The “Black Smoke Rising” one sees just over the horizon is the straight fire that is Greta Van Fleet.

Since the debut of the single “Highway Tune” on March 31, life has changed for the Frankenmuth, Michigan band.

Consider;

-“Highway Tune” has now spent five weeks at number one on Mainstream Rock radio.
-The song has more than five million plays on Spotify.
-The video for the song is closing in on three million views on YouTube.

Not too bad for a band that's oldest members just turned 21.

Greta Van Fleet are twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) Kiszka, both 21 years old with their younger 18-year-old brother Sam on bass. Sam’s lifelong friend Daniel Wagner (also 18 years old) rounds out the group behind the drum kit.


The band released its debut EP “Black Smoke Rising” at the end of April and from there it has been no looking back. A sold-out first leg of a US tour, their first UK dates, and now the band is setting out on the second leg of a US tour that looks to carry over the momentum.

Greta Van Fleet will play to a sold-out Funhouse at Mr. Small’s tonight.

Pulling from influences like Muddy Waters and Wilson Pickett to The Yardbirds and The Who, Greta Van Fleet captures the elusive essence that made those artists great and, more importantly, timeless.

The Swerve Magazine recently spoke with Ben Kiszka about the whirlwind that has been Greta Van Fleet.

Sam Kiszka: It has been wild. From place to place, this month, especially, is going to be wild. We are doing the whole Midwest circuit. We just did three festivals; Sonic Boom, Louder Than Life… and I can’t even remember the third one. We are going all the way out through Arizona. We are going out for three dates at The Troubadour (California) that I’m looking forward to. So yeah, it is going to be a lot going on this month.

SM: Even just the last two weeks have been busy for the band as you were overseas playing your first UK dates.

SK: Oh yeah. I have no idea what that was. I would have to think about it.

SM: I know the date here in Pittsburgh has been sold out. What were your expectations for the EP?

SK: I don’t know what I was expecting when we released the EP. It has been a wild ride. I got to say that I didn’t expect any of it, really. I didn’t expect the monstrous response from the radio and all the press. Everybody wants to talk to us. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It leaves me speechless.

SM: “Black Smoke Rising” dropped at the end of April, and it took off. The last couple of months have to be a blur for you.

SK: My birthday was in April. April 3 was my 18th birthday. I was on spring break when the single dropped. The week after that, the video for “Highway Tune” dropped. Then two weeks after that, the EP came along. Ever since early July, they have been spinning us on the radio stations. Now, “Highway Tune” has been number one on mainstream rock for four weeks.

I have to say that since, probably, eighth grade when we were standing around in the garage and Jake came up with the riff. We worked out the song and got it structured. Never would I have thought in a billion years that that song would go to number one five years later after I graduated from high school.

SM: It has to be unreal.

SK: It is. I’m not sure I’m living in reality (laughs). I sometimes ask myself that question. People just say to roll with it. I guess that is the best way to do it.

SM: At this point, rolling with it just seems like the best option. It seems that the band has tapped into something with “Highway Tune.”

SK: I think you’re right. It’s a certain energy that we captured just right. It definitely has brought us a lot more success than I thought was ever coming our way.

(The song) is really true to its roots as far as rock goes. I think it is a great entry for us into this world of rock and roll music.

SM: Do you think that is why people are connecting to the song, is that it does harken back to what were the best things about rock that got lost along the way?

SK: It was the first time that any of us had been in a real recording studio. We have dabbled around in different places where we recorded some stuff, but never has it been in a real studio. I think Al Sutton, who produced our EP, really brought out the best in us.

“Highway Tune” was recorded two years ago. I think somehow we were able to capture this energy.

SM: I read where the band has been basically recording for the last two years.

SK: It has probably been about three years now. We had no real plan for releasing anything. It was just like, “Let’s just record this.” I think those were unorganized years, but I think they are very necessary for us to fully understand and grow as studio musicians. It is a totally different thing. I’m glad that we were able to have that time to learn. It really paved the way for what we are doing now and what the EP is.

SM: How did the EP come together?

SK: When the time came around, when we came to the conclusion that we were going to do an EP, we looked at all the material that we had. We looked at demos. We looked at full songs that we recorded. We even looked at little ideas that we had for songs. We wanted to get our first release right.

I think it happened that “Safari Song” was recorded almost complete as was “Highway Tune” and “Flower Power.” We couldn’t think really of the fourth song that we wanted. As we were completing the other songs, we stumbled across a riff that evolved into “Black Smoke Rising.” It took over the whole project. It became the title track of the EP. It is funny how things can work out like that.

“Black Smoke” is the most contemporary song that we wrote up to that point. Then you go back to “Highway Tune” which is the first song that we ever wrote as a band, so it adds this full-circle element to the EP.

I think it shows our evolution as a band and as writers.

SM: It also serves as a nice stepping on point for what comes next.

SK: Yes, definitely. I think we are picking up right where we left off with the EP for the next release.

SM: With it all being a whirlwind since the EP’s release, it has to be nice to have your brothers in the band.

SK: Hell no (laughs). It is great. It is a really unique thing. I’ve known Daniel since kindergarten. I think that the connection that we share as siblings, as very, very close friends it gives us a third dimension when we are on stage. It gives us the ability to communicate at a deeper level with our instruments.

It was a very organic evolution. Jake was playing guitar. He started bringing home a buddy to jam with him. Josh would then sing with them. I finally said, “I’m playing bass.”


A question we get a lot more than I would have ever thought was is they ask “Did your parents pick what instruments you play?”

No. Definitely not.


SM: Ok, that is a bit of an odd question. What, like, your parents were directors/managers and put together this band with a specific purpose.

SK: Yeah, that is what communism is.

SM: Hmm, yeah, that is a strange question.

SK: It is strange.

Our parents just had good music playing around the house. We kind of picked up on that.

SM: You can tell that the influences the band have are good ones.

SK: It is where our roots lie. They lie in the blues, funk, R&B, soul, that is just where it comes from, we were listening to Muddy Waters and Taj Mahal before we were even born. So that gives some good leeway.

SM: You can tell there is an appreciation that history that is lacking in current rock music.

SK: Part of our success lies in the reconnection with that music, because as far as modern music goes, and the recording of it, I think that is the most truest, most soulful stuff that we have to hang on to.

A lot of the songs, 50, 60 years later, still have the same pertinence. They deliver that same emotion. It is what makes a really good song, is timelessness.

SM: I think the band has touched about that timeless feel with the songs on “Black Smoke Rising.” People can sense when there is something real. So, the full-length album is still coming next year?

SK: Yes it is. It is the plan. It would be all original material. It is stuff that we’ve had laying around for a long time that we want to get out. I’m really excited to release more material.

We are juggling studio time right now with getting out to see our fans. Both are important. We have had a demand for new music, we may be looking forward to the release of new material more than our fans. We are ready for it.