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Inside the Elusive Pop of Chanel Beads

Web Of Influences

Talking with frontman Shane Lavers about the influences that shape his work.

By editorial


Chanel Beads play an elusive kind of pop. On their new record, Your Day Will Come, the band led by Shane Lavers throws down a variety of techniques, both organic and synthetic, in service of songs that sound smooth but also a little wonky. Picture Donald Fagen wandering around a mostly-deserted mall, listening to something with a bad bitrate on his Microsoft Zune. “Embarrassed Dog” combines DX7-ish slap bass with a breakbeat. The suave catchiness of “Police Scanner” is interrupted by a disembodied British-accented voice flatly starting the song’s title. There are real strings and fake strings. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Lavers’ influences stretch far outside of the contemporary indie realm. From DIY to DMX, the artist has been poking through recent musical history in an attempt to find some space to call his own. We talked to Lavers, who spent his youth in the suburbs of Minnesota before moving to Seattle and finally landing in the Big Apple, about some of his influences, both past and present. Your Day Will Come, which also features contributions from singer Maya McGrory and violinist Zachary Paul, is out now on Jagjaguwar.

Is there any music you can remember making a big impression on you as a pre-teen? 

Shane Lavers: “Go To Sleep” by Eminem and DMX was the first time I remember just putting a song on repeat for like an hour. I think it was on a burned CD my brother had, or made. That’s earlier than pre-teen, but the sound effects and drama of that song really impacted me. And looping it so it became like a lullaby instead of a threat, “go to sleep bitch.” I love those moments when songs become unique private experiences. But proper pre-teen years, Guitar Hero introduced me to The Strokes, and then I heard the first Velvet Underground record in like 7th grade. Started being a different kind of annoying right then.

Can you recall your first brushes with subculture? 

There was an amazing library in my neighborhood, like a twenty-minute bike ride. It was full of these indoor plants and crazy water features. I would go there and just Google words like “punk” or “anarchy” or “suicide” and read the Wikipedia articles and rent terrible books. That's how I first heard the Alan Vega stuff, also how I heard slowcore stuff pretty young, because I thought the term bedhead was cool and looked it up on iTunes. All of this was kind of isolating. Doing drugs helped find people to break that isolation, though.

At one point, you worked at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. Did that experience influence your songwriting in any way?

Yeah, my job was to fulfill mail orders in a big warehouse. It gave me access to a really extensive audiobook library, and I listened to a lot of books about design and architecture, art movements and approaches to music. But audiobooks kind of evaporate in my brain really quickly, so I'm bad at recalling what I've learned from them. I think it helped give me a lot of time to reflect on what approach I wanted to take. I would record long voice memo improvs and try to write to them at work. It kinda burnt me out on listening to music because it was that or audiobooks, so whenever I would find something that I really liked I would get obsessed and loop it in my headphones at work. Might be why I write short songs, because I play stuff on repeat a lot.

Who was the first person to personally validate you as a songwriter?

This is a hard question, I think if I reflected enough to answer I would cry and I don’t have time for that these days…

Do you feel like you’re a part of a larger community in New York right now?

Yeah, I feel like some people have really taken us in and helped us out so much I can’t believe it. But people have a really weird way of defining community, in the press or online or whatever. I’m not interested in being involved in any discourse around scenes, or characters. I think I have a natural antipathy to being described, though, so I’m trying to zen out a bit about this stuff. I haven’t thrown many shows or organized stuff in New York so far, just tried to play as many fun shows as we are asked. I should be putting more people on… But I love to talk to people at a bar and I think the people I’ve met here are making insane, good stuff. It would be crazy to think you’re an island. Only thing is I’m bad at remembering names but I’m also bad at faces. I’m bad at remembering what I thought or said, too. I’m like the Memento guy riding the J train.

Are there any scenes that you don’t personally feel like you are a part of, but still inspire you creatively?

I’m not sure. I’m kind of guarded about collaborating and there’s so much good music. Zach showed me the Dark World stuff a few years ago and I find myself pulling up those videos. Gods Wisdom, Colle and I made a few songs a while ago, though—gotta put them out. I’m obsessed with Grupo Frontera. I like to be inspired by stuff really outside of me, things I wouldn’t or couldn’t make. Dance music and proper DJs, I think I revere that stuff too much to approach it.

Could you talk about your history with sampling, and how that has influenced how you make music over the years?

As a kid I was obsessed with the SP-404 and when I finally got one I was always frustrated realizing I sucked at flipping stuff and finding cool crate digging stuff. I just couldn’t get things to stay in time. So I went really ambient and abstract and then stopped sampling for a while. Now I resample myself so much. I abandon songs and ideas really easily, so sampling unfinished stuff is a great way to not start from a blank page. Looking up a random BPM on YouTube and sorting by recently uploaded is a good way to stay fresh.

Do you have a wish list of people you would like to collaborate with?

No, I should start one. I like when there's an unexpected collab. Wasn’t on my bingo card type of shit. Hometown dream would be Paul Westerberg. Everything he’s done since The Replacements seems amazing and I'm inspired by his approach. “Dice Behind Your Shades” is a favorite song.

Tell us about some non-musical influences.

Cooking is really humbling. Ignoring everything and just doing whatever feels right is great until you start cooking for others or trying to make sure you don’t rot your teeth out. I’m into watching Norm Macdonald clips on YouTube. This novel The Third Lie by Ágota Kristóf changed how I interact with narrative, but you got to read the whole trilogy.

I heard a story about John Cassavetes fucking with Lee Strasberg that really inspired me, improvising a scene to prove Strasberg’s method acting style was full of shit. But also it freaked me out a bit, I’m worried about humiliation being too important for how people define the boundaries of what they think. Trying to be inspired by both of those dudes, being humiliated hopefully can inspire something really compelling. Grave humiliation. I need to conquer that in myself. 

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