Leonard band cranks out ‘thrash grass’

The Native Howl, of Leonard, is making waves in the music world with its “thrash grass” sound. The band consists of Josh LeMieux (from left), Jake Sawicki, Alex Holycross, and Mark Chandler. Photo provided.
The Native Howl, of Leonard, is making waves in the music world with its “thrash grass” sound. The band consists of Josh LeMieux (from left), Jake Sawicki, Alex Holycross, and Mark Chandler. Photo provided.

It’s always great to see an innovative band make waves.

The Native Howl, which practices and records out of its private studio in Leonard, is no exception with its hard-hitting “thrash grass” style.

The band’s lead singer-guitarist Alex Holycross, of Leonard, began playing music at a young age and focused on creating metal-style music through various bands in his earlier years. He and drummer Joshua LeMeiux played together in a metal band prior to the beginning of The Native Howl.

In 2012, Holycross began shifting his focus to folk through The Native Howl as a side-project with banjoist-vocalist Jake Sawicki.

In the fall of 2013, primarily as a duo, they released a six-song Extended Play (EP) album, “The Revolution’s Dead.”

The Native Howl congealed when Mark Chandler and LeMeiux, both professional musicians and songwriters, joined on bass and drums, respectively.

This evolved the band’s sound into a unique blend of rock, folk, bluegrass, alternative and thrash metal genres – one which is being coined as “thrash grass.”

“Thrash grass is our combination of the aggressiveness and intensity of thrash metal (and) the melodicism and beauty of bluegrass,” Holycross explained. “(We want) to bring fans of different music together. We’re bringing people out of mosh pits and into bluegrass shows and we’re bringing people out of bluegrass shows into mosh pits. We’re trying to not only marry the genres, but bring different types of people together to enjoy a new style of music.”

According to Holycross, the band has drawn from a variety of influences—from heavy metal/rock bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath and Dave Matthews Band to Americana-string band Old Crow Medicine Show.

“We’ll listen to any band we think is good and we draw influence from any good music from any genre,” Holycross added.

Living in the rural area of Leonard has also helped inspire the band’s sound, said Holycross.

“Growing up right in the Leonard and Oxford areas with all the woodland scenery… the ambiance of being out around the swamps and listening to the frogs chirp every night… that kind of shaped how I thought about music. It’s where a lot of our lyrics come from, as well,” he said.

After Holycross’ father, Mark Holycross, passed away in 2008, he renovated his father’s former heating and cooling shop, located off of 32 Mile Road in Leonard, and transformed it into a recording studio.

Today, the band practices and records at the studio in support of its own independent record label and publishing company, Clean As Dirt Records.

So far, their hard work has paid off, according to Holycross.

The Native Howl has enjoyed a lot of success over the years, especially since its music video for “Thunderhead” went viral in December 2016.

The music video currently has garnered over 11,000 “likes” on The Native Howl’s YouTube page.

Although the band has had several offers to join the ranks of major record labels since “Thunderhead” took off, Holycross said the band plans to remain independent.

“We are completely self-funded, self-managed, we do everything ourselves. It makes for very, very long work weeks, but we get to do things exactly how we want to do them,” Holycross said. “We trust everyone we work with because it’s just us. . . It makes everything worth it. We’re going to do what we want and more than likely we’re going to keep on functioning out of good old Leonard, Michigan. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success so far and, frankly, I like the scenery here.”

The band has released several music videos over the past few years and many of those videos feature rural outdoor scenes which were filmed in the Addison Township/Oxford areas.

These videos included “Into the Darkness” and “Thunderhead,” both of which can be viewed on the band’s YouTube page.

Holycross said the band has been aiming to break down walls and stereotypes

“It’s funny; you see so many comments on those videos where people say ‘These guys must be in the backwoods of Tennessee or (on) the shores of South Carolina.’ When I tell them we’re 45 minutes north of Detroit, they’re always very surprised. People don’t realize that Detroit has a thriving bluegrass community. Some of the most proficient bluegrass musicians I’ve ever met are coming out of Michigan… It’s interesting the misconceptions of where music comes from and where it’s supposed to come from. People expect us to come from down south when they see ‘Thunderhead’ and ‘Into the Darkness,’ when the videos were actually filmed in the beautiful marshlands of Michigan.”

The Native Howl is expected to release a new dual-disc album on June 1, 2018.

A release show for the album is scheduled to be held June 1 at The Magic Bag, located in Ferndale at 8 p.m., where The Native Howl will perform with Port Huron-based rock band The Gasoline Gypsies.

To learn more about the band and its music, visit thenativehowl.com.


One Response to "Leonard band cranks out ‘thrash grass’"

  1. Patti Tossey   May 20, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Wow! Yesterday I learned there is a thing called, “Thrash Grass”.
    I’ve never been a metal fan. It always sounds so growly and angry. I’ve been a bluegrasser since the ‘70’s. I like different forms of music, but never metal. Bluegrass has always been the music of my soul. Then yesterday…
    Well, I’m being honest here. I feel like one of those old timers back in the early New Grass Revival days who just couldn’t take what Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, John Cowan did by using bluegrass instruments to express a rocked out version of an old Bill Munroe song, or to remake a well known rock and roll song using old time instruments. But therein was musical genius at work.
    And now, some 40-plus-years later, here you are. I’m not totally there. But I’ll take the Doc and Merle attitude that, if y’all wanna make music, and I can see that you really do have Bluegrass in your blood, more power to ya. You deserve a chance.
    I won’t give online. (Yes, I’m old.). But if you’ll give me an address, I’ll make a contribution to The Cause. And I’m willing to listen.
    Patti Tossey


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