Frankenmuth, Michigan – Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” - is known for its scenic farmland. Crispy chicken dinners. The State’s best indoor water parks. Picturesque wine and chocolate boat cruises. The world’s largest Christmas store.

These days it’s also home to one of the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll acts to come from the heartland, or anywhere, in many a year.

Greta Van Fleet – which took its name from one of the close-knit community’s town elders – is a hard rocking quartet whose creative ambitions and achievements reach far beyond the ages of the four band members, not all of them old enough to have voted in last November’s election. On its debut EP Black Smoke Rising, the group deftly straddles the line between timeless and future, sounding at once like many things you’ve heard before and also something you’ve never heard before. The three brothers – twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) Kiszka, younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards) and drummer Danny Wagner – have turned their rich and varied musical background into an arresting mélange of rock ‘n’ roll with flavors of metal, pop, blues and grunge, the result of years of practice, study and familial good times.

“When we were not even born yet my father played us blues music and R&B, soul music – all the good stuff,” says Sam. Dad Kiszka was a musician himself, playing guitar and harmonica. “Our parents had a lot of vinyl laying around,” recalls Josh, so we grew up listening to that and really liked playing with the vinyl albums – putting them on the turntable and speeding them up and slowing them down. But, yeah, I really liked the blues and the soul and the funk – Wilson Pickett is the big one, and Joe Cocker, those kinds of things.”

The Kiszka kids furthered their music education during winter ski trips to Michigan’s Yankee Springs, where a plethora of family and friends would gather with instruments. Someone was playing something nearly every minute of the day, and Josh, Jake and Sam soaked it up with relish. “Every year was better than Christmas,” Josh recalls. “In the evenings or during the day, there was always music being made there, everybody getting together and experimenting with sounds, having lots of fun, making music.” For Jake, meanwhile, it was “really awe-inspiring when you see this completely surrealistic environment, to see all these people from all over the place come together, and what brought them together was music. That was mind-blowing.”

It was Jake who turned that inspiration into Greta Van Fleet, drawing the idea from the likes of Cream, the Yardbirds, The Who and other 60s British Invasion favorites. “We liked to see how the English bands had reinterpreted the blues, and we wanted to interpret it again – Y’know, wouldn’t it be interesting if an American band came right back and reinterpreted the reinterpretation that the English did?” the guitarist explains. “I thought there was something there that needed to be created.”

Jake gradually assembled his brothers into a band. Sam was caught up when Jake began jamming at the family home with a drummer friend from school. “It dawned on me that I needed to play bass for them,” Sam says. “Plus,” he joked, “my mom always said I looked like a bass player.” Josh, meanwhile, was studying theater, film and painting at school, with acting giving him an ease on stage, as well as a voice, that made him a no-brainer to be Greta Van Fleet’s frontman. “It wasn’t something I set out to particularly do. But it felt pretty natural,” he says now.

Danny Wagner, a friend of Sam’s since kindergarten, became the last piece of the Greta Van Fleet puzzle, joining a year after the group started, after being a regular at the Kiszka house for jams and rehearsals. “We all have similar taste in music and that helps a lot,” Wagner notes. “But at the same time we have these little differences in what we like, and when it comes together it produces this sound. It’s got that classic kind of vibe but it has a lot of soul, a lot of energy, and that’s a huge part of it.”

You won’t find a better description of the four songs on Greta Van Fleet’s EP, recorded at Rust Belt Studios in suburban Detroit with producers Al Sutton (Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr.) and Marlon Young from Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band. The introduction runs a gamut from the dusty grind of “Highway Tune” to the sinewy punch of “Safari Song” and the muscular crunch of “Black Smoke Rising.” “Flower Power,” meanwhile, is a trippy sonic tapestry that weaves psychedelic and folk textures into the mix. “No limits, no barriers, no boundaries,” Jake declares. “It was like that when we were growing up, and it’s like that when we’re making our own music.”

Listen closely and you’ll also hear the flavor of a small, tight-knit community seeping into the group’s songs. “I think it has a huge presence in the music,” Josh says. “It’s this romantic, simple, Americana kind of thing, like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn growing up outside of town in the country.”

The good news is there’s more where these four songs came from. The group has been in the studio for about two years now, with nearly 20 tracks down and more coming every day. “We’ve been writing since Josh and I were 16 and Sam and Danny were 13,” Jake says. “We have so many songs we’re working on it’s ridiculous. We’re just trying to develop and get better. That’s very important to us.” So is playing live, where Greta Van Fleet has been slaying audiences with an electrifying show that sounds more like a band that’s been around for decades rather than just a few years. The group can’t wait to take it around the country, and around the world in support of the EP, showing off the big sound this band from a little town can make whenever it hits the stage.
“It’s really happened so quickly. It’s definitely overwhelming and exciting – and it’s awesome,” says Wagner. “All these things are happening – the record deal, management, William Morris (booking agency). It’s slowly starting to build up, and we’re starting to get that fever. We’re itching to show everybody who we are and what we can do.”

"We can come together, we won't give up on the fight," sings Nashville's Moon Taxi on their smash single "Two High," a song that catapulted them to the top of the streaming charts and the forefront of the national stage. Filled with emotive vocals, a percussive beat and some unexpected, infectious horns, it's a track that shows the band – which has been together for over a decade – venturing into more adventuresome territory than ever. Fearlessly melding rock with pop hooks, clever synths and roots touchstones gleaned from their home in Music City, Moon Taxi's forthcoming fifth record and first for RCA will find the five-piece doing what they do best: coming together and fighting for music that triumphs above all.

"Two High," the band's newest single, has been taking Moon Taxi - Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitarist), Spencer Thomson (lead guitarist and producer), Wes Bailey (keyboardist), Tommy Putnam (bassist) and Tyler Ritter (drummer) – to new heights, topping over 60 million streams on Spotify and making heavy rotation on SiriusXM. Written in response to the push for peace, but not reacting to the politics, of the Women's March this past January, it's a song that encourages listeners to keep looking for a positive way forward – from their own internal battles, to the ones suffered by the world at large.

It's perhaps due to Moon Taxi's inspired, inclusive worldview when it comes to their music that they've been able to have songs featured as the soundtrack to multiple commercial and TV placements - from BMW, Nashville, MLB, NFL to HBO Sports – but it's their infectious live performances that keep fans coming back night after night. Touring for the better part of the decade, they're the kind of band that inspires a loyal following willing to drive miles and miles (or fly many more) to catch them again and again.

"If there's one thing we want when people hear this record or see our shows," says Terndrup, "it's to leave elated."

When Lewis Capaldi’s debut single Bruises exploded in mid-2017 it seemed from an outside perspective to have all the hallmarks of an overnight sensation. How could this 20-year-old with a soul-wrenching voice that sounded like it had been hewn from granite seemingly emerge from nowhere with a song of such emotional depth?

A stripped-back and almost painfully raw meditation on love and loss from a writer who seemed like he’d already lived several lives and had the scars to prove it, within weeks it had racked up an astonishing 20 million Spotify plays and topped streaming charts around the world.

“Once we got to 10 million, I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to stop looking at this because I’m happy with that,’” laughs Capaldi, sat in a Soho coffee shop in a rare bit of down time. “People ask me, ‘How do you feel about everything?’ I’m confused, I’m like, ‘How the hell has this happened?’ I was happy to release something and then to just see it explode. People are telling me that they’ve heard it in shops in Thailand, they’ve been in Zante and Magaluf and Ibiza and they’ve heard remixes of it in clubs. It’s absolutely mental. I’m kind of always thinking that someone’s going to turn around and tell me, ‘Oh lad, we’re only joking!’”

Have a listen to any of the other tunes Capaldi has been stockpiling into a goldmine of songs and it seem very, very unlikely that anyone will be saying that. Capaldi is that rare thing: a writer who can take his own experiences and pain and craft them into deeply effecting, heart-bruised truths that resonate with anyone who hears them.
If Capaldi seems to have a maturity as an artist and a performer that goes beyond his years then that might be down to the fact that he’s had a bit of a head start. In fact, given the years of graft the West Lothian native has put in, he’d probably take umbrage at the notion that it was an “overnight” success.

“I picked the guitar up at nine, started writing songs at eleven and then was gigging from 12 onwards,” he states matter-of-factly, before delivering a bit of customary self-deprecation. “I mean, they were awful songs, but it was fun. I was always trying to get in places, playing at pubs. I’d show up and try and blag my way in. I’d have to hide in the toilets and then jump out and do my set as quickly as possible before anyone knew there was a 12-year-old in the pub.”

From then on in Capaldi devoted every spare moment he had to writing and performing. Playing gigs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and anywhere he could find a receptive audience, he was constantly working on songs, finding his voice as a songwriter and honing his craft with unwavering dedication. All the while developing the rough-around-the-edges vocals that would make those songs soar.

“I’m constantly writing. Even now, if I’m not doing a gig or in rehearsals, I’m writing. It’s constant because you’re only as good as your next song,” he says, perhaps forgetting for a moment that he’s got one of the most acclaimed debut releases this year already under his belt. “A lot of my pals laugh because they’re roofers and electricians and they’ve got real jobs, and I’ll go, ‘Oh man, I’m so stressed out trying to write songs,” They’re like, “Shut the hell up.” I get it, but it’s a slog, man. It can be proper difficult at times.”

It’s a slog that has paid off in spades. With “hundreds of songs” crafted in the last year alone, Lewis Capaldi is already shaping up to be one of the British Isles’ most gifted songwriters. Preposterously, when it comes to the daunting process of picking a dozen for a debut album in the future, he feels that Bruises might not even make the cut.
“An album has to sound cohesive. So if Bruises still to me feels like it should be on the album at that point, then I don’t see why not,” he ponders. “I’m constantly writing, but then it’s the hope that every song will be better than the last one. It’s just constantly trying to better yourself.”

Not a bad position to find yourself in, but if he feels the success of his first offering might be fading he’s sorely mistaken.

“Yesterday I phoned up the bank and the girl was like, “I’ll phone you back in ten minutes...” She phoned back in ten minutes and said, “Oh, I recognised your name, I really like your song”.’ He recalls with disbelief. “Things like that are just like ‘... Oh shit, that’s weird.’”

Much as he might currently find it strange, Capaldi’s success is only going to grow from here. He’d better get used to it.

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