Chanel Beads

The Feeling Remains

What is a feeling? neither us nor Shane Lavers from Chanel Beads might have a correct answer for it. That being said, NR spoke with him about navigating fleeting emotions through music, internal contradictions, and what drove —and bothered— him one week prior the NYC band’s debut album Your Day Will Come would see the light.

Hi Shane, how’s it going?

I just woke up, I’m in the middle of moving, so it’s been.. chaotic, but I am good!

And, most importantly, your first LP is on the way! How do you feel? How have the last weeks leading up to it been?

Yeah, it definitely feels like something new, but I try not to have any expectations, really. And then everything’s a happy surprise.

I’ve known about your work since fairly recently, actually. I’ve gotta come clean. I listened to your music for the first time in Paris, around November.

You were at the Bagnolet show, right?

Attending that show was a great moment for me, as it had been more than a couple of months since seeing someone play live –I came there being so curious about the whole thing..Your setup, and the way you guys performed felt refreshingly different. One thing I am wondering ,now that things are maybe starting to change, is about the shift from smaller, intimate venues to larger ones, like the recent gig you did at SXSW. What I loved about your show was its intimacy, and maybe some of it might be lost in bigger settings. How do you feel about this potential change in how your music is experienced? Are you adapting to it?

Settings like SXSW are complicated –We played a couple of outdoor daytime shows, and that’s just not a great fit, at least for what I’m trying to do. That show you just mentioned, if i’m not mistaken, the place was almost a gallery or a studio, it didn’t have a stage, but was still loud enough: That felt like an ideal place to perform. I’m uncertain about adjusting to formats where there’s a significant distance between me and the audience. Most of the live performances I’ve done are just kind of this weird act. It’s not acting per se, but it’s a really naked moment –Me trying to embody my music really plainly, really close to people. So yeah, I’m kind of nervous, and I don’t really know what to do if there’s like a gate and, you know, 20 feet between me and people. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge.

You maybe lose that conversational element that your music possesses.The Bagnolet show was the first time ever I listened to your music –I didn’t know anything about your work prior to that. A friend invited me to the show telling me it would be a good one so I decided to go in blindly, without listening to anything beforehand. I just wanted to be surprised by something new. Maybe that’s why I perceive this presence of a conversation between you and your listener, and that is something that an intimate live experience embodies better. Do you consider the relationship between your music and its audience, allowing space for their interpretation alongside your own narrative? Or do you primarily focus on expressing your own story, regardless of the presence of a stage or audience?

It’s kind of complicated. I mean, it’s definitely closer to the latter. It is always a bad idea to try to imagine what other people are thinking, and that is sometimes because you can never really picture a stranger’s mind. I don’t purposefully try to not-think of what other people will think, and I feel very lucky at the moment because that kind of distinction doesn’t even cross my mind because I am too focused on myself as the listener, or trying to have a conversation with myself.

It feels very insular, though, and sometimes after a songs’ made, I’ll kind of notice that I think that I’ve written something very specific and detailed, but then I am like “wait, there’s only like four or five lines in this song and not that much of a context for them.” Even I may not fully know what the song is about as it shifts as you write it. However, as long as it means something to me, I’m happy, I am excited. 

Your songs often present two distinct voices or perspectives, a sense of internal conflict or contradiction. This duality seems particularly pronounced in some of the songs from your upcoming record, especially now that yours and Colleen’s singing alternate and layer more substantially, perhaps reflecting this conversation or dialogue within yourself you just mentioned. I had a question in that sense, but I guess you’ve already touched on this aspect, acknowledging the presence of two voices conversing or two parts of yourself engaged in dialogue –An interplay between different perspectives allowing abstract feelings to resurface and attempting to give them tangible expression.

Yeah. Context always changes in what I write, but it’s almost like..the feeling remains the same, there’s a consistency of an emotion lingering through and through. It’s akin to moving from one scene to another, seemingly unrelated, yet still connected by a common thread despite the shifting of time and space.

Without the need of a specificity.

Yeah. [pauses] The feeling remains.

It’s intriguing how your composition process seems to mirror this idea. I’ve noticed a very distinct style, and sound, in your music, even from the first time I encountered it. Despite this being your debut LP, your consistent approach to composing and shaping sonic palettes over the years has been evident. Was this new record an opportunity to crystallise and refine that style further, or was you just going for an experimental take on longer narrative possibilities or a more cohesive output of material?

It’s both of those things really, it kinda just felt like, “Okay, now I’ve got an album.” But I definitely was trying to match an emotional and lyrical sentiment with the sonics. I always felt kind of frustrated with the way I composed in the past and I know that a lot of musicians or artists might feel like they’re aspiring to something, but they’re kind of stuck making something else. It’s kind of a cliche, so I try not to think about it too much, like the one of sitting down with the guitar and then getting really into it, making beats or something like that. I think such things are kind of boring, and self mythologizing in a weird way.

Industry tricks 101: The creative journey’s sentimentalisation..

I’ve been talking about this with friends a lot. I felt really free with this project, I finally was able to let the floodgates open and release stuff because I felt in a position where I’m not interested in distinctions anymore, and whatever i do is just gonna exist as it is and I’m not gonna give a shit If people think it’s rock music, electronic music, or whatever. I’ve been having interviews where people keep asking me about Coffee Culture, because it’s kind of the record’s outliner, but I actually feel like I make more music similar to it than, let’s say, Police Scanner. And I guess this kind of feels like a cliche too –To be like “Fuck the listener, I don’t even care about the listener.” But yeah, I didn’t really like thinking about distinctions like “who’s listening to it? Am I listening to it or is someone else listening to it,” I am kind of practicing ignorance almost as a virtue, lately, in that regard. [laughs] 

Have you been putting things out because you just finally felt really like it?

Yeah. And I try to stay away from distinctions and intellectualising stuff. It’s way more interesting to go back before those lines were drawn.

I get it! Sometimes, as I interview people, it’s almost weird because when I come there, I have all my stuff prepared, questions, notes. I’ve been reading, listening, informing myself on the artists’ work, weaving narratives around and intellectualising it. It all feels a tad funny sometimes, because I think of myself first and foremost as a listener and sometimes I think that maybe I should just focus on enjoying the music and, as you said, it is simpler, and maybe more interesting. How do you feel then when talking about music, your music specifically? 

Well, I think it’s fun to over intellectualise things, I just don’t want to do it to myself. [laughs] It’s flattering to talk about your music with people, but it also feels weird sometimes –And don’t get me wrong, I’m getting good at PR training. If someone asks me a question, I’ll just be like “next question,” if I don’t want to say anything about it– The strange thing with talking about my own music is that, often, the whole point of it is that I’m not able to just talk about the things i want to communicate with it. If I could, just talking about them would have been fine, but because I don’t feel like I can do that via simple words, I resort to music. Whatever you’re trying to express, I feel it has to come out via the best channel you can express it through, so a complicated feeling or a complicated thought can come out with all the nuances it deserves. What I like about the way I’m approaching music is that it allows me to work with stuff that I’m still parsing through –It’s me trying to figure out how I’m feeling, and what I’m thinking or what the world is, in an external and internal way at the same time. 

How long do you feel this record has been growing within you? A part of you may still be processing the themes woven into this record, and while you may have physically composed the record recently, it feels listening to you like its inception and development may have been with you for much longer. 

A lot of what I do, not only with music but with visuals too, I approach it with a “waiting to strike” attitude, kinda like getting really prepared for something that is going to happen so that you can move quickly about it. It’s not improvising. It’s more like operating in real time, that’s why maybe I am so fond of playing live shows. Things always happen quickly and impulsively, but at the same time thought out and prepared. I’m not really interested in super constructed music, but rather in quick bursts that then are shaped from there. I have this kind of motto, “Never let them see you sweat,” which is like..You can think about stuff and prepare it, but ideally you shouldn’t be in control of all the variables, so then you can kind of discover new stuff in that moment. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s a complicated answer to give you, because I wrote the album pretty quickly, but there’s one song on it called Urn that I wrote, like in 2018, and it kind of came out way different when I finally recorded it again, so timelines are, let’s say, variable.

Like with Idea June, you released two different versions, very similar in their underlining, both songs’ sentiment feels the same, but they still are very different, maybe two sides of the same narration? It’s interesting that you decided to release both. The bit about not wanting the artifice behind things to be seen really resonated with me. When I saw you live, it, electronic maybe, in a way. Your setup was hybrid, a computer playing the record and you playing over it, singing over it and adding vocal and sonic layers to it..but it felt very different from listening to the record versions of your tracks, because you don’t just execute the song, i feel it varies from set to set and is closer to what you said about doing the prep in order to be ready to change things on the fly.

Zach and Maya make their own guitar parts, and we just play the whole song front to back, they improvise a little but usually just once, and we get stuff like 90% locked in. As we refine it, especially during tour runs, it becomes less about improvisation and more about solidifying the structure. Still, there’s always this sense of recreating the song each time we perform it, even though the tracks remain consistent. It’s like discovering how the song should function anew with each rendition. Also, we’re not the type of band that heavily engages with the audience too much, like I’m not trying to crack jokes too much, which is what I do when I get nervous. I tend to funnel any nervous energy into the performance itself, though it’s more of an internal dynamic rather than trying to rile up the crowd. The live show is crucial because it feels like an ongoing dialogue with the audience about the sound and atmosphere of the music. We’ve encountered various venues with unique setups, like a show in Seattle held in an old drugstore, where our sound ended up heavily distorted due to the setup. It was mostly just kind of like shoegaze and punk bands playing, technically, like a festival –You just weren’t supposed to hear the vocals anyway, so they had a setup that was really not ideal for what we usually do. Rather than fighting against it, we embraced the challenge and improvised, adapting to the space on the spot. There was no respect or adherence to how the songs sounded initially, we just blasted the sound, fully screamed our lungs out and got over it, using it to our advantage. It’d be such a nightmare to just try to be like “Oh, this is not supposed to sound like this,” and fight with that. It’s way more interesting and compelling to just try to adapt to the room on the spot.

Are you aiming to maintain the same approach when performing in more standardised venues or supporting bands like Mount Kimbie? It’s a different dynamic, with different expectations and preparations for the show. How do you plan to stay true to your style and maintain some level of absence-of-control in these more controlled environments? It’s an essential aspect of what you do. Initially, when I saw you play, I found myself wishing for a full band and a more elaborate, proper, setup. But as I became more familiar with your work, I began to appreciate your approach to live music more and more. It really started to make sense and felt refreshing, new. How do you plan to maintain this chaos-theory approach to live music as your career progresses?

Our current approach is highly adaptable and, despite occasional suggestions to add a drummer –mostly from drummers themselves –I’m intrigued by its current possibilities. I’m not focused on delivering what people expect, so I’m not inclined to follow traditional paths. Mount Kimbie are an amazing band, they’re fantastic musicians, but as for myself, I’m currently not interested in playing an instrument onstage. Singing without any other responsibilities allows me to fully immerse myself in the moment, embracing any awkwardness that may arise. I’m just going to go with it and enjoy the experience.

Fuck it we ball.

It’s nice talking about the live shows and setup so much in this interview because it really provides a lot of the backstory behind our process. Most of the songs were written specifically for the way we play live right now –So many of the songs have multiple layers of singing in them because I got really into melodics and rhythmics that are fun to reproduce and alter during a live show. It’s compelling when we’re like in SXSW, a real, proper capital-R Rock festival..we’re in the belly of the beast, the beast being people telling us we need a drummer and stuff like that, but we still come out and do the show regardless and win people over.

It can be a great selling point, you have your way of doing things, that’s what won me over anyways. If you get, you get. If you don’t, you don’t. I think you don’t need a drummer, personally..for all that matters. [Laughs] A slight detour towards intellectualization: What served as the primary inspiration or driving force behind this record? Was it a specific narrative or theme you wanted to explore through your writing, or were you more focused on crafting a particular sonic palette and incorporating specific musical elements? 

It’s definitely about the sound. While I was writing the lyrics, I did worry that I might end up with similar songs. Ideally, they all serve as cohesive glue, but I understand if someone were to criticize that aspect. When I begin a song, it’s usually because I have a particular sound or energy in mind. Then, I sit down and think about what’s been bothering me.

What has been bothering you?

I often think of the inability of things, or maybe myself, to change. I’m kind of in a pessimistic era these days. I mean everybody is, so..

It’s not like the world is in a great state, pessimism makes perfect sense. But your record still feels full of hope, in a way. It has mixed feelings and even tender undertones at its core –Like being very pessimistic about certain things, but still hoping to be wrong about it.

Well, I think there’s freedom in acknowledging how fucked things are, because then you are not deluded, but then you don’t wanna delude yourself about thinking that you are more fucked than you actually are. That’s maybe the real frustration for me..trying to find a point that feels good enough between these two extremes. 

Maybe, life is just a pendulum swinging between deluding yourself and bringing yourself back towards a sense of reality. Chanel Beads’ take on Schopenhauer’s pendulum.

I guess we’ll find out.


Photography, Art Direction and Styling · Jack Pekarsky
Featured Artworks · Michal Alpern
Special thanks to Matthew Fogg and Olivia Larson.

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