Why Greta Van Fleet’s New Music Will Be “Quite A Bit Different To What We’ve Done In The Past”
There are currently two things keeping Josh Kiszka sane. The first is his love of the outdoors, the ability to find clarity in open spaces – or as the Greta Van Fleet frontman memorably puts it, “to find God in nature”. The second is making new music with his guitar-playing twin Jake, bassist bro Sam and drummer Danny Wagner, who’ve found themselves creatively reborn following a remarkable 246 live shows spanning five continents, all of which sold out.
“I don’t know how easy we’ve made it look,” he says, wryly, “but it’s not. It balances itself out in the end, though – especially now that we’re able to take some time out to meditate on everything that’s happened.” With the video for freewheeling new single My Way, Soon giving fans the first taste of new Greta Van Fleet music, Josh gives us a glimpse of what’s coming next…
What’s the latest news from the studio?
“We’ve been kept very busy with the recording and a load of other stuff, and everything has been going great with the new music. It’s been a good time to develop and switch gears and do new things in the studio space. Previously we didn’t have so much opportunity to really go down those roads, as we were constantly touring. We are close to finishing [recording] now – we actually started in the summer of last year, but we couldn’t really begin again until 2020 due to the amount of live dates we still had to do. At the time it was a matter of fitting the recording around our existing schedule. Then we got together again and decided we wanted to start the next thing – that’s how it is with us; we always want to start ‘a next thing’ (laughs).”
Has it been easy to focus on the creative process with everything going on in the world?
“I think we have managed to – and that focus has been a major factor in keeping us sane. I suppose you could consider us to be a live band to a great degree – that’s what we really love doing – so it has been a strange shift. However, the extra time has allowed us to enter another realm of the writing and recording process; it’s given us chance to explore and delve deeper.”
Comparing your new music to the debut album and the previous EPs, how far do you think Greta Van Fleet has evolved as a band?
“I think there has most certainly been change, but it’s very hard for me to have a great deal of perspective on it. Being at the heart of the process it’s tough to stand back and look at it. Have we evolved? Most certainly. We evolve as people every day and we’re constantly trying to push and challenge ourselves. That means not just musically, but philosophically and spiritually.”
Have you taken on any fresh musical influences?
“Yes, and I would say that there’s going to be quite a reaction to this, because it is quite a bit different to what we’ve done in the past. But I’ll say no more about that for now. I want people to make up their own minds and make of it what they will.”
How has touring the world changed you as a person and an artist?
“It’s been an enlightening experience and it really does challenge you. When you put yourself in that situation, you witness so much different culture and customs and foods and fashions. All of this is overwhelming, but you process it, and it in some way translates in perspective. Seeing things like poverty and shanty towns can be quite devastating. Growing up in a small town [Frankenmuth in Michigan] we were closed off to a lot of that. On a spiritual level it has certainly contributed a lot to where we are now, and the music we’re writing, and I think you can see that in the single.”
My Way, Soon is a very positive and uplifting tune. What’s the story behind it?
“It’s a salute to our love of being out on the road. After three years of touring it seemed appropriate. It’s about getting out and observing that while there is all that different culture out there, we remain one big human society, and that is very much the spirit of the song. It invites people along on the journey and dares them to take their own trip. Obviously such things are impossible right now – the song was written before the pandemic.”
It also comes with a light-hearted video that you filmed yourselves…
“Yes, and to be honest we’ve always had a natural inclination to pick up cameras. Our grandmother had a camcorder, which was our first experience of such things, and before my life took the detour that it did, I really wanted to be a film-maker. We all took to it naturally and then realised that the footage we’d put together could really be used to capture the essence of being on the road.”
During your time touring – and more recently – there have been significant social and political movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. Will we see these reflected in your new music?
“There is most certainly politics in a great deal of our work. You can’t live through current events without considering the repercussions, and it’s our responsibility as human beings to reflect on trouble in the world. I think there is a good amount of that here and there in our new music, but I have left it open enough for people to interpret those things for themselves – but they are very present.”
Do you sense there’s now a growing unity among people striving for change?
“I think we’re kind of coming into a new age, and more young people are getting involved. It’s a generational shift, and I find it fascinating. We see a lot of these people at our shows; they’re really intelligent and willing to challenge themselves. I think that’s reflected in the new single; My Way, Soon is also ‘your way soon’ or ‘our way soon’ – it’s a carpe diem thing.”
You recently released your entire live set from the Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre for free on YouTube. Why did you choose that particular show?
“We’ve always wanted to play there, because it’s such a natural and beautiful open-air venue, built into a rock structure, and it seemed a perfect setting for our band. When it became a reality last September, we knew we had to capture it, and I think the camera crew did a great job. There’s something to be said about singing at that altitude, though – there were moments when I didn’t quite finish as I planned to (laughs). When I reflect on the experiences we’ve had on tour I get a bit of an ache inside. I miss it all the time. I really hope that sooner rather than later everyone will be able to get back out. I know I’m looking a long way up the road, but you have to stay positive. Right now, people are having to re-evaluate everything in their lives – we need to stick together and look out for one another.”
Stay tuned to Kerrang! for the latest on Greta Van Fleet’s new music.
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