Greta Van Fleet has cemented their status as one of the most in-demand live rock acts of their generation, having sold more than one million tickets worldwide with over 250 sold-out shows to date across five continents—including selling out every one of their headlining shows for the past two years.
Buoyed by this incredible support, when it came time for the band to record their third full-length album, Starcatcher, the quartet decided to track the music live in order to capture the energy and immediacy of their performances and build on the momentum of the past few years.
This recording approach was a departure from the meticulous way Greta Van Fleet made their 2021 sophomore release, The Battle at Garden’s Gate, which led to No. 1s on multiple Billboard charts and more than 200 million album streams. But the Grammy-winning Nashville based rock band—Josh Kiszka (vocals); his twin brother, Jake Kiszka (guitar); their younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass/keyboards); and friend Danny Wagner (drums)—knew Starcatcher would benefit from a looser vibe based around instinct and chance. Their songwriting had matured and they were better musicians, for starters.
And after achieving cinematic album success, the band knew they could best show off their incredible dynamics by getting back to their roots. Even as they kept their eyes firmly toward the future, Greta Van Fleet realized they felt drawn to their earliest days as a band, when they were determined teenagers honing their sound in their parents’ garage in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
“The whole concept for Starcatcher, even before it had a name, was, ‘Let’s take it back to the beginning. Let's capture that same energy,’” says Sam. “We’re going back to our roots while moving forward at the same time.”
Starcatcher’s production—helmed by Grammy winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell)—is more stripped-down than that of The Battle at Garden’s Gate, allowing the instrumentation to shine. Take the album’s haunting, elegiac first single, “Meeting the Master,” which at first pairs rich, wistful acoustic guitars with Josh’s yearning vocals, before blooming into a classic Greta Van Fleet rock ‘n’ roll anthem with a majestic guitar solo and pummeling drums.
Starcatcher is the sound of four musicians amplifying one another’s strengths, across snarling, barnstorming rock (“The Falling Sky”), meditative, gnarled hard rock (“Sacred the Thread”), acoustic-driven pastoral folk-rock (“Farewell for Now”), and stinging psychedelic rock (“The Indigo Streak”). Occasional organ or keyboard flourishes pop out of the mix, adding texture and melodrama.
“We wanted to keep it very true to our stage sound and make the music easy to recreate,” Wagner says. “We wanted to focus on the writing so that the instruments speak for themselves.”
This approach supports the album’s ambitious songs, which illustrate Greta Van Fleet’s remarkable ability to embrace their sonic differences and yet still achieve cohesion. Starcatcher represents the duality of two worlds—fantasy and reality—and the contrast between light and darkness, as well as all of Greta Van Fleet’s unique sonic universe.
To achieve their vision for Starcatcher, Greta Van Fleet first entered the legendary RCA Studios in downtown Nashville in early 2022 with Cobb. Jake notes the studio’s rich history was certainly on their minds (“It felt like we were walking into a really sacred hallowed space”) although the large recording room and pristine acoustics also had a big influence on Starcatcher. “We didn’t use a lot of reverb; we just used a lot of the room.”
In lieu of bringing in fully-formed songs, Greta Van Fleet instead brought an outline of basic structures—concepts and ideas, really—and came up with arrangements in the studio. “It sounds more like, ‘Something’s dropped out of the sky, and you’ve caught it,’ versus having this preconceived idea of how you’re strategically going to navigate writing and production,” Josh says. As the songs took shape, the band members didn’t try and overly edit themselves to make everything perfect, a decided change from past albums. “When we went in, it was like all of a sudden things just started firing off,” Josh adds. “Everybody was able to put the music together fairly quickly.”
In conversation with the members of Greta Van Fleet, it’s clear why the band work so efficiently. Each musician is curious and sincere, and quick to identify (and praise) the individual musical and songwriting strengths of their bandmates. Jake admits that the members of Greta Van Fleet have such tight musical chemistry, producers can sometimes have difficulty finding where they fit into studio sessions. Cobb, however, was a seamless addition. “Dave is a chameleon,” Jake says. “He helped us get from point A to point B without reducing or diluting our own voices.”
Among other things, Cobb secretly recorded the band as they were working through their ideas—and these demos eventually became the foundational album tracks, because they captured Greta Van Fleet in such an ideal, relaxed state. “He taught us to trust ourselves a lot more,” Wagner says. “We historically take so much time and are hard on ourselves in a lot of ways. He took all of that insecurity and threw it out the window.”
It helped that the members of Greta Van Fleet also felt freer to experiment with their own instruments and songwriting. For example, “Meeting the Master” came together in the studio after Wagner wrote a chord progression on an acoustic baritone guitar and the rest of the band added their own unique parts on top of this foundation. At another point, Jake decided to start “toying with different techniques,” like alternate tunings and a guitar accessory called a B-Bender, which is heard on the sprawling, psychedelic “Fate of the Faithful.”
“There were a lot of different things that made me think and write differently,” he says, “and took me into territory that I wouldn’t have on a six-string and standard tuning.”
After finishing most of Starcatcher, Greta Van Fleet set the recordings aside for a busy year full of touring all over the world. When it came time to finish the album in early 2023, they ended up joining Cobb in Savannah, Georgia, where the producer grew up. Greta Van Fleet were inspired by the warm weather and big oak trees flanking the streets (“We’re all nature lovers,” Sam says. “We work better in the forest and when there is nature around us”) and gained enough perspective on their Nashville recordings to see that they were on the right track.
“We threw some more stuff on the music for fun, and to stylize it and create this whole Starcatcher feeling,” Sam says. “It’s kind of a whimsical darkness, and there’s a bit of psychedelia, but it’s very planted in the earth at the same time.”
That approach is on display throughout Greta Van Fleet’s previous albums, which very deliberately have common lyrical and thematic threads. “We had this idea that we wanted to tell these stories to build a universe,” says Wagner. “We wanted to introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers through this world.”
Continuity has helped the band become rock radio favorites—to the tune of five No. 1 singles at the format—selling 3.5 million total albums and earning 2.3 billion streams. Greta Van Fleet has also appeared at major festivals globally including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Pinkpop and Rock Werchter.
Wagner adds that Greta Van Fleet took multiple concepts from The Battle at Garden’s Gate and brought them into Starcatcher—although Sam’s take on Starcatcher’s big ideas (reinvention, the big bang) hint instead at new beginnings. “When I imagine the world of Starcatcher, I think of the cosmos,” he says. “It makes me ask a lot of questions, like ‘Where did we come from?’ or ‘What are we doing here?’ But it’s also questions like, ‘What is this consciousness that we have, and where did it come from?’”
Greta Van Fleet’s different (but complementary) personalities have contributed to the band’s success. Fitting for a drummer, Danny is meticulous and perceptive, but also quite concise with his observations. Jake is also thorough and detailed about the band’s musical processes, but has his eye on the big picture. Sam, meanwhile, is more laid-back and casual, but easily slips into philosophical musings and even the occasional lighthearted dig at one of his brothers. And Josh is also affable and easygoing, in possession of a dry sense of humor and a knack for describing ordinary situations using vivid, creative imagery.
In the end, Starcatcher encapsulates the push and pull between who the band is on stage versus how they are in real life—but represents Greta Van Fleet at their best and most authentic selves. “We didn’t really have to force or be intense about writing, because everything that happened was very instinctual,” Jake says. “If anything, the record is our perspective, and sums up where we are as a group and individually as musicians.”