Greta Van Fleet shows more originality and depth on latest album before Cincinnati show postponed | Music function | Cincinnati

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Greta VanFlotte

Editor’s note: Greta Van Fleet’s March 29 show at the Heritage Bank Center has been postponed. A new date will be announced later.

It’s strange how certain aspects of a band’s sonic presentation can inspire a critic’s ire and yet make a fan swoon. The late great Lester Bangs cited Black Sabbath’s debut album as a cream rip-off, while Rolling Stone infamously dismantled Led Zeppelin’s debut album as a pale imitation of the Jeff Beck band and called Robert Plant a mediocre copy. by Rod Stewart.

All of this criticism has been ignored by music listeners, whose passionate loyalty to the bands and albums in question has propelled them to gold/platinum sales and Hall of Fame careers. Curiously, a ifA milar construct still exists in contemporary music, with these long-discontinued bands and albums serving as a benchmark for emerging bands.

Greta Van Fleet understands the whims of rock criticism as well as any band of the past decade. The quartet – formed in tiny Frankenmuth, Michigan in 2012 and based in Nashville, Tennessee since 2020 – found themselves on the negative side of Zeppelin comparisons to their 2018 debut, Pacific Army Anthem. Critics focused on Greta Van Fleet’s Page/Plant similarities (Plant himself praised the band for its Zeppelin parallels), ignoring the complexities of their sound recipe in favor of berating them for the simplicity of their translation.

“We all have different inspirations,” says bassist/keyboardist Sam Kiszka CityBeat. He and his brothers, twins Josh Kiszka (vocals) and Jake Kiszka (guitars), account for three-quarters of Greta Van Fleet, while childhood friend Danny Wagner has been the official drummer since 2013. “I find myself deeply rooted in jazz because I got into keyboards; Motown and Jazz were really captivating to me,” says Kiszka. “Daniel has always been into folk – he’s also a great guitarist, and he’s been influenced by mid-century folk like Peter, Paul and Mary and John Denver. Josh was passionate about really different things, like world music, the South African stuff. And Jake always attracted the things that were heavy and had an attitude, like White Stripes and everything from Cream to Led Zeppelin.

“We came from different places, but we all listened to the same music growing up – Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, old Blues guys like Robert Johnson. We all see eye to eye the same way,” he adds.

Ironically, at the time of peaceful armyGreta Van Fleet had already landed several hit singles – including “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song” – was invited to play Elton John’s Oscars party and made her national television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Two months after the release of peaceful armythe band’s 2017 eight-song EP Fires was nominated for four Grammy Awards, ultimately winning Best Rock Album. And in January 2019, they were the musical guest of Saturday Night Live.

Pretty heady stuff for a band of twenty-somethings from rural Michigan.

“It all happened so fast,” says Kiszka. “We came out of a family vacation, didn’t we?” SNL, flew to Japan for a short tour, then to Australia for a short tour there, then flew to Los Angeles for the Grammys. It never stopped. We were never home. We never had time to sit down and think about what was going on.

The reward was worth it, however.

SNL was a little nerve-wracking, but we knew we were a great group and we had it all covered,” says Kiszka. “We always lean on each other. When we are a unit, it is much easier to move forward with confidence. I think it’s a primal instinct.

The release last April of Greta Van Fleet’s second album, The Battle of Garden’s Gate, was met with a somewhat more muted response. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart and at No. 1 on the Top Hard Rock and Top Rock Album charts. The singles pulled from the set, “My Way, Soon” and “Age of Machine”, also performed well. But reviews were mixed, and there were no Grammy nominations by year’s end.

While Kiszka notes that the band may have been slightly disappointed by the Grammy snub, especially for The Battle of Garden’s Gate producer Greg Kurstin, they don’t necessarily care much about price.

“We don’t view the Grammys as the highest echelon of success,” he says. “It’s really about the live show for us. If we can pump these people full of energy and love and inspiration, and they can pump us with the same, that feedback loop happens. And when all these people leave, I hope they take that energy and spread it out into the world and create their own stuff and make a difference in the world, which is what we all want to do.

For Greta Van Fleet, The Battle of Garden’s Gate represented a major leap forward in the studio. The group’s approach to songwriting was not substantially different – some songs on The Battle of Garden’s Gate were actually written before the material on Fires – but they found a kindred spirit in producer Kurstin and greatly expanded their ideas of how to arrange their music.

“We were lucky with Greg,” says Kiszka. “The first time in the studio, we started talking about albums, like Odessey and Oracle by Zombies, and Hans Zimmer Ambient sheet music and all the great western soundtracks and John Williams and his stuff. We recorded ‘Light My Love’ and put together this arrangement, and when that was done, we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s how we have to do this album.’

The Battle of Garden’s Gate represents an important evolutionary step for Greta Van Fleet as she embarks on a path that will likely see even more growth. It’s an impressive leap for a second album.

“All that came before garden gate was minimalism,” says Kiszka. “It was pretty stripped down, nothing was buried, you could hear every instrument and every overdub crystal clear. It was great for what it was, but the album we really wanted to do, we wouldn’t have got us out of it from the get-go…pun accidental. garden gate is almost like the soundtrack of a movie that wasn’t created. It’s big screen. It’s cinematic.

Part of the charm of the new album comes from the result of Greta Van Fleet’s blend of old equipment and new technology, marrying this intersection with their overall vision.

“We used microphones and keyboards from the 1940s and modern programs designed to take entire tracks and slow them down or speed them up,” says Kiszka. “We merged it all together. Some guitar sounds were inspired by the Beatles, but then we took them to the next level. We had the songs. It was about layering them and creating a soundscape so you could close your eyes and have this clear picture of where you are and what kind of scene you’re looking at, like reading a book almost.

“It’s the album that we’ve always wanted to make and that defines Greta Van Fleet as she is now,” he says. “As this evolutionary path continues, we will see.”

Kiszka notes that achieving garden gate had an impact on how Greta Van Fleet approaches her early work (“It still has the same idea and energy in it, but now it’s presented in a more mature way when we play these songs live,” says- it), but the real effect of the past five years will likely show up on the band’s next album, which they started writing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some catchphrases may appear in the band’s current set list, but the fact is that Greta Van Fleet has a very well-defined sense of self, and if there are any changes in the band’s songwriting dynamics , it will be a natural step forward, another logical piece of the Greta Van Fleet puzzle.

“At garden gate, I wouldn’t say anything changed significantly on the songwriting front, but I think it’s still the epitome of Greta Van Fleet because we took songs that were around around 2015 or 2016 and revamped and recreated them,” says Kiszka. “It’s also a metaphor for artists in general. You have to recreate yourself, change your skin and create new things, and the fun and excitement translates.

Greta Van Fleet will perform at the Heritage Bank Center (100 Broadway St., Downtown) on March 29. Tickets start at $49. At press time, a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination is required. More info: (Editor’s note: this show has been postponed.)

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