Some may say that rock and roll is dead, but one listen to Greta Van Fleet, and the very same individuals will change their minds. The band isn’t just a carbon copy of old rock and roll bands of days past–rather, Greta Van Fleet brings new life into a genre that generations past grew up on.
From the small hamlet of Frankenmuth, Michigan comes a big sound. Greta Van Fleet is comprised of four members, twins Josh (vocals) and Jake Kiszka (guitar), younger brother Sam (bass/keys), and friend Danny Wagner (drums). Following a debut EP released a few months back, Greta Van Fleet has returned with a double EP, From The Fires. The new record features the four songs from their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, plus four new ones.
You know immediately that Greta Van Fleet brings something completely different to the table with “Safari Song.” The song opens instantly with an electric guitar riff, the crashes of the ride cymbal, and Josh’s piercing rock and roll scream that is uncannily reminiscent of Robert Plant. The vocals in particular differentiate the band tremendously from the typical indie-pop sound that today’s music industry is so saturated with, and Josh has both a ridiculously powerful high-end and soulful mid-range. Even the production of the music stands out. It’s gritty and straightforward, not drenched in reverb as so much of music today is.
The standout of the record is undoubtedly the band’s debut single, “Highway Tune.” The Zeppelin influence is most prominent in this track. Not only is the quality of Josh’s vocals reminiscent of Plant’s, but the flow of his lyrics is also somewhat evocative of that in “Immigrant Song.” The single received critical acclaim and many comparisons to Zeppelin, having been streamed on Spotify nearly 8 million times to date. The track held the number one spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart for five weeks and also topped the Active Rock chart. For those who say that rock and roll is dead, this one’s for you. For those who didn’t really grow up on rock and roll, this one’s for you as well—“Highway Tune” is a testament to Greta Van Fleet’s capability to bring rock back to mainstream music.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises on the album is the band’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The rendition is of course very different coming from a rock band versus a gospel singer, and it’s the slowest track on the record. While the band has put their own twist on the cover, Josh’s vocals are equally as stirring as Cooke’s. When Josh and Jake first heard the original song, they knew it was one that they wanted to cover at some point. A few years later, and their co-producer coincidentally suggested they cover it for the record. “All of us are very affected by oppression of any type,” said Josh, “cultural, racial, sexual. I’ve never experienced what Sam Cooke did so I have to admit, it was a little difficult for me, getting behind the mic, but I did it because singing this song meant a lot to me.”
“Flower Power” demonstrates the band’s versatility and the influence of blues and folk that each member grew up on. With the presence of an acoustic guitar, it has a bit more of a twang than the rest of the album and sounds a more lighthearted. Along with these genre influences comes another unexpected cover of Fairport Convention’s “Meet On The Ledge.” “I was on a train going to New York,” recalls Josh, “and on the way, I listened to an entire decade of Fairport Convention’s music. ‘Meet On The Ledge’ was the fourth or fifth track I heard and it caught me by surprise. I was absolutely entranced; the verse and chorus blew my mind.” The original song has a soft-folk rock sound, but Greta Van Fleet has added their own energy to it.
From The Fires closes with “Talk On The Street” and “Black Smoke Rising,” two songs that fully embody what Greta Van Fleet is all about. Josh characterizes “Talk On the Street” as "a fun song, full of catchy riffs and dynamic drums, kind of an ambiguous wild ride, a real rock and roll song.”
After taking some time off for Thanksgiving, Greta Van Fleet will be back on the road to finish the rest of their first U.S. tour. While all of the remaining dates are unsurprisingly sold out, check out the schedule and see if you can find tickets to see the band live.
Fans of Greta Van Fleet will be happy to hear that Ones To Watch has an exclusive interview & performance from the band’s recent Los Angeles show coming very soon–STAY TUNED!
Stream From The Fires below: