Photo/ Republic Records
It’s been a whirlwind year for Greta Van Fleet, an emerging rock outfit whose sound has been compared to Led Zeppelin.
Band: Hangout Music Festival
Date: May 18-20
Venue: The Hangout, 101 E. Beach Blvd.
(Gulf Shores), www.hangoutmusicfest.com
Tickets: $319, available through festival website
Once again, Gulf Shores is playing host to one of the world’s most epic beach parties as The Hangout Music Festival mixes a plethora of music styles with sun and sand. From hip-hop to EDM, this festival’s lineup has a little something for everyone.
Greta Van Fleet, with members ranging in age from 19 to 22, will give the festival a healthy dose of early ‘70s, Led Zeppelin-style proto-metal and roots rock translated for the modern age. With its latest “double EP” release “From the Fires” maintaining the band’s momentum, Greta Van Fleet has been alternating between the studio and the road in an effort to release the band’s first full-length.
Ahead of taking the Mermaid Stage on Sunday at 6:30 p.m., drummer Danny Wagner phoned Lagniappe to discuss the upcoming album, the band’s Hangout set and life in Greta Van Fleet.
Stephen Centanni: How did a young guy like you get focused on such a classic rock sound?
Danny Wagner: You know, I believe it’s a combination of my upbringing and where I’m from. I’m from a very, very, very small town (Frankenmuth, Michigan) that only holds four or five thousand people. So it’s very isolated. Being that was the case, I didn’t listen to a whole lot of pop radio growing up. It was mainly just CDs and cassettes and vinyls that were laying around the house. That was what I grew up listening to. That’s how I developed my style. My influences all come together in a variety of different ways and a variety of different instruments.
Centanni: Speaking of your hometown, what was it like trying to break out of there as a band?
Wagner: I mean, there’s no doubt that it’s been crazy for the past year. So I have to say it was easier than was planned or expected at all. At the same time, it was great, because we can always go home and there’s lots of support. There’s been support from the very beginning of this whole band from the local community and local figures and groups of families and friends. It’s really remarkable to go home. Everyone treats everyone the exactly the same, and I love that.
Centanni: One red flag that I’ve gotten from Greta Van Fleet is that you have three siblings (Josh Kiszka, Jake Kiszka and Sam Kiszka) in the band and you. Rock history has taught that when you have siblings in bands, it can be a volatile situation. You’re the only non-sibling. What’s it like being the only non-brother on the road with the band? Does everybody get along?
Wagner: Yeah! They’ve all grown up together, and like I said, we all grew up in this very small town. So they were kind of forced to spend a lot of time in the same household growing up. They all get along very well. Jake and Josh are twins. So, I firmly believe in telepathy; they’re on the same wavelength, so that helps communication.
I’ve been going to school with Sam since the first grade. He and I have known of each other for quite some time. This is our first band. None of us have played in bands before. We’ve learned everything as a unit. I think that’s pretty important in recognizing our relationship on the road. We get along really well.
Centanni: You’ve got two releases: “Black Smoke Rising” and “From the Fires,” which is “Black Smoke” plus a few more songs. I’ve seen “From the Fires” billed as a “double EP.” What made you guys want to do a double EP?
Wagner: Well, we released “Black Smoke Rising” as a statement piece with a single on it just to dip our toes in the water and see what the rock ‘n’ roll world was like. It was our debut piece, so we decided to keep it a less-is-more kind of deal. It really started happening. “Highway Tune” started spreading worldwide, which was really fun to watch.
What happened was we started getting busier and busier and [there was] a demand for more material, because it was a four-song EP. We decided that “Black Smoke Rising” maybe wasn’t a complete thought yet. We thought we would extend it with songs that were older and a couple of covers to show our influences as a band. We decided after adding those four new songs that it was closer to a complete thought and more of a piece of art. That was our way of getting more material out and keeping the buzz, because we’re working on a full-length right now.
Centanni: Marlon Young and Al Sutton were producers on this album, and their experience includes Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. That blows my mind when I listen to your album because you guys are worlds away from that. What made you want to go with those two?
Wagner: We met and started collaborating with Al Sutton originally. The way we heard about him was through a lot of other people we met locally in Michigan. We met the singer of the band Sponge that comes out of Michigan; his name is Vinnie Dombroski. We had met up with him a couple of times, and he was giving us a push as a very young band before management companies and labels and all that.
We had just been recommended Al Sutton. They all basically said, “If you want the best rock ‘n’ roll, you have to go with Al Sutton at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak. It’s the dirtiest, most rock ‘n’ roll studio with the most dirty rock ‘n’ roll sound that you can catch.” We went there and made an appointment to collaborate and see how it worked. It worked pretty well from the beginning, and we developed a great relationship ever since.
Centanni: Let’s talk about the new album. Tell me everything you can about that.
Wagner: I’ll do my best. We decided that 2018 would bring a lot of new things, and it would be a great time, coincidentally with everything is scheduling in our crazy touring adventures, we would have some off-time dedicated throughout the year. We took January, February, bits of March and a little time in April. We’re still bouncing back and forth.
We have been diligently working on this new album. We’re about to release more material than we have out right now. It will be all new material and all original material. I’m very excited, because we took the exact, same crew that we’ve always had back home and moved the recording process to Nashville at Blackbird Studios. That studio is just amazing. It’s like a little chunk of heaven in Nashville. We love it. Because of that, we were able to record very quickly, and we’re almost to completion, which is incredible.
Centanni: How much of that original material will we be hearing at Hangout Fest?
Wagner: That’s a good question! Generally at our shows, we’ll play the classic material, and we always throw in some new stuff. Depending on how long the full set time is, you’ll definitely hear a few new songs.