Arts/Literature

Is Greta Van Fleet ripping off Led Zeppelin? Both sides, just stop it.

Greta-Van-Zeppelin

Some love the neo-Zep sound and others hate it, but both sides are missing the point.

Greta Van Fleet, a young Michigan-based rock band featuring three brothers with a friend on drums, have been ripping the lid off the joint lately. As of this moment the video for “Highway Tune” has well over 20 million views. They’re playing all the big festivals, preparing to mount an ambitious world tour, and readying the release of their first full-length album.

In short, they are a thing.

Give them a quick listen.

If this is your first exposure to GVF, you may be thinking they sound a lot like this band you hear on Classic Rock stations every once in a while.

Yes, indeed, Greta Van Fleet owes a lot to Led Zeppelin, and it has become a point of contention for some. A Google search for [greta van fleet led zeppelin] turns up 474,000 results (and [greta van zeppelin] pulls another 2,400 or so]), so you aren’t the only one who noticed.

Opinions abound, among fans and insiders. Robert Plant – a guy you’d expect to have an informed perspective on the question – seems to like them, while Jason Bonham – who certainly knows a thing or two about being associated with other musicians – says the comparisons will kill the band.

I’d like to quickly make a point or two about both sides of the debate.

First, the haters need to simmer down. Twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) Kiszka are only 22. Brother Sam (bass) is 19. Drummer Danny Wagner is the pup in the bunch at 18.

They’re young, and if they are imitating, that’s okay – that’s what young artists do. You start out falling in love with a band (or writer, or painter, or dancer, or whatever). You try and be like them. This is how the great art academies worked, even. They’d send the apprentice to the gallery and he’d spend the day in front of a masterpiece copying it.

Eventually, as you grow, you onboard more and more influences and begin transforming it all into an aesthetic is distinctly your own.

Yes, Josh Kiszka sounds like Robert Plant. You know who didn’t sound like Robert Plant at Kiszka’s age?

This guy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing … Tom Jones channeling Sam Cooke?

It is also true that there’s more at work than just Zep influence. Band members talk about the range of things they listen to and draw from (everything from Folk to Jazz to World), and if you pay attention you’ll notice nods to other Hard Rock gods – like AC/DC. Listen to Jake’s guitar at around the :55 mark and watch Sam throughout. You don’t think they know about the Young brothers?

Let’s give it a couple years and see what their growth looks like. For the moment, I’m loving them.

And some advice for the band: stop sidestepping the question. As you can imagine, the Zep comparison comes up anytime any member of the band is in the same zip code as a reporter. In the pieces I’ve seen, they go out of their way to minimize the link. Yes, they’re fans. Yes, they’re an influence. But no, they say, they’re not trying to sound like the ZOSOs. At times they even act like maybe they don’t hear it as much as we do.

For the love of god, boys, cut it out. Josh poses like Plant. They dress like Zep. They’ve done plenty of Zep covers, like this.

When you’re 18-22 it’s okay to have heroes. You’re supposed to have heroes.

But how many bands your age have the chops to actually play at your level? (Not many.)

Just own it. Say yes, we’ve worshipped Zep since that day my freshman year when I first heard “The Immigrant Song.” We tried to be like them, we’ve borrowed from, etc. We will never stop loving Led Zeppelin and if the worst thing that ever happens to us is being compared to them we’ll know we lived a pretty good life.

That said, we continue to listen and learn. We discover new music every day that we love and admire (maybe here you mention an artist or two, maybe even point people to your covers of Adele and Sam Freakin’ Cooke! – my, how the world goes ’round, huh?), and say we’re constantly working to take in things we can use to expand our sound.

Right now, we’re young and we’re enjoying life and loving what we do. We hope everyone out there will climb aboard and grow with us.

Then hit the stage and tear the damned house down.

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