Grammy-winning rock band Greta Van Fleet are back with their third studio album Starcatcher, released on July 21 via Lava/Republic/EMI. Here, singer Josh Kiszka talks Nashville, going faaaaaar out, and uniting with Q Prime...
WORDS: Paul Stokes PHOTO: Neil Krug
You recorded a lot of this album at RCA Studios in Nashville, which has seen sessions from Elvis and many more besides. Did you get a sense of that past?
“We recorded in Studio A at RCA Studios, the big room with a lot of history. It was extraordinary. There is something to be said when you find a place where people gather to create and engage in feelings deep inside of themselves because, there’s almost a stardust left behind. I don’t know if the ghosts of rock’n’roll got to us, but it was a hell of a lot of fun and super-inspiring. It has such a live, raw sound if you’re willing to go there with that room.”
That rawness seems to be something you embraced with Starcatcher, it feels more spontaneous than your last record, The Battle At Garden’s Gate...
“We only went in with a rough sketch of what we were going for and that was intentional because we wanted to have a lot of room for exploration. So everything happened in a very organic way. I don’t know that many artists who are approaching writing and recording in that way, certainly not as much in rock’n’roll anymore. We thought that was kind of an interesting way to go about doing it – and some of the greatest records were done that way – so we did a lot of exploration. We really did strip the album down compared to our previous works, it’s almost entirely stripped compared to the Garden’s Gate record.”
What was your label’s reaction?
“We’re lucky. We’ve done our previous records the way we wanted to do them, and they wouldn’t want to fix something that isn’t broken, so we just proceeded as is. Anyway, the last time someone from A&R was in the studio we kicked them out and that was the end of it.” [Laughs]
How did that approach influence the lyrics?
“There is a blistering element to the thing that is raw and unencumbered by any opinion and then there’s the softer, more philosophical element, so the album does have a wide range as a full piece. I’m getting at ideas that were both personal and about humanity’s relationship with the cosmos, in the way that we’re all a by-product of space dust… Carbon. So it has that and these whimsical human themes and it explores the esoteric and the occult, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. What I love about it is that it’s another extension or evolution of the Greta Van Fleet universe. I like weaving tapestries, lyrically, and so there are outstretched arms to the literature of our previous work. It’s really important that it is still inside of the frame of the stylisation of our four-person collaborative world.”
It’s fair to say it is an ambitious work, then?
“It has this dangerous beauty about it. It’s almost indulgent and sometimes we decided to push so far out, while knowing that we can always pull back if we want to. But we would regret it if we didn’t go all the way to see what that is. You do have to give yourself permission to go there and I think we did that with this record. I suppose in this chapter of our bizarre career we felt that was something we needed to do. There were places we needed to go. It was us finding places that felt magical and then indulging in that. It still feels very much us, in a way that people will hear it and, hopefully, one day consider it… Maybe even ‘iconic’ could be a word used – although I can’t say that! But, no, it really does have a creative identity that is original. It’s the beginning of something extraordinary, and as fucking acrobatic as it is, I don’t think it’s pretentious.”
“We were having a meeting with Aaron and he said he had never been so nervous to bring something up, so we all went, ‘Ok, what the fuck is this?’ Then he told us and we thought it was really fantastic – a damn fine establishment! It’s such a talented and seasoned group of people who we are really excited to be working with.”
And just imagine who’ll be at the office Christmas party!
“Of course! I’m spiking the punch… I won’t tell you what with!” [Laughs]