Hours before hitting the road for their first tour, Sam Kiszka, bassist from the up and coming “rip your face off” rock group, Greta Van Fleet took a few minutes to chat with Tina Earl from Patchchord News.
If you’re like most of us hearing the name Greta Van Fleet, you would expect a group of women rockers, but you’d be way off the mark. Composed of three brothers and a close friend, barely out of high school; Greta Van Fleet is everything you’ve been missing in music today. Self-describing their music in just five words as “bluesy, exciting, , tasteful and ‘is rip your face off’ one word…”, Sam adds that he’s “going to try and get that one in Miriam Webster!”
One might expect the name has a story behind it. Just 24 hours before they were scheduled to play at AutoFest in their hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan, they needed a band name. After discarding several with a “Mountain theme” such as “Iron Mountain” their drummer was having lunch with his grandfather who mentioned needing to go cut wood for the “town matriarch Gretna Van Fleet…”. Opting to remove the N for ease they talked to her about it and “ she was ok with it, a musician herself…she’s passed on now but she was very musically talented.” With a fresh new name and shows under their belt they were making tracks for big things.
This tour comes on the heels of the newly released EP titles Black Smoke Rising, it’s the group’s second release though the first is hard to find. The first release was titled Greta Van Fleet Live in Detroit. Asking Sam how he felt this release was different than the first, he said “The Live In Detroit one was just to kind of get something out there, this one is so much different with the management and the record label.” With their first tour kicked off, and opening for The Struts, they are “really excited for it. . . we’ve played in California and New York. It’s never been a string of shows like this one, I’m excited for it because, honestly I just love being busy.”
Growing up in a small town can have some challenges, including that pretty much everyone knows you, and you can’t get away with anything. Luckily for Sam and his brothers, living just outside of town sheltered them from some of that. His parents are a little less “in the scene. . .and are some of the coolest people in the world. They have always supported me and the guys and we can’t thank them enough, and because they are so chill, they are kind of chill about the rule breaking.” Heading to the grocery store “you can’t go without running into 30 people you know.” While still on the top of groceries, with regards to the Pop/Soda debate, Sam said “Well, here we call it mostly pop, as Michiganders.”
Greta Van Fleet’s hometown Frankenmuth, is home to one of the largest Christmas stores around. Asked how he liked growing up in a place that had a little bit of Christmas year-round, Sam said “it must have rubbed off on me because I usually don’t stop wearing Christmas Sweaters or socks, those are the best”. He said, “it really is a beautiful town. . . very supportive, a good place to grow up, it’s an amazing town. I am proud to say I grew up there.”
Working with family isn’t always easy. The guys used to get a bit physical to solve their differences, but “we’ve gotten to the point where we can talk out our differences and there doesn’t have to be fights. Sometimes somebody storms off or gets pissed, because we’re all very opinionated but we come back and compromise.” Heading out on the road puts people in closer quarters than normal. If asked, the other guys would probably say Sam’s bad habits are his “coffee addiction, and playing ‘Through the Grapevine’ every time I pick up my bass.” With an extended number of shows on the calendar, new rituals may develop, but right now the guys from Greta Van Fleet keep it pretty simple. Getting their gear ready, getting some “good vibes rolling. . . Daniel always wears his drumming socks…they have little drums on them, they’re cute. I always have goofy socks on because during an acoustic set I play keyboard and pedal bass and kick my shoes off.”
Eric Clapton, if you’re reading this, have your people call Sam’s people. When asked who he would want to open for, if he could open for any artist, Sam said “Personally I would want to open for Eric Clapton. That would just be so ridiculously awesome because he is just a god to me. There’s no one better than Clapton, to me.” Old school perhaps but “Old school’s the real stuff. You can’t argue with that. . . It’s got the soul. When you’re using digital things, it’s a lot more difficult to put that feeling in your heart into sound waves. When Clapton plays, he skips the part where he thinks about it and it goes right from his heart to his fingers.”
As the interview drew to an close, Sam shared his musical guilty pleasures and what one might find him listening to right now. “The guilty stuff I listen to is 80’s Paul Simon or 80’s Eric Clapton, I’ve Got a Rock and Roll Heart or You Can Call Me Al.” You also might find him listening to a bit of “Ed Sheeran as a guilty pleasure”. More recently he has been listening to an album called “Somethin’ Else and it’s Cannonball Adderley” a jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Greta Van Fleet puts on an amazing high energy show, and are incredibly talented. Check them out on the road this summer, get your tickets fast because shows are selling out!
Upcoming Tour Dates:
05/21 – Dewey Beach, DE @ Bottle & Cork
06/09 – Chicago, IL @ Ribfest Chicago
06/22 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Hi-Fi
06/23 – Sturtevant, WI @ Route 20
07/03 – Traverse City, MI @ National Cherry Festival
07/14 – West Fargo, ND @ Red River Valley Fair
10/07 – Camden, NJ @ Rock Allegiance