Haley Fohr has a way without words. Within the arc of a single song, the 28-year-old Pilsen singer, who performs as Circuit Des Yeux (which roughly translates to “circuit of the eye,” a metaphor, she says, for music being her true window to the world), can manipulate her alto from a haunting drone to an eerie warble to a full-blown howl. “It’s like having a vocabulary,” she says. “I feel more comfortable singing than speaking.”
If lyricism is her language, then Fohr has a lot to say on Reaching for Indigo, her fifth album and first on the heavy-hitter indie label Drag City. In “Brainshift,” the melancholy opening track, Fohr showcases her knack for infectious melody, while in “Paper Bag” she layers her voice to create a buoyant percussive undercurrent to the song’s Afropop-influenced sound.
Experimentation has always been part of Fohr’s process. Growing up in the small northwestern Indiana town of Lafayette, she was drawn to strange, discordant music, particularly the kind she heard on Clint Simonson’s Minneapolis label De Stijl. Fohr and Simonson struck up a long-distance friendship when Fohr was 16. She would share her songs with him, and in turn, the indie veteran would encourage her to be bolder and more provocative with her work. “He really educated me on how far you can go with music,” says Fohr.
She hasn’t lost her taste for the avant-garde. She often shrouds her face with her long hair onstage, rarely signs deals with record labels (Fohr sold Reaching for Indigo as a finished product to Drag City), and revels in creating polarizing music. “I’m trying to pave my own language,” she says, “and that means hitting the beautiful parts and the not-so-beautiful ones too.”