Chanel Beads' Day Has Come

Chanel Beads' Day Has Come

By Tobias HessApr 19, 2024

"[I want to] communicate an idea in the simplest way I can," Shane Lavers tells me from inside an indoor-outdoor seating structure in Greenpoint. We started our conversation in a nearby park, but a surprising April wind pushed us inside. "If I can make a joke, I'll make a joke. If I can tell you something in a sentence, I’ll tell you something in a sentence. That’s what I like about music: it's the only way I can convey this collapsed, complicated feeling."

Lavers is the force behind Chanel Beads, a genre-expansive music project that captures the fractalized feeling of contemporary life. Somehow both veiled and vulnerable, Lavers’s music and its visual companions can best be described as attempts to both uncover and discover some ineffable truth. On album single Police Scanner, Lavers begins with a dreary affirmation, "You owe it to yourself/ Gotta believe in something else" he sings atop layers of shifty guitar chords and long-held strings. The song, like much of his work, takes on a winding quality, circling itself ad infinitum.

Police Scanner’s "official lyric video" synthesizes Lavers’ visual sensibility. Almost parodying the concept of a "lyric video," he cuts between a fuzzy recording of the song’s lyrics on his computer screen and a blurred assemblage of his own recorded videos: dark performances, spiders in a web, close-ups of a Virgin Mary carved in stone. There’s not a rhyme or reason to the collage, but there is a sense of searching, of contingent understanding. It makes sense then that he talks about making music much like I talk about writing an essay: as a set of questions to pose, challenges to work through. Music, to him, is decidedly not something that’s made with a predetermined agenda.

"[With music], you land on something, and then you problem solve until it's done. It's never aspirational," he says. "It's always like, Damn, I gotta make this work." This practical approach to creation doesn't take away from his work’s deep sense of feeling though. "I'm really influenced by trying to say something that makes me feel a little embarrassed," Lavers tells me. "[I’m interested] in using cliché, like where the cliché almost transcends it because you just so earnestly adopted it." He pauses, before finding an illustrative example. "Like when someone really fucks with Heath Ledger's Joker and makes it their own."

That earnest ethos can be heard through Lavers’s debut album as Chanel Beads' Your Day Will Come, out today via Jagjaguwar. The 9-track project features standout singles like "Embarrassed Dog," a trip hop-inflected rumination that continues Lavers’s grappling with his future selves, and "Idea June,"a quieter plea colored by layers of Lavers high-pitched calls, which add up to a choral haunt. The record also boasts "Coffee Culture," a six-minute ambient piece that would be well suited for a night of contemporary classical performance alongside the likes of Arvo Pärt or Caroline Shaw.

"People keep asking about that song," Lavers laughs when I mention it. After clarifying that I found it bold to include, given that audiences today tend to undercount the immersive experience of listening to albums, Lavers retorts. "I was pretty anti-album," he says. "I was like, What would I do with an album? [But ]once you get some advance money [for an album], it becomes a challenge." Harkening back to my college seminar on Marx, he continues. "It's crazy how material conditions warp your idea of reality."

The challenge, I believe, was successfully faced. Making the album with singer-songwriter Maya McGrory, and experimental instrumentalist Zachary Paul, the collection evokes a sense of deep collective effort. Collaboration is so integral to Lavers’s practice that he’s often shy to define the bounds of just what Chanel Beads is, especially given McGrory’s longstanding creative partnership since their days living in neighboring house venues in Seattle. "It’s a very fluid collaboration. I hate to define [Chanel Beads]. It’s a day-to-day practice." Lavers relents. "But if I had to: Chanel Beads is on my computer, and Colle is on [McGrory’s] computer," he says, referring to McGrory’s similarly shifty, dreamy solo-ish project.

Now, both living in Greenpoint, their projects are expanding, as a new community in New York and online find themselves gravitating to their orbit. And with a respected label that’s launched the likes of Moses Sumney, Angel Olsen and Bon Iver behind them, it seems somewhat destined that Chanel Beads’ day has come. What that day brings, though, is still unfolding.

Photography: Lauren Davis