Chanel Beads Forages A Dream

Shane Lavers on his musical act, approach to sound, and the new album, 'Your Day Will Come.'


On one of those gray downpour days in New York, I’m set to meet Shane Lavers, the mind behind the neoclassical avant-rock project Chanel Beads. I get a text from him: “No electricity” and then “Here.” He and his longtime collaborator/bandmate Maya McGrory, aka Colle, have just been handed the keys to a third-floor walkup in Greenpoint. “Thought it might have been turned on by now.” In the hazy, somnambulist world the new Chanel Beads album invokes, an empty, unlit, parquet-floored railroad apartment sets the scene improbably well. His new album, Your Day Will Come, out April 19 on Jagjaguwar, starts with “Dedicated To The World,” which has the lyrics: “It’s happening / Saw it in a dream / I saw it all end / For you / Is it gonna rain again.” At this moment, it seems the rain will never stop.

Chanel Beads does not have many immediate spiritual antecedents–maybe if James Ferraro had left New York for Vienna, or Alan Vega had been friendlier with Arthur Russell–but this moody day recalls the lyrical structure and production approach of “After the Flood,” the opening track on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. Shane’s in a sweater vest, talking into a yellow rotary phone connected to nothing. “I think I have a limited palette, as far as melodies and emotions go,” he says. “It’s the same feeling that comes out in different songs.” Your Day Will Come sounds like it could be one long suite, one exploration of a persistent idea. “I don’t think I’ve fully exercised the idea that I’m exploring here,” Shane says.

Within that unity of the project, there are not many contemporaries similar to Chanel Beads — the androgynous vocals, punchy percussion samples, occasional Moby-esque groove, slappy bass, “fake jazz,” all twisted into an atmosphere that exalts absence as much as overabundance. Shane thinks the lack of ambient innovation comes from imitation: “I feel like there are a lot of people who approach music like, okay, now it’s my turn,” he muses. He’s changing clothes in his otherwise empty bedroom, singing the song “Radiation” by LUCY quietly to himself. “It’s been stuck in my head lately,” he says. Then, for a few moments, the only sound is the heavy, steady drip of a leak in the hallway. A while later, Shane plays the crooning Scott Walker classic “It’s Raining Today” off of his phone.

Your Day Will Come has few “songs,” in the structural sense while managing to have incredibly sticky moments. “I only really started writing lyrics a year ago. Now, I’m obsessed with lyrics,” he says. A few of the more permanent couplets on the record: "You owe it to yourself/ Gotta believe in something else" from the confounding “Police Scanner;” "Man up on the cross/ Write up from your boss" from “Unifying Thought.” Utterly charming while also discreet, he’d rather not say where he still keeps a day job so that he might keep the obsessive touring Chanel Beads does under wraps–he’s had write-ups from his boss, of course, “especially back in the day.” What day that refers to, I’m not sure–his 30th birthday was a few days before we met.

Maya comes up the stairs with an assortment of fresh fruits and lays the spread out in the otherwise empty kitchen. “You’ve still got a bit of a smirk,” she tells Shane as the camera whirls. He replies: “You need to get out of my sightline.” Shane and Maya met through the Seattle DIY scene. Each lived at a house venue, called Hot Yoga and Space Bar, respectively, in each other’s orbits. He says he was “doing nothing” out there. “I was toiling in music, making moves silently, in Seattle.” They moved together shortly a couple of years ago, for no strong reason. “I didn’t really know much about what was going on in New York,” he says. “Some people joke, ‘So you just move to New York, and you just get a record deal?’ I guess so.”

Chanel Beads’ live shows can be unpredictable, improvisational, and confrontational. The record and the performance came together in the same subterfuge, as Shane decided how little he cared for a full-band setup. “Early on, virtually the entire show was Maya just pushing play on Ableton, and us kind of pacing the stage, kind of mugging the crowd,” he says. Shane and Maya are joined live by electric violin player Zachary Paul, who also appears on the record, though Shane handles most of the recordings solo. “It’s not super collaborative, but it’s really informed and aided by Maya and Zach.”

Your Day Will Come feels like a memory of a memory, an infinitely receding horizon of recollection, rendered through a bit-crushed haze. Walking in the rain in a long trench coat later, Shane explains the transformation from memory and matter to composition: “In a song, there’s tons of context that doesn’t make it. If the lyrics are one page long, there are five pages that were cut.” Shane creates a dream-logic narrative by ambiguity, a pre-lingual feeling that exists between the concrete and the abstract, a simultaneous timelessness and specificity with no real determination. “When you’re speaking to yourself,” he says, “you know the narrative without language because it’s just in your own mind palace.”

Despite all this technicolor enigma, there’s a universal quality to Chanel Beads. One thing present for certain is the inescapable experience of grief and loss. “I’ve got a lot to say and a lot not to say about that,” Shane says. We’ll leave the rest unsaid for now–your day will come.

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