Interview: Circuit Des Yeux

I slipped into Reaching For Indigo quickly. So quickly that it unsettled me slightly. Even at its most mellow (the sustained organs and slowed time of “Brainshift”, the descendent fluttering guitars of “Black Fly”), the latest album by Circuit Des Yeux shakes me urgently by the shoulders. After all, the roots of this record reside in a very visceral, epiphanic happening back on January 22nd 2016. And despite the incommunicable intimacy of those experiences that alter the trajectory of life, Haley Fohr’s music manages to transmit the severity of the occasion through to me: the cascading pianos of “Philo” conjure the sensation of reality altering in hue; the sinking string arrangements of “Falling Blonde” trigger the disorientation of beliefs rebalancing themselves.

Below, Haley and I discuss states of nowness, electricity coursing through wires and her ever-changing relationship with the voice. Haley will be on tour across Europe in early 2018. Dates are here.

You’ve mentioned that this album has been living inside you for two years now. What’s it been like to finally share and talk about all of this; not just the music of Reaching For Indigo, but the experiences that brought the album into being?

I constantly feel like I’m miscalculating and unable to predict what will be coming next.  Some days it’s a hard bargain and other days I feel lifted, supported, and suspended by good fortune. I am struggling to keep these moments sacred, although I’m learning that by speaking about them, it is hard to keep them fleshy and real instead of turning into stone, like some emblematic totem.

I’ve seen you describe what happened on 22nd January 2016 in several places. To what extent do you still feel the imprint of this day within your life and yourself?

It is a daily practice of mine, to try to find the perspective and remember what I’ve got and how it’s come into my life.

Given that the concept of the record is derived from something very personal to you, how was the experience of pulling in collaborators to bring this concept into being?

It is always a little tricky and slightly uncomfortable. But I work with people who are very close to me and deeply imbedded in my life. I don’t think I could have created this album with strangers.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing how each record has taken your voice to different places (or vice versa perhaps?). It always feels as though your singing is adapting to the new environment of each new record – new sensations, new emotional responses, new states of being. How has your relationship with the voice changed over the course of doing Circuit des Yeux?

My relationship to my voice is always changing. My primary goal in my vocal practice is expansion. How can I grow and continue to find new worlds inside of myself? The older I get and the longer I sing, the harder that becomes. I find myself obsessing over sustainability and expansion, and how to honour each of those ideas while maintaining balance. That’s where I am at within my own control. But of course the outside world heavily affects my voice as well – the weather, the food that I eat and drink, and my overall stamina.

On that note, I’ve seen you refer to having a daily solo vocal practice. How long have you been doing this, and what does it involve?

My “daily practice” isn’t exactly daily, although I wish it could be so. But the hustle and bustle of life often leave me with no other option. I try as many days of my life as I can to take an hour or more and focus on the fundamentals of my voice, followed by some free improvisational exercises. The fundamental aspect is something I learned as a child – simple things like deep breathing, stretching, scales, and vowel resonance is something that I try to do before every practice, show, and on my own time. It’s pretty simple stuff, but works very well in staying in tune with what I’ve got. The vocal improvisational aspect is newer to me, perhaps only the last year or so. I utilise a couple of pedals and try different exercises depending on that day. Some days I try to sing the same syllable for 30 minutes. Other days I try to sound like a car crash, or electricity coursing through wire. It is all quite simple things, and things that I think anyone can manage to do regardless of resources.

I noticed you referring to one particular solo vocal performance as “25 minutes of trying to stay present and celebrating having a body”. I’ve had my own turbulent relationship with the sentiment of “staying present”, but it’s felt increasingly important to me to try. What does staying present mean to you, and why do you think it’s important to do so?

A lot of my solo vocal improvisations mediate on this idea of free flow, letting go, and honouring a second for what it is – which ultimately means being free in the state of nowness, untethered from anxious thoughts, subliminal messaging, and much of the stimuli that is foisted upon us in the digital age. For me, it is my own personal interpretation of meditation. It gives me clarity and reminds me of our semi permanent nature. The act of singing alone for long periods of time is such a great metaphor to life on earth – having a body and using it to communicate while we have the option, that is an amazing power.

There’s another premise you’ve written about that really resonates with me, and that’s the idea that the album is “pretty much a failure at trying to define something that is totally undefinable”. For me personally, this failure feels like an inevitable terminus for a lot of the creative activities in which I partake, which often feels strangely optimistic and liberating. How does this failure sit with you? Are you contented within it?

I am content with the album and the aftermath of its creation. It’s still a living & breathing thing and I enjoy letting go and allowing other people to breath their own context and life into it. But also, as a creator, I can’t help but always see in hindsight and wish that all of my creations were more perfect, more exact, and because of that, I’ll probably try again.

Is there an environment – place, state of mind, time of day – that feels optimal for the creation of music for you?

In a place that feels like home, draped in velvet curtains, with dim lighting and a couple of plants. I usually have to be alone & I am very much a night owl. Things generally strike once the moon is out.

What records have you been listening to lately?

Sarah Davachi’s All My Circles Run, Pharaoh Sanders’ Tauhid, and every single Robert Wyatt record.

Now that the record is out, what’s on the horizon for you? Do you have any thoughts on where your music might go from here?

I really love touring. I know that many people say it’s the only way artists make money, but I’ve been reinvesting all of my money into this new band and live show because it really is my favourite thing. I guess the grass is always greener, but for right now I’m really itching to travel the world and find new places I’ve never seen. I want to take all my friends there, and try my best to make a connection to new people through my music.

Circuit Des Yeux 2018 Tour:

6/2/2018 at Festival Antigel in Geneva, CH
7/2/2018 at One of a Million Festival in Baden, CH
8/2/2018 at Karlstorbahnhof in Heidelberg, DE
9/2/2018 at Kantine am Berghain in Berlin, DE
10/2/2018 at Vinterjazz in Copenhagen, DK
12/2/2018 at Galerie Vorn und Oben in Eupen, BE
13/2/2018 at ACCA in Brighton, UK
14/2/2018 at The Lexington in London, UK
15/2/2018 at Vooruit in Gent, BE
16/2/2018 at Espace B in Paris, FR
17/2/2018 at Worm in Rotterdam, NL
19/2/2018 at Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, NL
20/2/2018 at Gewolbe in Koln, DE
21/2/2018 at Rotondes in Luxembourg, LU