ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For Channing Concho, a petite, pretty woman of 23, music is part of her DNA. Her father was a drummer, and both parents exposed her to a variety of music at an early age. But it wasn’t until high school that she and two of her friends formed a band, and her true passion developed.
“My mom wanted me to play violin, and I did from the sixth grade through my senior year,” said Concho, Acoma/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo, whose long black hair is streaked with purple. “Then my friend Amanda’s father bought her guitars and drums and she invited some friends to play. We played the Beatles as our first song.”
The Beatles didn’t last long for Suspended. More than eight years after their debut in a local high school talent show, they have become the only all-girl “thrash metal” band, a musical genre known for its fast tempo and aggressive lyrics and playing style. Concho’s taken up her father’s instrument, the drums, in the three girl group.
“It’s the most unique music we’ve ever heard,” she said. “It’s got elements of thrash, of rock, of black metal, of everything we know. Mandy (the aforementioned Amanda Castillo) writes the most intricate music. It’s grab the bull by the horns music.” Suspended’s lead singer and bass player is Melynda “Mimo” Montaño, another of Concho and Castillo’s former classmates.
Concho counts as her musical influences groups that one would expect from someone with a heavy metal focus: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Gwar and King Diamond. She also listens to a variety of genres: Sublime, Portishead and of course, the Beatles.
In December 2008, Suspended released its first CD, “Prelude to Indignance.” The band spent part of the last year touring the country. The toll of being on the road, with its lack of sleep, fast food and constant companionship of the band mates, has Concho looking forward to a more relaxed pace in the next few months.
“I’m being lazy now,” she said. “I’m hanging out with my boyfriend, seeing movies, going to local shows and preparing for Halloween. It’s my favorite time of year, and we throw a huge party. There’s nothing like being home in Albuquerque, and getting back into the local music scene. It may not be as big a scene as other places, but it’s grown a lot and there are some great bands here that have really progressed.”
Channing grew up in and around Albuquerque, spending time on the Laguna and Acoma Pueblos, as well as in the city. “I always felt like an outsider. It was hard to adapt to city life after living until I was seven years old on the Acoma Pueblo. The name Suspended comes from a time when the three of us got into trouble for ditching classes at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque.”
More than just skipping school made Concho realize she needed to change her ways if she was to graduate. She was caught with marijuana, and spent most of the fall semester of her sophomore year out of school. Having two younger sisters, and seeing them look to her as an example, helped turn her in a positive direction.
“It makes me proud to have them look up to me,” she said. “I know I’m a role model, and want to show them that you can live a good life. I had a lot of insecurities in high school, especially when my parents got divorced. My advice to my sisters and nieces and anyone is to be strong, pursue your goals and work hard. Keep on keepin’ on.”
Part of what turned Concho around was traveling on student exchange programs to Europe and around the United States. Seeing how people lived in places like Germany, France and Holland, and meeting them and answering their questions about her own culture was eye opening. “Europeans are familiar with Native Americans and the United States. They asked me about my language and culture. They respected my culture and were curious about it. It was good to see how different we are in the United States from others.”
Concho’s family is still supportive of her musical career, welcoming her back to the pueblo or reservation during the yearly trips she makes for traditional dances. In fact, being on the road, seeing other cultures, and her job at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Pueblo Harvest Café, has given her a new appreciation for family and her traditional background.
“It’s important to me, I’m becoming more spiritual, more admiring of nature. The things I see before me – nature, the sun, the moon, trees, are all important parts of me. They connect me to who I am.”