At just 22 years old, Indianaâ€™s Haley Fohr has already undergone the sort of transformation that scarcely strikes musicians two or three times her age. The release this year of Portrait, her third solo album as Circuit des Yeux (in addition to two EP releases â€” all on the long-running Minneapolis art-rock label De Stijl), reveals a singer-songwriter with the incredibly rare power of immediate communication. You can compare her to others whoâ€™ve come before â€” even names ranging from Abbey Lincoln to Bob Dylan and (the curse of every recent singer who happens to be female) Cat Powerâ€™s Chan Marshall â€” but only in that Fohr shares their unmistakeable and arresting ability to connect the personal with the universal. Like a bolt, she makes listeners understand exactly where sheâ€™s coming from, and where they stand in relation, and what it all means. Clearly, as a musician, Fohr is an artist in full, and as an artist, she is constantly in motion.
We know this in part because the road that led her to this place is hardly uncommon: After studying classical music as a kid, she became drawn to the guitar as a teenager, and studied it on her own even as she took lessons in voice. From there, in quick succession (like everything else for Circuit des Yeux), Fohr was seduced by the two musical movements that bookend Americaâ€™s 20th century: the blues and punk rock. Itâ€™s testament to her creative growth that sheâ€™s built Circuit des Yeuxâ€™s music on the lessons of both, without resembling either. In her songs, Fohr accesses the core of the blues, channeling currents of pain and awareness through punkâ€™s transits of honesty and directness with her deep, multihued voice and unwavering expression. Itâ€™s this emotionally charged, sui generis presence that led Vogue Paris, in the wake of Circuit des Yeuxâ€™s European tour earlier this year, to declare that Fohr â€œsings as if she had lived a thousand lives, intense and tender at once.â€
Remarkably, even as her work as Circuit des Yeux has progressed rapidly, Fohr has moved toward dual degrees at Indiana University, though in light of her music it might not be surprising to learn sheâ€™ll graduate this year with degrees in Ethnomusicology and Recording Arts. A veteran of international touring as well as the recording studio, and having easily navigated academia â€” both institutional and that inherited from artists who came before â€” Circuit des Yeux is prepared to write her next chapter.