Stonehengz amps up Traverse City with blue-collar rock

After releasing their first full album late last year, the “Midwestern rock sounding” group has a busy year ahead of them. Learn more about Stonehengz and listen to their music.

“Staying True” to Their Mission: J Hawkins and Stonehengz of Traverse City. (Courtesy picture)

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It’s about “kissing the rock”.

For singer J Hawkins and other members of Traverse City’s Stonehengzthe group’s mission revolves around the “enjoyment of what music can bring” with songs that “elevate us and bring us together”.

The classic rock-fueled six-piece band that started out as a cover band recently released their first full-length album of original songs, “Embrace the Rock,” recorded at Frontier Recording in Copemish and featuring tracks inspired by everything from the death of a father to treatises on inspiration and hope.

The Band: Playing at Union Street Station this weekend. (Courtesy picture)

Influenced by Bob Seger, the Rolling Stones, the Black Crowes and others, Hawkins describes the band’s approach as “that Midwestern rock sound—a blue-collar, hard-working style” that really freezes during performances.

“The band loves to play with each other, we have fun on stage, jumping and playing, and I think that translates to what the audience sees and feels about our band when they walk away,” said he declared.

“We rock as hard as we can and work hard to improve with every show, and I think that’s appreciated.”

Formed a few years ago, the band – Hawkins, lead guitarist Mike Swogger, keyboardist Bill Policastro, drummer Sterling Hill, bassist Dale Dumbrille and vocalist Danielle Wininger – quickly embraced the northern Michigan music scene, performing frequently these days in Traverse City and the surrounding area.

LISTEN: “Let’s have a drink”, Stonehengz

stonehengz plays Union Street Station in Traverse City at 9 p.m. on Friday (April 1) and Still 201 in Traverse City on April 15. The group is also set to perform at Trestle Park in Prudenville on June 16.

“The scene in Traverse City is crazy. There are so many talented performers. It’s truly inspiring and humbling at the same time,” Hawkins said, citing artists ranging from User-Friendly Killer Robot to Drew Hale and others.

“Special place for original music”: the Stonehengz house in Traverse City. (Courtesy picture)

“Traverse City is truly a special place for original music, truly amazing.”

Hawkins said that the songs on the debut album reflect the band members’ “wide and varied” influences, with engineering by Scott Zylstra of Frontier Recording and production by Jabo Bihlman. Songs range from the full-throttle rock of “New Day” and “Don’t Give Up” to powerful piano ballads such as “Nowhere to Go.”

Stonehengz is already working on a follow-up album, with five songs written, and plans to release the project in 2023.

“The band have a very busy performance schedule this year to support ‘Embrace the Rock,’ so balancing that with songwriting and studio time is a challenge,” Hawkins conceded.

So for now, he stressed, the band members remain “focused on our mission and what we can control, and that just stays true to who we are.”

VIDEO: Stonehengz, “Don’t Give Up” (live)

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Elizabeth J. Harless