You’d be hard-pressed to find a band more beloved and yet more polarizing today than the Michigan-born rock group Greta Van Fleet.
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The quartet, which features three brothers (twins Jake and Josh, and younger brother Sam) and friend Danny Wagner on drums (who replaced original member Kyle Hauck in 2013), boasts a big, epic, stadium-friendly rock sound. But they also harken back to the ’70s sound and, yes, closely resemble Led Zeppelin. Lead singer Josh Kiszka sounds a lot like Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, but as he told American Songwriter, it’s not intentional. Yes, he liked Led Zeppelin growing up, but he’s not trying to mimic anything.
As Josh says, the trio of brothers was raised on lots of music—which at times surprises their fans, who generally associate their aesthetics and tastes only with classic rock, given the band’s common comparison to Led Zeppelin. Nevertheless, as a kid, Josh says he was always singing. Jake played guitar “from the moment he could crawl over the thing” and Sam picked up bass later in high school.
“It felt really organic,” Josh says, “the presence of music in the mix of things growing up.”
Greta Van Fleet was formally formed in 2012. The group released two EPs followed by their first full-length record, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, in 2018. The band followed that up with the sweeping, alluring, often ecstatic LP, The Battle at Garden’s Gate, in 2021. Hit songs from that album include “Heat Above” and “Light My Love.”
But where did its odd name come from? And does it have to do with a tour van? Let’s find out
Formed in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 2012 by twin brothers Josh and Jake, their brother Sam and friend Kyle Hauck, the group has risen to fame over the past handful of years.
But their name comes from a very specific place. It was coined when Hauck heard a relative of his mention the artist Gretna Van Fleet, another resident of Frankenmuth. Hearing her name sparked the slight variation that would become the moniker for the epic rock band. Greta Van Fleet soon got the blessing from Gretna Van Fleet, who later stated in an interview that while the music isn’t her type, she supports the band and thinks they’re skilled.
With their name in tow, the band got to work, undertaking the writing and recording of their songs with their legendary work ethic.
“I think there’s some merit to ‘practice makes perfect,’” Josh tells American Songwriter. “But only because we had a natural inclination to do it. The drive wasn’t for the sake of wealth or celebrity, or anything like that. It was just an inclination to make art for providing something the universe cannot. That’s why any artist creates, to fill a void, to offer something spectacular. I think just diving in and not being afraid to go too far to be weird is important.”
He adds, “I love that [music is] the universal language. It’s not a fine science. It’s this cosmic thing. People gather in large spaces, shoulder to shoulder, to experience the sound waves and to take something away from it that, again, transforms spaces and the people in those spaces.”
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen / Sacks & Co.