Greta Van Fleet found new fans after performing on Saturday Night Live on Jan. 19, but the group has been around since 2012 and is already up for multiple Grammys.
The group is made up of singer Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner. Josh and Jake are twin brothers, and Sam is their younger brother. They formed in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 2012, with Kyle Hauck as their first drummer. However, it was not until 2017 that they finally got a record deal and released their first EP.
Greta Van Fleet played "You're The One," from their debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army, and "Black Smoke Rising," the title track of their first EP, on SNL.
Here's a look at Greta Van Fleet.
Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images
The group's name is reference to Gretna Van Fleet, a resident of Frankenmuth. Van Fleet is an 88-year-old grandmother who gave the band her blessing to use her name. But that does not mean she likes their music.
“It’s not my favorite music, and the boys know that,” Van Fleet told the Detroit Free-Press. “But I think they’re very talented, and I support them.”
The group heard Van Fleet when Hauck's grandfather mentioned her name. They dropped the "n" in Van Fleet's first name because "Greta" "rolled off the tongue better" and they thought people would spell "Gretna" wrong anyway.
An early recording of "Highway Tune" was used in Showtime's Shameless in January 2016. Sam told MLive they never watched the show before hearing the producers wanted to use their song.
They later re-recorded the track and it became their first single in March 2017. The song was featured on Black Smoke Rising, which also includes the title track, Safari Song" and "Flower Power."
In March 2018, Sir Elton John invited the group to perform at his annual Academy Awards Party for his AIDS foundation. They performed a cover of John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" and their own "You're the One." Jake told Loudwire John personally asked them to be there.
"I remember the moment," Jake said. "It was about 10AM and management calls and says, 'Hey boys, you have a call coming from England in a little while.' So we pick up the phone [and he says] 'Hey boys, it's Elton.' It was actually Elton John on the phone! He asked us if we wanted to play at his Oscar after party."
After the show, John analyzed their performance and gave Greta Van Fleet some suggestions, Jake told Loudwire.
According to Jake, the rock legend told them, "There's not much I can say on the performance itself... The beginning of 'Highway Tune' ... maybe extend the beginning of it and make it more dramatic or something like that."
"You don't need anyone other than yourself to give permission in order to do something but when Elton John says, 'Flaunt what you've got. Show 'em what you've got,' then it kind of makes an impression," Jake continued. "I think at that point that was one of the things that he imparted on us."
While some young groups might have just brushed off the advice, Greta Van Fleet took it to heart, as SNL audiences saw.
During an interview with Bullet, the group name-checked their inspirations, from Willie Nelson and Led Zeppelin to Seals and Crofts. However, they have been clear about making sure listeners know they are more than just a hard rock group. Wagner said many of their songs "evolve" from an acoustic number into something different.
"A lot of our songs are written first in that way. In sort of a folk set up and then they evolve into something else," Wagner said.
"It’s not like we set out to be a rock and roll band, it’s just that sound that comes out we get together and play," Sam added.
The group's overall sound is heavily influenced by '70s rock, but critics have been quick to point out that they sound similar to Led Zeppelin. In a Rolling Stone profile, Jake said he "went through a year of really intensely studying what [Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy] Page did... to the point where I knew how he thought."
The group said they like at least one modern group, The Black Keys. However, none of them are hip-hop fans and they do not really care for modern music.
“People are doing it for the wrong reasons,” Sam said. “They are not doing it to change the world. They are doing it to make money.”
The Led Zeppelin comparisons have become so tiring that they want it to stop, especially after Pitchfork's scathing review of their debut album that said the group "sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves."
"It’s unfortunate they’d be putting that energy out into the world, but it’s their prerogative, I guess,” Josh told Rolling Stone of the negative review. “Ultimately, I’d like to think that there’s substance to what we’re doing.”
As for the Led Zep comparisons, "Obviously we hear the similarity... That’s one of the influences of ours. But at this point it’s like, ‘Okay, we’ve acknowledged that. Let’s move on,'" Josh said.
Greta Van Fleet capped off their successful 2018 with four Grammy nominations. They were nominated for Best New Artist and Best Rock Album for their EP From The Fires. "Black Smoke Rising" is up for Best Rock Song and "Highway Tune" was nominated for Best Rock Performance. The group will find out if they won any of the awards on Feb. 10.