“We opened for Bob last week.” This is Sam Kiszka’s incredibly casual way of saying that he and the other members of Greta Van Fleet shared the stage with rock legend Bob Seger just six days before our conversation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That show welcomed almost 16,000 rock fans, which feels enormous compared to the slightly more than 400 who will see the band tonight. “It was pretty crazy because growing up, especially here in Michigan, Seger was always every other song on the radio. To be there and see him, let alone meet him, was really special.” His brother Josh, seated just feet away, nods in agreement. “He could have just said hello in passing, but that’s not what happened. He shook everyone’s hand, looked us each in the eye, and introduced himself. He even asked us our names!” 

Occurrences like this are becoming commonplace for the Frankenmuth-based rock band. Though they’re barely old enough to be considered adults, the band—comprised of three Kiszka brothers (Sam, Jacob and Joshua) and drummer Daniel Wagner—has quickly become one of rock and roll’s most sought after groups. At the time of our conversation in early September, the band’s breakout single, “Highway Tune,” had just reached number one on the rock charts both in the United States and Canada. They were also in the midst of a largely sold out tour, which had been growing increasingly long as demand continued to build. The night we met would go on to be one of the last times the group was booked in a room with a capacity below 500, which the band seemed to recognize during our chat. “There is so much happening right now,” Jacob says. “We are trying really hard to live in the moment each night because we know it may be a while before we are able to have shows like tonight again.” 

One cannot help noticing the outpouring of support shown to Greta Van Fleet in recent months from the rock community at large. “It’s hard to keep track of everyone we’ve talked to,” Sam says. “But it has been crazy.” Joshua continues, “I know someone gave our stuff to Van Halen, and apparently they dug it. We also heard through the grapevine that Robert Plant had heard it and was all about it.” He trails off for a second with a grin on his face, as if learning of this news for the first time himself, before returning to the conversation with an impressively nonchalant, “So that’s cool.” 

Greta Van Fleet’s debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, arrived in stores earlier this year with just four tracks. The record showcased a group of young men heavily influenced by the deities of classic rock doing their best to resurrect the sound those greats created for a new generation. It’s hard to describe in precise terms, but Sam summarizes it best when he says, “It’s definitely rooted in classic rock, but our goal is always to be our own thing.” Joshua chimes in moments later, having just entered the room, to say, “People have only really heard one side of who we are. That EP was created with the intent of being its own, complete thing. It’s meant to be one sound, but that is not the only sound we plan to deliver.” 

Anytime an artist or group breaks new ground using old ideas there are many who claim they are saving, or otherwise resuscitating, their genre, but the Kiszka brothers are quick to refute any notion that is what they are doing in the world of rock. “I think it’s just one of those things that’s made of up of two parts,” Josh says. “There is a classic rock element to what we do, but there is something else, something new age as well. Rock has never been dead in our minds, but maybe it was dormant. Now it is resurfacing in kind of a mainstream way, which I think is saying something about the state of music and where it is headed. This isn’t just someone sitting behind a soundboard, or a person who needs a bunch of machines on stage. We are people with emotions putting ourselves out there through instruments and song. In my mind, the goal is to one day reach a place where we are compared to no one because we are seen as our own thing. That takes time, though. I mean, we only have four songs out.” 

Jacob, in agreement with his brother, chimes in to say, “We have that organic approach going for us.” He points to a poster of The Beatles on the green room wall before saying, “A long time ago, the old masters walked the Earth and played their instruments. There was something special to that. I think our next release, for lack of a better phrase, will be more Greta Van Fleet. I’d love to get away doing this almost how The Beatles did it. They were a rock band, but not really. They made their own style by bringing together a bunch of different ideas. They just did what they wanted to and people were willing to hear them out.” 

There is a brief pause of silent agreement before Sam confesses, “We don’t really read the stuff written about our band, so it’s hard to know what the expectations for us might be. We try to just do our thing.” Joshua nods, adding, “The proper foundation for what we’re doing artistically, musically even, comes from our own ambition to create truly great music. Our influences come into play, yeah, but we are not trying to capture any particular sound. We’re just trying to create undeniably great rock music. There will be continuity I’m sure, but we have to evolve.” 

Aside from their inability to sit still for more than a few seconds, the members of Greta Van Fleet seem very calm about their position in life. “The hardest part for us is doing a million things at once,” Sam claims. “That’s a perfect answer,” Josh replies. “Everything is happening all at once right now, but we are surrounded by a great team of people who make it possible for us to keep going. It’s because of them that we are able to focus on what is happening in our immediate future.”  

Sam chimes back in to say, “Right now, the only thing that matters to us is getting on stage and seeing everyone’s beautiful faces. We look forward to getting out there and feeling the energy of the moment, which we are able to do because of the people around us, helping us on this journey.” 

The team in question is indeed working hard for the band. A phone conversation with the band’s publicist immediately following the interview is filled with a fresh batch of new facts and figures for the group. “In all my years of doing this, I have never seen a band’s career continue to grow this way for this long when they’re just starting out,” they say. “We have to update the information in our media blasts every week because the good news just keeps coming!” 

As our conversation moves away from the business of music and live performance, all three Kiszka brothers begin to light up with excitement. Prior to this moment, their answers to almost every question were as candid as one could hope, but they were delivered in a way that told me they had been asked a similar question several times prior in one of the many profiles written about their fast rise to stardom. What the group had yet to discuss at great length was what might come next, namely a proper album due in 2018, which their tour manager informed me was being recorded in between tour dates. “We have this show tonight, but after that, we are basically in the studio every day until we leave for the next gig,” Sam explains, his eyes wide. “It’s a lot, but we really want to have something new out for people to hear as soon as possible.” 

The conversation around studio time continues, but the Kiszka brothers continually shoot glances to one another that urge secrecy regarding what might come next for the band. “Our plan is to have something out before the end of the year,” Sam says. “We know what it will be, but that is probably all I am allowed to say for now.” After being asked to describe their new sound and how it may differ from their EP, Jacob explains, “Well we’re not going to give too much away, but…” The pause lingers in the room for a good 10 seconds before all three brothers burst out laughing. “Please leave that in the interview,” they ask, speaking over one another. “That was the perfect response.” 

*A version of this interview first ran in the current print issue of Substream Magazine, on stands now and available through our online store!