MEET THE BAND: Josh Kiszka (vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitar), Sam Kiszka (bass) and Danny Wagner (drums)
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING: The hard rock band came together about five years ago in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Guitarist Jake Kiszka originally had started playing in a duo with a drummer he knew from high school. Josh started singing with the two of them, and the band began to take shape. "That was really cool," says bassist Sam Kiszka. "My mom kept telling me that I looked like a bass player. It's a weird thing to say, but my dad had a bass around, and I picked it up and started learning some Motown licks. That's where I came along. I was 12 or 13." Kiszka says he and his brothers listened to bands like the Beatles, Allman Brothers, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James and Muddy Waters while growing up. "It was great because our parents played us everything," he says. "We listened to classic rock stations growing up and our parents' vinyl too."
GRETNA'S BLESSING: Kiszka says the band's name came about as "a last-minute thing." "We were going to play a local festival in town," he explains. "It would be our first real show." The group's former drummer came from breakfast with his grandfather and mentioned something about a certain Gretna Van Fleet. The group liked the name. "We took out the 'n' and it rolled off the tongue better," says Kiszka. Gretna Van Fleet would give her approval. "She showed up with her husband at one of our shows, and they sat through a two-hour set of loud rock," he says. "She gave us the blessing. Prior to that, we had made jokes about her suing us."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The band's heavy-hitting debut, Black Smoke Rising, features Zeppelin-inspired guitar riffs and howling vocals. "Flower Power," a tune that benefits from a bit of organ, in particular has a '70s swagger to it. "It was a beautiful summer day and Jake started playing these two chords together," says Kiszka when asked about the song. "I had this old organ that had a sweet overdrive tone on it. I sat down on that thing and started playing along with it. Josh wrote down the lyrics as we went, and it went from us sitting there to a song in about five minutes. The song must have been floating around in the universe, and we snatched it up. It's great when that happens. That's a real magical experience." The band had planned to follow up Black Smoke Rising with two more EPs, but Kiszka says it now plans to produce a full-length. "There are so many sides of Greta Van Fleet that people don't know about," he says. "I think a full-length is a great opportunity to show that to people."
WHERE YOU can HEAR THEM: gretavanfleet.com.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Greta Van Fleet performs with the Glorious Sons and Hamilton Handshake at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.