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“Talk On The Street” has it Greta Van Fleet’s makin’ a visit

Drummer Danny Wagner delves into what it’s like to be a member of GVF

By Rachel Sankey

Grammy award-winning rock band, Greta Van Fleet. The band’s drummer, Danny Wagner (far right), talks about what it’s like to be a member alongside childhood friends Josh, Jake and Sam Kiska. Photo from Alysse Gafken

Frankenmuth, Michigan has a population of nearly 5.4 thousand people. Danny Wagner, along with the Kiszka brothers – Josh, Jake and Sam, make up part of that population. Together, they’re known as Greta Van Fleet, the Grammy award-winning rock band that ignites the hearts of fans with a deep appreciation for the genre.

Danny Wagner, Greta Van Fleet’s drummer since 2013, talked with Green Bay City Pages to reminisce on the times the boys shared growing up together, his 2021 award, the band’s upcoming tour and more.

Wagner’s and the Kiszka’s childhood was not far from what many who grew up in Wisconsin experienced, Wagner said.

“We spent a lot of time hiking and we lived in farm fields and in creeks, you know, down the road, and we would always go down to the creek and kayak,” Wagner said. “We did all sorts of Huck Finn-type stuff… We actually wrote a lot of our early songs in those environments, being outside was one of our favorite things in the world.”

Wagner said becoming a part of Greta Van Fleet was “a dream come true.” Though he didn’t become an official member until 2013, Wagner said that he always used to come over and play with them.

“When I started hanging out with them, I told Sam, ‘I’m gonna be in your band one day,’” Wagner said. “He didn’t believe me, but then it happened.”

Since joining the band, Wagner and the Kiszka brothers have traveled all over the world. Wagner said it was a bit of a culture shock – but in the best way possible.

“It was that moment when I came back home that I realized I’d seen so much more than most people I’ve surrounded myself with growing up,” Wagner said. “So it was that whole sort of, ‘wow, I really am a different person now and I view everything a lot differently now’ than from what I used to.”

Greta Van Fleet will be making more international stops in June for its Dreams in Gold Tour, from Sweden, to France, to Ireland and more. After the band had to go on a hiatus from touring due to COVID-19, Wagner said he is most excited for the consistent amount of energy that extends over the entire period of the tour. Wagner said the time during the pandemic hiatus was the longest the band went without playing live shows. The four of them are eager to be back on the road, he said.

“It’s wonderful. I don’t know if I could really ask for a better dynamic there,” Wagner said in regards to living on the road with the Kiszkas. “We all bicker at times and do whatever stupid, stuff but it’s never personal. We have a lot in common when we’re on tour. We’re generally all in the same speed.”

When it comes to being on stage, Wagner said that his favorite song to perform always changes. Prior to Greta Van Fleet’s most recent album, The Battle at Garden’s Gate, he said “Age of Man” was his favorite to perform.

“I would have to say that all the newer, sort of somber, like ‘Broken Bells’ and ‘Tears of Rain’ songs are very much enjoyable for me to play because it’s kind of exercising a new part of my playing that I never really did often,” Wagner said.

Wagner was named 2021 Rock Drummer of the Year by MusicRadar. Some of the close runner-ups included Todd Sucherman from Styx and Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters.

“That was absolutely nuts,” Wagner said. The drummer was back home in Michigan for Thanksgiving when his mother broke the news to him.

“It was such a cool thing to be at home and to have that all happen,” Wagner said. “It really touched me in a way that it shows how supportive our fans are and you know how optimistic they are about us as a group.”

Looking to the future of Greta Van Fleet, Wagner said the band never thought that far ahead as they are all firm believers in everything happening for a reason.

“I think our goals are kind of to stay true to ourselves and to continue writing music organically in the way we do… there aren’t a whole lot of other bands that kind of do it that way,” Wagner said. “And I think that’s the coolest thing, that everything we do is our own.”

As far as live shows go, Wagner said that the band has goals of expanding and putting on even larger, more extravagant shows when venues are available.

When Wagner first started with the band, he said that it was just a pleasure to be around musicians with similar passions, and he was humbled to be a part of that atmosphere as Greta Van Fleet started to become more popular. As the band has grown, Wagner said that all four members acknowledge that they can use their platform to provide love and wealth for everyone around them.

“We redirect that focus towards the world,” Wagner said. “And I think that is probably one of the greatest parts and meanings of being in this band.”

Greta Van Fleet comes to the Resch Center on Wednesday, March 23.

Rachel Sankey is the Arts and Entertainment Reporter of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]

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