When Greta Van Fleet goes onstage at the new FirstBank Amphitheater in Thompson’s Station for a pair of shows on Thursday and Friday, it will be the young, Grammy-winning rock quartet’s first in-person performances in nearly two years. For a band that has built a large following through relentless touring, it’s felt like an eternity.
“People are going to be insane to get live music back,” bassist-keyboardist Sam Kiszka says, speaking to the Scene by phone from his home in East Nashville. “I’m excited, all the guys are excited. We’ve been rehearsing and putting the set list together, and it feels like a show.”
These two performances also will be the first opportunity for the 22-year-old Kiszka and his bandmates — his 25-year-old twin brothers, vocalist Josh Kiszka and guitarist Jake Kiszka, and 22-year-old drummer Daniel Wagner — to showcase music from their second album, The Battle at Garden’s Gate. The record, which was released in April after being delayed for more than a year by the pandemic, has been well-received. The first single, “My Way, Soon,” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, while the album topped both the magazine’s Top Rock Albums and Hard Rock Albums charts and reached No. 7 on the all-genre Billboard 200.
Battle was recorded in Los Angeles at Henson Studios in summer 2019. Henson is on the property that formerly housed A&M Studios, where giants of rock like John Lennon, George Harrison and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made historic recordings. So it was a good working environment for a band like Greta Van Fleet that draws heavily on the sounds of classic rock — indeed, their sonic debt to Led Zeppelin was pointed out by critics and became the butt of jokes on the internet.
“An amazing place,” Kiszka says of the studio. “The Rolling Stones recorded there, the Joni Mitchell stuff, Carole King — so yeah, it was just a huge amount of history and a lot of vibe. While we were in there, Justin Bieber was recording next to us. Elon Musk came in to mix his electronic music. It was just a crazy time. It was really fun.”
The album was helmed by award-winning producer Greg Kurstin, whose laundry list of credits includes Adele, Lily Allen, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters and Maren Morris. When the release was delayed, the group returned to L.A. last summer, stopping in at Kurstin’s new studio to record two more songs for the album, “Caravel” and “The Barbarians.” The band was excited to work with a producer who gave them a lot of control over production decisions.
“It was so freeing, and it was so hands-on,” Kiszka says. “And that was not really [the same as] our previous experiences.”
GVF had worked with producers Marlon Young and Al Sutton on their three prior releases. They debuted in 2017 with two EPs, Black Smoke Rising and From the Fires; the latter won a Grammy for Best Rock Album. Young and Sutton were also on board for the band’s first full-length in 2018, Anthem of the Peaceful Army.
“We were such a young band, and we didn’t have that much experience in the studio,” Kiszka explains. “We were definitely a live band ... so they kind of showed us, over the course of a year or a year-and-a-half, what studio recording is about.
“I really consider The Battle at Garden’s Gate kind of a coming of age for Greta Van Fleet, and the way that we want to sculpt our albums. All of the sonic decisions were ours to make, and we knew what we wanted to do. ... We knew what sound we wanted to create, and we knew what songs we wanted to record.”
This weekend’s shows at FirstBank Amphitheater will be Greta Van Fleet’s first appearances in the area since a delayed concert at Municipal Auditorium in late 2019 — a follow-up to a sold-out appearance at Marathon Music Works in 2018. The new gigs are the first of just a handful of dates the band plans to do as it eases back into touring. During the seven-show run, they will not only be performing songs from The Battle at Garden’s Gate, but also material from their previous recordings.
“For the first time ever, it’s going to be everything put together,” Kiszka says. “We’re going to add in new songs that we never really played live, and we’re going to be adding in just some new flavors.”
This run will be the well-traveled group’s first from their new home base in Middle Tennessee. Originally from the small town of Frankenmuth, Mich., the band’s four members relocated in or near Nashville in late 2019 and early 2020. They first had a chance to get to know the city a few years earlier.
“We recorded Anthem of the Peaceful Army at Blackbird [Studio],” Kiszka says of John McBride’s famed recording complex in Berry Hill. “We had an amazing time, and that was the first time that we really spent a substantial amount of weeks and months in the area. ... Now we all live in East Nashville, except for Josh who lives 30 minutes west of town. I really do think as an artist and as a musician, it’s the best place in the world right now.”