Circuit des Yeux :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Reaching for Indigo, the fifth lp by Haley Fohr's Circuit des Yeux, begins with a cataclysmic break, a complete shift from one state of being into another. "Brainshift, came like a tidal wave," Fohr sings, her deep, rich voice hovering over a muted organ. The imagery is overpowering, like a submersion in deep water. Inspired by a profound moment of recognition, the album represents a giant step forward for the Chicago singer and composer.

Fohr's distinct voice has brought an exquisite flavor to a number of records this year -- including Mind of Mirrors' Undying Color and Six Organs of Admittance's Burning The Threshhold -- but Reaching for Indigo is most indicative of the fullness of her vision. Recorded with Cooper Crain of Bitchin' Bajas, the album trades in spectral folk, overlapping minimalism, and haunted psychedelia. Masterfully, Fohr uses each sonic element, from synth drones to layered acoustic guitars, to accentuate the emotional timbre of her singular voice.

"I really use chaos and chance a lot in my composition," Fohr explains over the phone. "I’m learning to be more communicative with my work. It definitely needs to convey what I’m feeling; the feeling has to translate, it's the thing I’m most concerned about."

Here, Fohr explains where the album came from, detailing how the writing of neurologist Oliver Sacks and socioeconomics influenced her approach. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Aquarium Drunkard:  The title Reaching for Indigo references a specific moment in your life. Do you care to talk about that experience?

Haley Fohr: It was kind of a spiritual awakening, for lack of a better term. I mean, I’m not religious or anything [but] music has led the way this last decade in my life. There have been a lot of challenges and obstacles. A lot of times they manifest in a dark way and it becomes this do-or-die situation. But what happened to me on January 22nd, 2016 came from within me. It was a moment of clarity. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but I have to wonder -- 'cause I'd been touring constantly for the last four or five years -- if I was subconsciously searching for something. I was with a close friend, convulsing, and something clicked in me. I knew what I had to do. I pretty much isolated myself for a couple of months and wrote the songs that you hear on this record. I sat with myself and gave myself some space and things really started to coalesce in this really bizarre way.

AD: What triggered this event?

Haley Fohr: That’s the thing. It just came out of nowhere. It really felt like it came from intuition. It wasn’t brought on by an outside force; it was just within me. It was really late at night and I just started crying. I felt like I needed to do something. I was so afraid. At the time, I was dating a guy. I broke up with him. I was living with all these musicians and I just flew the coop.

AD: How did the people around you react?

Haley Fohr: I don’t know that anyone understood the logic behind it besides myself [but] I listened to myself and I was deeply rewarded. As an artist, when something really personal happens to you, you want to celebrate it and try to translate it in a universal way. A few months prior to working on these songs, Oliver Sacks had passed away. Towards the end of his life, he was sharing personal antidotes. One of them was about the color indigo and how it's scientifically undefined. Each color has a frequency, just as every music note has a frequency, but people have never come to terms on a unified frequency for indigo. The story that Oliver tells is one of taking a bunch of psychedelics and this cocktail of pills. [He envisioned indigo]...and said it was the most beautiful color he’d ever seen. Then it was gone and he never saw it again. I thought it was such a beautiful story about humanity and these undefined abstract things we find for worship throughout our culture. This moment, beyond definition, came to him and lived within him and then it was gone. For me, it was a really positive notion. Why else would you trudge through these day-to-day obstacles or existential crises? I mean that’s the point: reaching for something you’ll never reach.

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