Chartbreaker: Greta Van Fleet on Led Zeppelin's Influence and 'Living In the Resurgence of Rock'
Chartbreaker is Billboard's new monthly series spotlighting an artist making their introduction to the charts.
The cozy, close-knit town of Frankenmuth, Michigan (pop. 5,131) is known for its German roots and having the "world's largest" Christmas store. But these days, it's becoming recognized for local rock band Greta Van Fleet, which is capturing fans -- and the Mainstream Rock charts -- with its Led Zeppelin-era sound.
After signing to Lava Records on the spot in March, the group dropped their debut EP Black Smoke Rising, which landed on the Billboard 200, just one month later. Now, they're simultaneously prepping the release of their upcoming double EP From the Fires as they embark on a fully sold-out North American tour. Below, the band speaks to the local figure who inspired their name, the "chilling" moment they first heard lead singer Josh Kiszka's vocals and why 2018 will represent rock's resurgence.
High school musical
Kiszka brothers Sam (bass), Jake (guitar) and his twin Josh (vocals) grew up on the sounds of Bob Dylan and The Who. It wasn't until high school that they began writing tunes of their own and staging garage jam sessions with drummer Danny Wagner after class. “We started looking at each other, going, ‘This is something pretty substantial,’” says Jake, 21.
Their debut EP was actually inspired by a campfire
The band’s hometown of Frankenmuth, Mich., is known for picturesque creeks, farm fields and the nearby skiing destination Yankee Springs, where they took winter vacations as kids. It inspired their double EP From the Fires, out Nov. 10. “We would go under the creek, have [campfires], catch crawfish,” says Sam, 18. Adds Jake: “At night, we’d have a fire going and would sit around and tell stories.”
They have a whole lotta love for Led Zeppelin
Vocalist Josh has drawn comparisons to Robert Plant with his husky howl -- but Jake says he didn't know his brother had such chops until the band’s first jam session a few years back. “We looked at each other and kind of stopped,” recalls Jake. “That was kind of a chilling moment -- I knew he could sing, but not like that.”
The band borrows its namesake from a real person
It was Josh’s idea to name the group after town elder and musician Gretna Van Fleet. Listing her name on the marquee resulted in some initial confusion: “She’s getting all these calls from people who are like, ‘are you playing tonight?’” Jake laughs. But after Van Fleet herself showed up to one of the band’s first sets, the group secured her “seal of approval.”
They’re pushing to make 2018 “the age of rock’n’roll”
Lava Records CEO Jason Flom signed the band on the spot in March. It has since charted two tracks on Mainstream Rock, collecting five weeks at No. 1 with “Highway Tune”; “Safari Song” is heading for the top 20. With rock songs by Portugal. The Man and Imagine Dragons in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, Sam states: “We’re living in the resurgence of rock.”
Brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet talk about their childhood, influences (from Wilson Pickett to John Denver) and their first performance in this episode of You Should Know: