Culture at the forefront: Band’s 3 years of work leads to music video
By Stacy Thacker
Special to the Times
SAULT STE. MARIE
A grandma sits with her granddaughter in front of a loom. Each taking turns weaving.
This is a scene from “Dying Language,” a music video from Graves of the Monuments, a Navajo metal core band out of Page, Arizona. The band released their music video last month.
“This song is about Native languages slowly fading,” Carlos Weiss said.
Weiss, lead singer for the band, said the song and video are meant to educate and encourage people to continue to learn their language so it will not be lost.
It’s up to the next generation to pass along the language and they can’t procrastinate, he said.
The video starts with statistics on lost Native American languages as the camera rises high above the red rocks of Page. Lyrics such as “Don’t lose your voice,” and “Save the words we spoke yesterday,” are peppered throughout by guest vocalist Alexandria Holiday.
While the video only took two days to record, the planning process has taken years.
Holiday’s portion of the song was recorded two to three years ago in a hotel room in Ignacio, Colorado, with a microphone and a laptop.
The band has proven to need little equipment and has recorded multiple songs and albums using only drummer Quinton Yellowhair’s laptop.
Yellowhair also does the band’s audio production, recording, mixing and mastering. He’s been with the band from the start and has learned more about production along the way.
After they recorded Holiday’s vocals they started working on recording the guitar and drum sections.
“We’ve pretty much been sitting on this song for a whole three years,” Yellowhair said.
Although the band wanted to release the song and video multiple times over the years, it never felt like the right time to Weiss.
“I just really wanted this music video to come life,” Weiss said.
With vivid color popping from the desert scenery, the music video is visually stunning. The cast and crew endured a windy day in October last year during the pandemic to get the footage.
When they weren’t filming they were wearing masks and socially distancing.
The song “Dying Language,” comes off their second album titled “Storyteller.” The album has nine songs and was produced in a bedroom on Yellowhair’s laptop.
“This album is based around Native culture,” Weiss said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Topics of songs range from the history of the boarding school era to the Long Walk and the impacts of pipelines running through Indian Country, as well as warnings of assimilation and colonization.
While all band members are Navajo, Weiss said the album isn’t just about issues that Navajos face but about issues all tribes are facing.
Along with their languages, tribes risk losing traditional practices and concepts such as knowing medicinal herbs and taboos, Weiss said.
The band wanted to put culture at the forefront of their music and tried to touch on a lot of sensitive topics. That’s why the release of “Dying Language” was so important.
They planned their album around it and they wanted to make sure it was included, Yellowhair said.
The five-member band has been together since December of 2013. Weiss is the singer, Yellowhair on drums, Troy Tsosie on bass and the two guitarists are Justin Nez and Chris Lane.
This is the band’s third music video and their second album. With band members scattered – one in Phoenix, one in Kansas and the rest in Page and with the ongoing pandemic – the band has had to get creative.
Distance hasn’t stopped them from promoting and recording – it just means a lot of Zoom sessions and self recording.
They hope to eventually do a live-streamed show and maybe someday, when it’s safe, get back on the road and tour.
Their video can be seen on their Facebook page, Graves Of The Monuments, and “Storyteller” can be found on Spotify.