Circuit Des Yeux is singer songwriter Haley Fohr. Fohr recorded her most recent record Overdue in a studio that she built, along with Caveâ€™s Cooper Crain, on Chicago’s South side. Our friend Ryan Muldoon at Revolt of the Apes has compiled a list of 10 questions for Circuit Des Yeux in anticipation of her APF 2014 performance.
What was your very first experience performing music live and what element of that experience was most surprising to you â€“ either in a positive or a negative way? What bands or artists persuaded you directly or indirectly to start creating your own music? How do you think your concept of yourself as a musician or artist has evolved since beginning Circuit Des Yeux?
When I was a senior in highschool, my boyfriend at the time was in a band. It was the summer of 2007, and my boyfriend’s band, Katie Leming, Drew Davis, and my friend Kevin Failure of Pink Reason were all kind of hanging out at one particular house. My friend’s parents had left town for like 3 months so people were literally just hanging out there all time, basically wrecking the place. Anyway, my good friend Katie was walking up to the house. It was after her first day on the job at a bank and she was really looking terrible. Come to find out she was robbed at gun point! She was robbed at gunpoint…on the first day of the job! My boyfriend’s band had a set up downstairs for practicing and had all of their instruments plugged in. Katie wrote this really beautiful poem about a cavity she had and we went downstairs and just jammed. She played the drums and yelled out her poem, and I took a beer bottle and rubbed it against a guitar. Drew & Kevin booked us a show for the next night at this really shady sports bar, so we came up with a name, and the next night we played our first show. I didn’t know how to play the guitar, Katie didn’t know how to play the drums, we played to about 10 people and it was fucking awesome. I couldn’t believe how great it felt. I loved it, I felt impowered, and I never went back. I have to thank the people who forced that really surreal event to take place. Eventually the band fell off and I began solo work. The work that Katie and I did together laid an exploratory foundation for the way I approach music. I think I’m much more grounded and refined now, but my music is still based on a feeling, and emotional obstacles.
How do you think your upbringing or adolescence contributed to your developing an interest in music? Do you think of making music as your initial artistic ambition, for lack of a better phrase, or did music follow experiments in other fields? Can you think of one album or artist that you heard in your youth, but did not connect to emotionally until later in life? How did your impression of that work change over time?
I was interested in singing immediately. I have to thank the public school system for things like general music, and 1st grade choir. It wasn’t until high school that I started to find my own taste. Lafayette is a small insular town, which can be a challenge, but I was lucky to find a group of people who were interested in educating someone younger like myself. There was this gay bar that a few friends would hold shows. It was like a secret leak, slowly seeping music culture through this gay bar. Music has always been my artistic form. There are a lot of records that I have easily dismissed, then learned to love later. I remember buying Wipers “Youth of America” when I was in highschool. I was really into the No Wave scene, and I overheard in conversation about how Wipers were really young and punk. I put it on, and thought “This is the softest shit!” I think I wanted The Urinals, or some 2 chord nonsense. It wasn’t until like 4 years later I found it again, threw it on, and I really grabbed on. That’s the great thing about music, its perception is largely determined on the listener.
Do you have any expectations or goals for what you hope an audience might translate from your sound when seeing Circuit Des Yeux play live? What types of things do you like to experience yourself when watching live music?
I enjoy honesty and singular personalities when watching a performer. I think I’m more into artists, not entertainers. Someone who goes on stage and switches into a realm that is larger than themselves. I’m not into the flashing lights, smoke machines, and glitter outfits. So don’t expect any of those! I guess I’d like the audience to believe in whatever it is I chose to do. And empowerment. After watching a great set I always feel empowered.
We have to admit to being more than a little obsessed with the song â€œAcarinaâ€ from your third full-length, â€œOverdueâ€ (and if you want to know the truth â€“ weâ€™re more than a little obsessed with the album as a whole). Itâ€™s perhaps not uncommon for us to hear music described as being â€œhauntingâ€ â€“ but this is a song that we find truly, truly, harrowingly haunting, if not downright haunted, and definitely moving in ways that are difficult to put into words. What can you tell us about the origin of this song?
I’m sorry, I can’t talk about what it is about specifically. All of my songs come from personal static events, and I’m too embarrassed to say. Although, Acarina was largely an improvisational recording. It was a great feeling, recording that song. It’s also my favorite to perform live. I’m really glad “Acarina” is your favorite song. I think I’ve just admitted that it’s my favorite, too.
One of the many things that weâ€™ve found easy to love about your album â€œOverdueâ€ is â€“ for lack of a better description â€“ how natural it sounds. This doesnâ€™t come from the perspective on the technical side of the recording (of which we know less than most forgotten) but from the emotive and expressive point of view â€“ the songs sound incredibly human to us, full of life, longing, suffering, never sounding fussed over or â€œby the numbers.â€ Was there a specific desire for what you wanted this album to sound like, or for how you hoped it would be experienced? Or did the album come together in something more organically?
I built my own ethos of recording while first starting CdY. I can’t stand the way radio sounds today. It sounds like a bunch of soulless robots. I’ve always tried to keep a human quality with Circuit des Yeux, where I am inviting towards errors, and work with what I have, instead of building or creating a sound through a computer. I like the way Lee Hazelwood sounds, not Robbin Thicke, you know? As far as emotionally, I don’t think this human quality you speak of is something I’m consciously thinking about when recording. Recording and writing is a tough act for me because it comes in waves. I don’t know why, but I write best when there is an obstacle to overcome. I think I lived a lot of living in 2012/2013 and the writing came quickly. I’m glad that the emotiveness comes across as true. Looking back, I think that “Overdue” really was a true act of desperation.
The cover of â€œOverdueâ€ is striking as well â€“ what is the origin of the layout and look? Once upon a time, putting song titles on the front of an albumâ€™s cover was the norm; today, not so common. How important are the aesthetic decisions that you must make as a part of the existence of Circuit Des Yeux?
The layout comes from an old overdue bill, the carbon copy kind from the 1960’s. Aesthetics is very closely intertwined with my vision as CdY. It’s all an equal part of the art; the type, the cover, the sequencing, the recording. Tim Breen helped me design the cover. He also helped hand screen each and every one of them. They are beautiful.
Have you heard of Austin Psych Fest before? Are there any bands you are looking forward to seeing?
Yes! I am really looking forward to seeing Steve Gunn, Indian Jewelry, Loop, Acid Mothers Temple, Barn Owl, The Young, and a bunch of other bands that you have so graciously curated.
What music have you been listening to lately? Are they any artists from Chicago or beyond that you’d like to recommend? If push comes to shove, who is your favorite guitar player of all time and why?
Bitchin’ Bajas, Chem Trails, Ryley Walker, ADT are my favorite local bands right now. My favorite guitar player is Takashi Mizutani of Les Rellizes Denudes. I’ve been listening to David Lee Jr.’s “Evolution” nonstop lately.
Saint Augustine of Hippo â€“ a big fan of Link Wray, from what we hear â€“ wrote the following:
â€œOne goes abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.â€
I guess we’ve got to give ourselves another thought?
Whatâ€™s next for Circuit Des Yeux?
I’m recording and touring for the rest of my life until infinity and beyond (get in touch).
Catch Circuit Des Yeux at APF 2014 May 2 – 4. Tickets and camping passes are available for purchase HERE.