshipping, dude-centric period in music history that peaked nearly 50 years ago. The kind of band that music critics have always loathed, up to and including the original Zeppelin.

What’s surprising is how commercially successful Greta Van Fleet have been in their brief yet thriving career. Formed in 2012 when the Kiszka brothers were still learning about the mysteries of shaving and Howlin’ Wolf, Greta Van Fleet signed a major-label deal five years later with Jason Flom, a high-level industry executive credited with shepherding future superstars such as Lorde and Paramore at the start of their careers.

The first song Greta Van Fleet ever wrote, “Highway Tune,” subsequently took rock radio by storm, and has since lodged more than 30 million streams on Spotify. Hardly blockbuster numbers if you’re an up-and-coming rapper, maybe, but Greta Van Fleet also is doing impressive business on the road, headlining sold-out gigs in large theaters, often over the course of multiple nights in the same city, all on the strength of two EPs and enthusiastic word of mouth passed down from grizzled classic-rock dads (and grand-dads) to a growing legion of millennials and Gen-Z kids.

On Friday, Greta Van Fleet will finally release their debut full-length album, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army, and no doubt the expectation is that they will be packing arenas in the not-so-distant future. A loosely defined concept record about how “we are all sort of interconnected and reside in a global community,” Josh explains that the idea came to him early one morning while the band’s tour bus was speeding down the highway and he was toggling between various states of semi-consciousness.

“I guess it was a state of meditation,” he says. “I had these thoughts, these words coming to me. I jumped out of bed and I had to write something down. This is a great concept, whatever it was! It was this poem that I titled Anthem Of The Peaceful Army.”

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