Greta Van Fleet bassist and keyboardist Sam Kiszka knows it’s usually a cliche to say a band’s latest album is their best. However, when it comes to the just-released “Starcatcher,” he can’t help it.
“I think this is our best work yet, I really do,” says Kiszka. “It was captured in such a raw form and it’s really energetic.”
The band — which also features Sam’s brothers Jake (guitar) and Josh (vocals) as well as drummer Danny Wagner — sought to create a “very raw, inventive-in-the-studio kind of album.”
Greta Van Fleet
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept 6
Where: Allstate Arena 6920 Mannheim Rd., Rosemont
Tickets: $51 - $241
“We had complete songs like ‘Frozen Light’ and ‘Fate of the Faithful,’ but a lot of the album we wanted to invent in real time because we found that the most exciting stuff that we recorded was very spur-of-the-moment,” he says. “It was [usually] take two or three. We figured out that was the most exciting version of Greta Van Fleet.”
They were able to capture their phrenetic energy thanks to Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, who joined them at Nashville’s famed RCA Studios. After weeks of “running around town” trying to find the right producer who would let them fully be themselves in the studio, they quickly realized that he was a perfect fit.
“Working with Dave was really a breath of fresh air,” says Sam. “We wanted to get the drama of the imperfections and the raw performance. Dave’s style is pretty much that — like do it live, do it quick. Don’t think too much about it, don’t overthink it.”
Thanks to the band’s tight chemistry, the album process thrived in what Sam describes as a “communal experience where we were all on the same page.”
“There was a lot of creativity bouncing off the walls,” he says. “Adding in a guy like Dave is really helpful for creativity and some new ideas. [Dave’s] almost like a band member… It’s not work. We’re playing around. We’re discovering and inventing… It was a very familial experience.”
The album’s lyrics — which Sam also feels are Josh’s best work to date — have a familial aspect but also go beyond, into spiritual and cosmic realms. It builds and expands upon the themes of the band’s 2021 album “The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” finding more philosophical questions about humanity and existence to explore.
“Starcatcher” is an “all-encompassing term for whatever you want to call God, the creator, or architect,” Sam notes, adding he likes duality in different things and seeing what happens when you jam two opposing ideas together.
“It’s taking those two oppositions and just juxtaposing them and looking at what is God, what is human, what is consciousness,” he says.
There are also songs such as “Farewell for Now,” which pulls from the band’s touring experience, expressing the joy of playing music but knowing that you have to pack it up after and do it all over again the following day.
“There’s a lot of layers and subtext to it, but it felt really necessary to put it on the album because there’s a sweet sentimentality, a celebratory feeling about it that we haven’t really touched on,” says Sam.
He emphasizes that Josh’s lyrics on the song and album as a whole are more personal compared to the band’s previous work. Instead of relying on telling a story through someone else or a different character, he felt freedom to inject himself more personally through the lyrics.
For example, in “Sacred The Thread” Josh sings about the eccentric outfits he wears during the band’s performances. He has embraced being true to himself as a person and a performer, and recently came out.
“There’s a certain amount of privacy that you could ask for, but I think it was certainly time for him to be himself,” says Sam. “I think that’s what anybody really would want, is just to be accepted for who they are. I think it was time and I’m very happy and I’m very proud of him.”
The band’s current tour finds them playing some of their biggest venues to date, including the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, New York’s Madison Square Garden and The Forum in Los Angeles.
Sam remains amazed how far they’ve come since starting the band as teenagers in Frankenmuth, Wisconsin over a decade ago.
“It’s a really fantastic, beautiful celebration every night,” says Sam. “It’s really a magical gathering of energy being cultivated and harvested and bounced off of each other,” he says. “My main goal is that everybody leaves inspired and with all that beautiful positive life energy. Greta Van Fleet’s sound is perfectly suited for the arenas. That’s the perfect environment for rock and roll music. … It’s a really fantastic positive feedback loop of energy and life force.”