The Navajo metal band Under Exile celebrates the release of its new album with a show at the Top Deck this weekend. Video by Sarah Duenas/USA Today Network
'Make Your Peace With It' is group's second release
FARMINGTON — Despite being the lead singer for Under Exile, a Navajo metal band that traces its origins to 2013, Franklin Yazzie didn't feel like he had a lot of creative input on the songs that were included on the band's 2015 debut disc "Self-Imposed Exile."
"The lyrics were hand written and handed to me," he said, describing his part in the process.
Yazzie didn't want to feel like he was on the outside looking in again when it came time for the band to head into the studio for the second time. So even though his bandmates Rumeel Jim and Rylan Benally still shoulder most of the writing chores, it was Yazzie who came up with the concept around which the new album was constructed.
"Make Your Peace With It" is the title of group's sophomore disc and reflects Yazzie's advice to several of his friends who liked to complain about how life was mistreating them.
"They were unhappy with where they were at, but at the same time, they were not doing anything to get themselves out of it, and they were going into a deeper hole," he said.
The 2015 Navajo Prep graduate was willing to listen to only so much carping. One day, he decided he'd had enough and advised his pals to get over it.
"The world's not going to stop turning for you," he snapped.
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Yazzie realized he had struck upon the idea he'd been looking for while planning his band's new album. Each of the nine songs on the disc relates to that theme in one way or another, making it a cohesive effort, in Yazzie's mind.
"We wanted an album that was actually an album, not just a collection of songs," he said. "We wanted to get more artistic with it."
"Make Your Peace With It" is a much more complex piece of work than "Self-Imposed Exile," Yazzie said, dismissing the band's debut recording as "what you'd expect from a bunch of kids in high school playing angry, aggressive music. There was no real direction with it."
The new disc doesn't do away with the band's trademark "angry and aggressive" approach, but it also demonstrates that the members of Under Exile have learned there's a time and a place for everything.
"We've learned it doesn't have to be turned up to 100 the entire time," Yazzie said earlier this week during a phone interview from his new home in Albuquerque, where he is pursuing a business management degree from Central New Mexico Community College.
The band will celebrate the release of the new disc with a show Saturday at the Top Deck, 515 E. Main St. in Farmington, as part of a six-band bill that includes Dakota Ave., Morbid Justice, Courier, Sorry Guero and War Motor. Tickets are $8, and doors open at 6 p.m.
Under Exile also will perform at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at Stage 49 at the Gathering of Nations at Tingley Coliseum on the New Mexico State Fairgrounds.
The evolution of Under Exile over the last four years is reflected not just in its sound, but in its personnel. The group's original lead guitarist, Morgan Yabeny, and drummer, Wyatt Billie, both have moved on, replaced by guitarist Benally and new drummer Skyy Gallegos.
Yazzie said the recording process was more complicated this time, since he is living in Albuquerque while the rest of the band remains in the Four Corners, but he said the group had learned a lot since its first foray into the studio in 2015. "Make Your Peace With It" is a step up lyrically over its predecessor, he said, which he attributed to the writing chemistry that has developed between Jim and Benally. But it's also a more sonically sophisticated piece of work, Yazzie said, explaining that the band employed production techniques this time that make for a much cleaner and crisper sound.
Yazzie and his bandmates hope the new album opens some doors for them. The band has expanded beyond its original Farmington-Shiprock roots and now regularly performs at venues in Albuquerque and Gallup, in addition to having performed at a couple of festivals in California. The group would like to do a short tour of Texas this summer, and Yazzie said the relationships Under Exile has built with other touring acts should allow the group to break into the Dallas and Austin markets over the next several months.
It also will be releasing videos for the new singles "Bleed" and "Blackwater," with the latter being done by Albuquerque video artist Jorgan Redick with the Shiprock pinnacle serving as the backdrop.
While the members of Under Exile have no illusions about becoming rock stars, they also would like to be able to perform regularly in such territory as Arizona and Oklahoma, where they already have developed a bit of a following, and increased their non-Native audience, as they already have done in Albuquerque.
"We really want to push it as far as we possibly can," Yazzie said.
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
- The eight-week spring horse racing season gets underway Friday at SunRay Park & Casino, 39 County Road 5568 between Farmington and Bloomfield. Racing is held Friday through Monday each week. Post time is 3 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays, and 1:15 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 505-566-1200.
- The Night Sky program at Chaco Culture National Historic Park south of Farmington continues at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The program includes archaeoastronomy, cultural history and telescope viewing of celestial objects. Admission is free with paid park admission. The park is located on County Road 7900 off U.S. 550. Call 505-786-7014.
- The Farmington Cinematheque Series presents a screening of "Eagle Huntress" at 7 p.m. Friday in the Little Theatre on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. The G-rated film chronicles the story of a 13-year-old girl as she becomes the first female in 12 generations of Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter. Tickets are $5 at the box office. Call 505-566-3430.
- The annual Great Strides walk to cure cystic fibrosis gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday at Berg Park along the Animas River in Farmington. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served, and door prizes will be awarded. Call 505-486-5695 or register online at cff.org/greatstrides.
- The Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave., presents its Earth Day Make.Do Fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visitors will have the chance to learn about yucca plants, meet some baby goats, paint an abstract Earth Day canvas, find out how to grow their own microgreens and more. Visit infoway.org or call 505-599-1270.
- The Showcase on Dustin series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church, 865 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington when an all-star cast of soloists, a choir and an orchestra led by Linda Mack performs. Dessert will be served after the concert. Admission is $10 for adults, and proceeds will benefit San Juan College's KSJE-FM radio station. Call 505-327-5231.
- The On Common Ground series at the Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave., continues at 6:30 p.m. Monday with a presentation by "Seedfolks" author Paul Fleischman. Free copies of the book are being given away while supplies last. Visit infoway.org or call 505-599-1270.