Rez band continues to perform despite lack of performance venue

By Terry Bowman
Navajo Times

GALLUP, June 27, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pack is made up of Korby Benallie, bass player from Tohatchi, N.M., guitarist Merwin Benally of Mexican Springs, N.M., and drummer Lyle Walley of Pinedale, N.M.

A ccording to Korby Benallie, there is one good thing about being in a band on the Navajo Reservation.

"… There's always a random show in the middle of nowhere," said Benallie, bass player for the three-member band, Life in the Pack. "We played a few places on the rez and Fort Defiance was one of the places that was fun."

That is exactly what Benallie and the rest of the band have had to do in order to continue doing what the love – perform on stage as the band, "Life in the Pack."

Like other local bands, Life in a Pack members have been forced to find alternatives ways to get their music heard, mostly due to the closing of the popular music venue, The Juggernaunt in the Gallup, which closed last fall.

Some people have taken it upon themselves to host events such as the 7th annual JawnstocK, which was held two weekends ago and featured local bands in the coordinators' frontyard since there was no other venue.

But, said Benallie, "Just because there are no venues doesn't mean bands won't be forming or shows (won't be) happening. It's what you can do for the music scene. You can sit around and complain about how you wish the scene was better or do something about it."

Benallie, 23 and from Tohatchi, N.M., is the bass player for the band, which also includes guitarist Merwin Benally, 21 of Mexican Springs, N.M., and drummer Lyle Walley, 23 of Pinedale, N.M.

Of the creation of the band, Walley said, "We noticed we were into two different band projects, which both fell apart at the time, but we still wanted to play, so the pieces fell together."

Walley was referring to some current members who split from bands like "Fight to honor" and "Rebuilt to Destroy." Namely, Walley is the former drummer of punk rock band Rebuilt to Destroy, while Benallie was the bass player of hard-core band Fight For Honor.

By coming together and including Benally, the band has formed a new sound - pop punk melodies and aggressive lyrics, which progresses from a melodic, soft tune to an aggressive, heavy distorted jam.

"It reflects our influences, we're half a pop punk band and half a hardcore band," Benallie said of the music they create. "We have songs where it fluctuates between being aggressive and being really melodic."

"The attitude of our band comes from living here," Walley said referring to the Navajo Nation.

When this reporter questioned the origin of their band name Life in the Pack, band members said it came about during a trip to the Albuquerque Zoo, where the band members fled straight to the wolves.

"We got super excited about seeing the wolves," Benallie recalled adding that they saw a sign with a brief description of the wolves as "Life in the Pack."

"We thought about our group of friends and us, we have this pack like a family," he said.

That feeling of being a family has allowed the group to continue what they are passionate about, while having fun, despite the challenges.

"A lot of times people don't expect much of you because you're Native American," Benallie said. "So with that pressure it drives you to want to improve and do better. That's why we really work hard at our music."

With summer here, band members have big hopes for a tour on the Navajo Reservation.

"The more rez, the better," said Walley. "You can connect with the crowd a lot more. With a venue there are a lot more rules."

When they aren't playing their roles in the band, they are also students at the University of New Mexico Gallup branch. Benallie is majoring in Art Studio and Walley is studying computer information technology and service. Benally plans to enlist in the Navy within the next year.

Of their final thoughts, Walley said, "If you want things to happen and quickly, then take that challenge to do it yourself. That's what Life in the Pack is, D-I-Y (Do it yourself), that's all we live by."