It could be overwhelming for a rock band made up of 22- and 19-year-olds to be labeled “the next Led Zeppelin” before its debut full-length album is even released, but the members of Greta Van Fleet seem to be taking it in stride.
Whatever trepidation the quartet out of Frankenmuth, Mich., feels about the comparison stems not from pressure to live up to rock ’n’ roll royalty, but annoyance at the restrictions inherent in always being compared to something that’s come before.
“We're honored by the affiliation — Led Zeppelin was one of the greatest rock bands of all time,” guitarist Jake Kiszka told The Salt Lake Tribune. “The limitation that comes with it is when that's being said over and over. It implies that some of the people saying that are not listening to the music enough that they can say something about the originality in it.”
Indeed, Greta Van Fleet just hopes that, after Friday’s sold-out show at the Union Event Center downtown, fans come away with an appreciation for the band on its own merits, and not based on how it stacks up against the mighty Zep.
That said, they know the similarities are unavoidable. Frontman Josh Kiszka, Jake’s twin brother, has an unmistakably Robert Plant-ish primal howl. Then, between Jake appeasing the six-string gods by churning out riffs with his ’61 Les Paul SG and a 2018 Gibson custom with humbucker pickups, and younger brother Sam Kiszka and family friend Danny Wagner holding down the rhythm section on bass and drums, respectively, GVF definitely evokes a classic-rock vibe with a modern twist.
Besides, the siblings know no other way — their dad was a guitarist and their parents had a vinyl collection that could melt the heart of the most hardened metalhead. Given that, they took to the idea of becoming a rock band rather quickly.
“Three of us being brothers, raised in the same household, sharing very similar life experiences, it was natural for that to organically come together at some point,” Jake said. “But I think it was when we started writing our own music and playing shows every week; when the kids in our grade would be hanging out doing kid stuff, we were in some dive bar, playing every weekend. That was the dedication to the craft.”
Named, with permission, after town matriarch Gretna Van Fleet (they dropped the "N" for rolling-off-the-tongue-ness), the musicians know they’re something of a musical anachronism — four members of Generation Z steeped in a genre that’s been abandoned in droves by their contemporaries in favor of hip-hop.
Doesn’t matter. They’re not interested in what’s popular; they’re focused on what speaks to them.
“That’s the most impactful thing for me — the sense of complete freedom in every regard,” Kiszka said. “For our generation, rock ’n’ roll is still prevalent, it’s still there. It’s not as prevalent as it once was, but because of its ability to transcend genres, pop listeners, hip-hop listeners, rap listeners can still connect with it and understand it and be a part of it.”
Greta Van Fleet is certainly giving people the opportunity to connect. In their brief careers, the members have issued a pair of EPs, and their debut full-length, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” is due out Oct. 19.
Kiszka said the band’s “objectives” for the new record entailed “spreading out” and “beating what we had already put out.”
If the latter proves true, life is about to get even crazier for a group of young guys who’ve toured the country with established rock acts before their two youngest members had even graduated high school.
Kiszka confessed he’d never even considered what he’d be doing if this rock ’n’ roll thing didn’t work out. Because it is, it’s irrelevant for now. So all he knows is that he’s going along with the craziness for as long as he can.
“It’s very difficult to look in from an existential point of view, just because this is the world that we’re in now. Growing up, having played our entire lives, it’s not too out of the ordinary,” he said. “But the amount of things flying around us, I’ve always liked to describe it as being in the eye of the hurricane. In the middle, it’s quite calm, but all around it’s swirling chaos. That’s kinda how it seems to be some of the time.”
Greta Van Fleet
When • Friday; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8
Where • The Union Event Center, 235 N. 500 West, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Sold out