What do you consider to be “feel good” music? What are the tunes that you blast when the sun is shining and you can feel the warmth of the sun making your body glow?
For me, it’s the music from the mid-60s to early 70s, that quintessential groovy-psychedelic-hard-rock that takes me back to a time that I never existed, but my soul sure feels like once lived in. Everything from Fleetwood Mac, the Doors, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, they all have that similar melodic rock that makes you swing your hips and soak in the warmth of the song. Even the heavier sounds of songs like “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin and “More Blues” by Pink Floyd, there’s a groove like no other, to me the guitar rhythms that from that era makes me feel like I’m having a good trip without even having to light one up. I always go back to my ‘oldies’ playlist because I find that today’s music lacks that psychedelic-flavour, it either leans too far on that spectrum, such as MGMT, or that the modern day hard rock bands are too heavy to fall into that category — not that hard rock songs aren’t feel good, that’s my favourite genre, but I am talking about how I have yet to find a band that can balance the grooviness with the hard rock sounds… at least, that was until I heard Greta Van Fleet (shout out to my soul sister Brooke for making me listen to them).
Greta Van Fleet is a four piece band that calls a small town of Frankenmuth, Michigan home. The band consists of three brothers: Josh Kiszka on vocals, Jake Kiszka on lead guitar and Sam Kiszka on bass and keys, with Danny Wagner, a childhood friend of the brothers, on drums. In January of 2016, the band’s song “Black Smoke Rising” was featured on the Emmy-award-winning show Shameless. It was the vocals of the nineteen-year-old Josh that quickly grabbed the attention of many, the old-school-blues-shrill emitting from a boy barely old enough to remember the nineties blew the minds of many – and the disbelief of majority when they realized that Josh was in fact not the long-lost son of Robert Plant. On April of 2017, the band dropped their second single, “Highway Tune. The song not only caused a nostalgic trip with the immediately familiar chant of “uh huh” and the staggering opening note of the bluesy-shrill, but also ignited a swirl of media-frenzy-attention for the band that was sadly not all positive. Baby boomers were quick to brand this band of young men as “Led Zeppelin II” or a “cover band” of the beloved 60s band, causing some to completely dismiss the four-piece before dropping their current double EP “From The Fires”. As much as there was a battle between “young” and “old” this didn’t stop the band from quickly growing and gaining airplay from many American rock stations, Greta Van Fleet was growing faster than ever. In October of 2017, the band won Best New Artist at the Loudwire Music Awards and dropped their eight-tracked double EP “From The Fires” in November of 2017.
Now that we got the brief history and facts out there, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Are their songs and sound a replica of Led Zeppelin? Well, for me, the answer to that question is: no. For those who are grabbing their pitchforks and saying that they are indefinitely a replica of Led Zeppelin, are in my opinion to be lazy music fans, and the journalists that are jumping on that bandwagon are even lazier. At first glance… Maybe? Even then, it’s lazy to say that. Is Robert Plant the only man to ever do shrills and have a higher pitch tone? Of course, not, what about Steven Tyler? Eddie Van Halen? Axl Rose? It’s almost if a band filled with millennials are inspired by musicians that they probably grew up listening to.. Wild thought isn’t it? “But Darya, you can’t deny that the song ‘Highway Tune’ is the melody of ‘The Rover’ by Led Zeppelin but at a faster pace” (I feel you Jeremy, I feel you), but correct me if I am wrong don’t 90% of Classic Rock fans turn blue in the face to argue that Led Zeppelin, too, is a rip off other blues bands? It’s almost if specific genres of bands have similar sounds, hence the reason why they fall into genres..another wild and controversial thought, I know. Before I start getting even more passive aggressive on this topic, let’s talk about Greta Van Fleet’s music, in hopes of convincing those who are too lazy to actually give this band a chance/ listen, that Greta Van Fleet isn’t trying to steal blues-rock music, but instead bring the genre back.
“From The Fires” is a double EP, the first four tracks are from their debut EP “Black Smoke Rising” that include the songs: “Highway Tune”, “Safari Song”, “Flower Power” and “Black Smoke Rising”, the four-track EP initially sold 47,000 copies in the US and as of February 2018 it has totaled to 70,000. “From The Fires” includes the original four tracks with four new songs including: “Edge of Darkness” — which is a personal favourite, “A Change is Gonna Come”, “Meet on the Ledge” and “Talk on The Street”. The Double EP has sold over 100,000 copies since its release in November, showing a growth in their popularity. Comparing the band’s original four tracks to the new ones added to complete the current EP, I can see the growth in the band in finding their own style and flavour. My personal favourite song of theirs “Edge of Darkness”, definitely brings an edge of darkness (pun intended, duh) to the album, and allows the four-piece to show their ability to play something with more grit with the ability to keep the “flower power”-esque sound. To me, the focus of the song is not necessarily Josh’s vocals, but instead Jake’s gripping guitar lead, especially near the end of the song when Jake plays a dirty guitar solo. This song is definitely a more mature and rockin sounding song in comparison to “Highway Tune” and “Black Smoke Rising”, and adds that hard rock element to the album. As for the two cover songs on the album: “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke and “Meet on The Ledge” by Fairport Convention, play a respectful and beautiful homage to their 60s blues influences. So, for the portion of you who think Greta Van Fleet “rip off” 60s bands without acknowledging the creators, these two songs definitely rightfully and respectfully do so. Not only are they beautiful more slow-tempo tracks that tie that psychedelic feel into the album, but they well-done covers that assertively demand the listeners to take them as serious bluesy-rock artists. Greta Van Fleet took the bluesy- symphonic Sam Cooke song and gave it the rockin vibe that the world didn’t know they needed until the four-piece band got their hands on it. Same goes for “Meet on The Ledge”, Fairport Convention’s soft tempo creation has been given a new life with the Greta Van Fleet rendition, proving that the band really has the chops to bring back the bluesy-rock scene that we have been missing in this millennial era. The third, more ballady song on the EP is their self-written tune “Flower Power”, another song I really enjoy as it gave me the sensation that they were saying “we respect those who inspire us, but listen to how we, too, can write a kickass groovy ballad”.
Greta Van Fleet isn’t a group of children playing dress up and ripping off some of the greatest. Greta Van Fleet is wiping the dust off a genre that has been missed for decades and adding a fresh twist to it. I don’t get the anger towards them, why not bring back a beloved sound? Why not bring back the “peace, love and rock’n’roll” scene? To me, it’s what the world needs right now and I could not be more supportive of a movement. I am so excited to see what else this band brings to the rock music world because I finally have a band that makes me feel good and I don’t have to wish I lived in another era to see live. Please, for the love of rock music, don’t push this massively talented band aside because of pretentious thoughts. This band, unlike many we have seen come and go this past decade, has full-blown talent and actually have something to offer.
Josh, Jake, Sam, Danny… hats off to you, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and I hope to catch you guys live sometime soon.
Lots of Love,
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