Alibi V.24 No.19 • May 7-13, 2015 

Straight from the Garage

How a Song Is Made

Looking in on The Glass Menageries

Glass Menageries’ practice
Glass Menageries’ practice
Mark Lopez

It's a cold Sunday morning. Storm clouds are rolling in, the scent of impending raindrops coating the asphalt. I'm greeted by Mauro Woody, singer-songwriter in The Glass Menageries, among other projects, at the front door of her abuelita's house in northeast Albuquerque. She's in a chipper mood, offering me coffee before I take a seat and meet her grandmother and brother, Dhaveed. While waiting for the other Menageries to show up for practice, Mauro delves into her history as a musician and her work with local bands like Animals in the Dark, Lady Uranium, Chicharra and the 5 Star Motelles.

“Joining the 5 Star Motelles was when things really started to take off,” Mauro says. “I guess I have a sickness. I'm like a vampire. I'm a singer-songwriter first and foremost, so I like being a part of different projects that play different kinds of music. I just need to get better at saying no.”

Soon, bandmates Gena Lawson and Christian Newman show up, and Dhaveed wakes up Brahm Woody, his and Mauro's brother, and bassist of the band. As I grab another cup of coffee from the kitchen and make my way to the practice room on the other side of the house, Mauro's grandmother says, “Have a good life. It looks like you are already.” Thanks, abuelita.

The practice space is littered with gear and artwork. Guitars, photos and a random assortment of paintings cover the walls, while tables and shelves hold amps, tuners and notebooks of music. It's a small room, but the band makes the area work. Dhaveed, the band's lead guitarist, stands over by Christian's drum kit, and Gena finds a place at the center of it all with a guitar in hand and a mic in front of her. Mauro steps behind a keyboard, while Brahm stands near me, almost like he, too, is on the outside of things. It isn't until they start playing that I realize how actualized and melodic their rhythms are.

Before the band begins, I ask Mauro how she'd describe their sound to folks who've never seen them play. “I'd say it's dreamy, but Gena calls it desert shoegaze.” After taking my place on the periphery, the band delves right into their tune “Nora.” I realize immediately that both genre descriptors are spot-on. Their music strikes me as ethereal yet forthright. The musicians feed off one another, Brahm's basslines complementing Newman's rhythmic, at times tribal, drumming.

There's a sense of camaraderie in the band—ties linking lineages along the songs' lilting passages—that makes The Glass Menageries’ sound so beguiling.

Gena and Mauro's vocals blend together like one harmonious lullaby over dream-tapered melodies. It's almost as if the oncoming storm outside, the dark clouds over the Sandias, is bringing about a ritualistic progress to the work, as the band jumps from one song to the next, pausing only to question whether certain notes were off or to name the next song from their oeuvre that needs a run-through. While Gena and Mauro decide whether a vocal shift works, or if a certain guitar part ran a little long, Christian pounds on the drums, in his own world, his own reality.

There's a sense of camaraderie in the band—ties linking lineages along the songs' lilting passages—that makes their sound so beguiling. Gena and Christian are married with a child. And the three remaining members (the Woodys) are all siblings. Together, it's one family, and it's that bond that grounds their music and process.

“We all sort of write the songs,” Mauro says. “How it works, usually, is that one person will come in with an idea or some lyrics, and then everyone else just kind of puts their own spin on it until we have a complete song. Like this next one,” Mauro takes a drag off her cigarette, as the rest of the band is inside trying to figure out the chord progression for a new tune, “on this new one the lyrics are by Gena. But we all just sort of add to it, you know?”

After Mauro goes back inside—and Brahm and Lawson stand in front of each other, trying to match the bass pitch with that of the guitar—the band decides to give the tune a shot. The song is catchy, slower than when they were outlining its various chords. It's an atmospheric tune; Gena’s vocals echo through the room, her small frame loosens itself, getting lost in the beat, the cadences of everyone's instruments come together. Then the song is over.

“Whatever that was, I liked it,” Mauro says.

“I know,” Gena replies. “It was a little off toward the end, but it sounded cool.”

“Yeah, the sound was murky and weird at the end,” Christian agrees.

After two hours of playing, the band is still not quite satisfied. “I think we need to do another practice before the show,” Brahm says. The band has five days to make sure that all of their songs are ready for a gig at Burt's Tiki Lounge the following Friday. Gena and Christian need a sitter for their child; Mauro needs to get off from work. And it dawns on me that these are real people with real lives. We often forget that when we see bands play live, as we're entertained and dumbfounded. But these songs don't just come out of nowhere. They're practiced, toiled over and perfected. The band agrees to an early practice on Friday afternoon, prior to their show.

After Christian and Gena leave, Mauro, Dhaveed, Brahm and I have a cigarette outside while I wait for my Uber to pick me up. The clouds are growing thicker, their color changing to a dull gray that indicates rain is coming. We shoot the shit about “Frasier,” and Brahm inadequately reasons Kelsey Grammer dressing as a baby in an episode, but we laugh as he tries his best to explain. Soon my ride is there, and the rain comes. As I'm driven away, a small part of me wonders if they called the deluge forth. Does their sound have that kind of power? Shit, I'd believe it.