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Pyro, Parties and Heavy Riffs: On the Road With Greta Van Fleet

A Nashville journey with classic rock’s new hope

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

“It’s hilarious people call this a job,” says Sam Kiszka, the 19-year-old bassist-keyboardist of Seventies-rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet. After stunning classic-rock fans with their uncanny ability to channel Led Zeppelin on their debut EP, Greta have proved themselves a genuinely great live band, even gaining the endorsements of Robert Plant and Sir Elton John (“He told us to be more flamboyant,” says Kiszka). At a recent stop in Nashville, the band – Sam and his brothers Jake and Josh Kiszka, plus drummer Danny Wagner – barbecued, lit a cardboard cutout of a country legend on fire, and played for a few thousand fans at Marathon Music Works. It was one of the dozens of places Greta sold out this summer, and they haven’t even released their first album yet. “The bigger the crowds, the more wacky things get,” says Sam. “The energy right now is on fire.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

‘Life’ Lessons

Sam says Keith Richards’ Life has made him view his job differently. “[Rock] isn’t just music and having long greasy hair. People lost what rock & roll means.” What does it mean? “It’s taking something and pushing it to the next realm,” says Jake. “That’s what Elvis did. Our generation doesn’t have that.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Fan Mail

Lately, a lot of underwear have been appearing onstage. “It’s what happens when you have young guys onstage flaunting their stuff,” jokes Jake. Sam is more modest: “It’s one of the strangest things that can happen to somebody. I mean there’s a million people who would want to be doing what we’re doing and we’re very grateful to have the opportunity to do this.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Glam From Grandma

Danny, Sam, Jake and Josh. “Our Grandma Lillian picks out tons of vintage stuff for us,” says Sam. “She is a fantastic woman. She’s got a great eye. And she knows what we like so she’s always got her eyes peeled.”

greta van fleet

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Warm Up

Jake, Josh and friends warm up before a show. “We’ll sit down and play to get Josh warmed up and to get the creative juice bubbling,” says Sam. “We also usually talk about what we’re gonna change about the set that night or what we want to do differently.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Necessary Evil

Josh getting stage-ready. “We hate makeup,” says Sam. “It’s horrible. We feel for the beautiful women out there.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Turn the Page

“I went through a year of really intensely studying what Page did,” says Jake (seen here playing his Gibson SG), “to the point where I knew how he thought.”

greta van fleet

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Rock & Roll Time

The group waiting to hit the stage. “We’re always excited to get out there,” says Sam. “We always say we’re going to go on early but that wouldn’t be very rock and roll. I mean we’re just sitting there and we’re like ‘Well, what are we supposed to do?'”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Rose Buds

Josh at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works. “Beautiful little singer,” Robert Plant said recently. “They are Led Zeppelin I. He borrowed his voice from somebody I know very well.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

“Horrible Diets”

Jake helming the grill at the Nashville house they were staying at. “I was on first shift, which happened to be brausts and hotdogs and Jake was on second shift which happened to be burgers,” says Sam. “Luckily, we are young and we can sustain horrible diets, which I do. But you do have to be careful – you have to remember what makes you feel good and what makes you feel like shit.”

greta van fleet on the road

Daniel Topete for Rolling Stone

Ring of Fire

After listening to country radio in Nashville, Josh decided to set fire to a Gene Autry cutout. “He was trying to illustrate the death of modern country music,” says Sam. “I think he was really irritated, at listening to what country has become. It used to be as American as Apple pie. Now it’s just watered-down pop bullshit. And I think that’s what Josh is trying to illustrate by sacrificing Gene Autry.”

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