Discover more from Based in Lafayette, Indiana
Once booted from Lafayette open mic stage, Haley Fohr finds her voice as Circuit Des Yeux
Plus, city council member blasts city’s help in Purdue incentives to lure people to Discovery Park District. The ‘Days Inn killer’ identified. And about the Loeb Stadium parking lot …
A couple of programming notes this morning …
Today’s edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project is sponsored by the Center for C-SPAN Scholarship & Engagement at Purdue. The Center for C-SPAN Conversation with Brian Lamb will feature a conversation with Howard Holzer, Lincoln historian and author, at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 6 at Purdue. For more, scroll through today’s edition.
Next, welcome, again, Tim Brouk, who is taking seriously my challenge to dig up the kind of stories he used to find so often in his days of covering music and culture around here. He takes the lead story in today’s edition. Stick around afterward for a few more things from me. Thanks for reading, and thanks for subscribing.
LAFAYETTE NATIVE FINDS HER VOICE ON INTERNATIONAL STAGE
By Tim Brouk for Based in Lafayette
Evidenced by her critically acclaimed 2021 album, “-io,” music fans have finally caught up to Haley Fohr’s powerful four-octave voice. It only took most of them more than a decade.
Fohr gigged around downtown Lafayette in her teens and early 20s — first as part of the punky duo Cro Magnon and then as a young musician exploring the limits of experimental music.
Back in the ‘00s, some got Fohr’s dissonant solo music, which reverberates under the name Circuit Des Yeux, but most didn’t. An infamous open mic night was formative in her direction. Just two measures into her sonic exploration, the microphone was ripped from her hands by the venue owner.
“It really sits in my brain like a light bulb, unfortunately. He said explicitly ‘Can we get a real musician up here?’” said Fohr, 33, from her Chicago home. “I remember I was filled with terror and so many confusing emotions at that moment. For whatever reason, I kept performing. I’m the type of person when someone says I can’t do something then I might waste all of my life to accomplish that very thing.”
Circuit Des Yeux played March 17 at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, before embarking on an eight-date European tour starting April 2 in Bern, Switzerland. She returns to Chicago June 16 and 17 at Constellation.
“-io” was released by Matador Records (Pavement, Guided by Voices, Cat Power). It is her latest and greatest recording accomplishment continuing a decade of releases on a steady stream of respected indie labels — De Stijl, Indiana’s own Magnetic South, and Chicago’s Thrill Jockey and Drag City.
The album documents Fohr’s latest foray into new sonic explorations. With her 12-string acoustic guitar at the ready, some songs are orchestral while others bring a groove. No matter the style, Fohr’s voice leads the way.
“My ethos in terms of working with my voice is that I want to be one of the most distinct voices of our time and I think I am,” she said. “The ethos of CDY (Circuit Des Yeux) is to encompass the whole spectrum of the human experience, and a lot of those feelings are easy to commodify or easy to approach in our capitalist kind of world right now. For me, it’s a reminder to visit with yourself and acknowledge things that are in the shadows of our experience like anxiety or depression or loss, grief. The hope is that people can congregate with me and project whatever that is to them in the moment and walk away feeling lighter.”
Community choir roots
Fohr has been singing more than three-fourths of her life. She was a staple in community kid ensembles growing up in Lafayette. While in Jefferson High School’s vaunted choir program, young Fohr learned new vocal techniques and lessons in projection, hitting the notes, and different ways to bring melody and harmony to songs.
“Singing in a congregation, in large groups was always a delight for me. It felt really physical and fun,” Fohr remembered. “That’s when I started writing music on my own accord with my own lyrics and ideas behind it. That was a really fruitful time in my life.”
As she was building her skills, she was introduced to experimental artists like Loren Connors and Chris Corsano as well as Hoosier record label Family Vineyard, which specializes in such music.
She took these experiences to the next level by enrolling in Indiana University’s recording arts and ethnomusicology programs while expanding her interests in classical and operatic singing.
“I’ve always had a really big voice. Then my voice became louder and louder and louder until it’s a point where I can fill a room and people have to stop and listen,” Fohr said. “I kept music in my life and my voice flourished.”
Fohr is satisfied with the success of “-io” so far. Like most of her recordings, it was different than the rest. She mined her classical training by putting the record to sheet music, which makes it easy for her collaboration with string players when she visits cities for performances.
“In each city we’re going to, we’re meeting with anywhere between four to seven string players and rehearsing the day before and performing,” Fohr said. “It’s definitely a new approach to music and inviting people in. You have to trust they’re prepared.
“It’s also really cool to go to a different culture and interact with people that live there for more than the duration of your set. A lot of times you play a show and you don’t even see anyone. You just get on-stage and play and then drive to the next town. To spend two days and get to know these people, it’s really fun.”
The stringer string players join Fohr’s “core” musicians of the last several years — drummer Ashley Guerrero, bassist Andrew Scott Young and violist Whitney Johnson. Fohr revealed future recordings will mine these musicians’ writing talents as well.
“With ‘-io,’ I really elongated all of my talents and kind of pushed them to the brink. While it’s certainly my proudest moment, it was tiring as hell,” she said. “I’m really excited. I’m writing a lot of songs and sounds are coming to me easily.”
Still, the success of “-io” has been undeniable and has brought her music to new and passionate fans. Plus, the return of live music after a two-year hiatus has been huge for the young musician.
“It's really life-affirming. It gives me the gumption and gas to do it again. The fuel. As long as I get some of that reaction and people are there to receive the message, I’ll probably do it forever,” Fohr explained. “It’s gorgeous. It’s been really deep. People come to me and confess things that my music has helped them through. I go on tour and people have tattoos of my songs’ lyrics. It means the world to me. It’s been really weird being on the internet for two years, in the algorithm, because that whole face to face thing has been missing.”
Home is where the experimentation was
Since her move to Chicago about 10 years ago, Fohr has brought her new sounds to Lafayette a few times, most recently at a Mosey Down Main Street offshoot art event in 2018 — “My seventh-grade soccer coach was there,” she recalled. A couple years before, she brought her country-tinged side project Jackie Lynn to The Spot Tavern.
Fohr said she comes home to Lafayette more now than in many years. She’s spun the disastrous open mic incident more than a decade ago to a pivotal moment in her sonic evolution.
“For the first time in my life, I’m trying to relax and just be myself,” Fohr continued. “I feel like a lot of the hard work is done and I’m here and my voice is here. I’m just trying to be more playful with it and take everything with a grain of salt and a little bit of a lighter shade.
“The relationship with my past is feeling pretty chill. Lafayette is a really great place and has things I took for granted — these little neighborhoods. It’s safe and kind of like ‘Cheers’ where everyone knows your name. It’s so sweet.”
This and that …
… by Dave Bangert
COUNCIL MEMBER BLASTS PURDUE INCENTIVES TO RELOCATE TO WEST LAFAYETTE
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis stood by a city decision to put up to $50,000 toward a Purdue Research Foundation- and state-funded incentives to offer cash, meal plans and more to people moving to the Discovery Park District, despite fresh objections Monday from one city council member.
Council member David Sanders argued that the city should reconsider the deal, which is a continuation of a Work From Purdue pilot project started in 2021 and that Purdue says already has recruited 28 people to move to West Lafayette from out of state.
Sanders, a Democrat who also is running for the Indiana Senate District 23 seat in 2022, said he had issues with aiming public money at people with higher incomes – the program is designed to draw those who make $50,000 or more – when it could be working on affordable housing and livability “for people who may not be able to afford it.”
“I think that idea that we need to attract people on the basis of providing them some stipend is actually, I think, detrimental to the image of West Lafayette,” Sanders said. “I think that just sends the totally wrong message about what this community is about and about what our taxpayer dollars are about.”
On March 29, the West Lafayette board of works approved an agreement that chipped in up to $50,000 for the program. Erin Easter, West Lafayette’s development director, said the city’s contribution was small compared to the $500,000 the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and another $250,000 Purdue Research Foundation would put in.
Monday night, during the first monthly city council meeting since then, Sanders raised his objections. Sanders also objected in 2020 to property tax abatements for Saab’s fighter jet fuselage plant and research facility in Purdue’s Discovery Park District, just beyond campus’ western edges. (On Monday, Sanders raised related questions about fire protection in the quickly growing area and suggested that the city should make new industries recruited for Discovery Park District to pay for a new fire station. “They have the money, they should pay,” Sanders said.)
He didn’t get a response from the rest of the city council. After the meeting, Dennis said he supported the Work From Purdue concept as a way to bring talent to the community.
“I don’t see a real down side here,” Dennis said.
The morning after Sanders’ admonishment, Purdue released a refresher course on Work From Purdue. (No word on the timing of the media release; those at PRF overseeing the program did not immediately respond Tuesday.)
Purdue touted the program as “a first-of-its-kind” program, targeting remote workers looking to live next to a Big Ten university and a generally lower cost of living. The program out of MakeMyMove, an Indianapolis-based marketing that manages offers from communities looking to recruit people who could live anywhere and still do their jobs. The platform was founded by Evan Hock and Bill Oesterle, a former Purdue trustee. Purdue Research Foundation, leading Discovery Park District development, also oversees who does and doesn’t get a Work From Purdue package.
According to MakeMyMove’s West Lafayette site, those who qualify get:
$4,000 relocation stipend
$1,000 dining credit in the Purdue Memorial Union
A Purdue ID card, email address and access to Purdue’s WiFi network
Discount offers on new housing developments
Assorted networking opportunities and entrepreneurial support
Participants must come from outside Indiana, be self-employed or a full-time employee with remote work privileges and eligible to work in the United States.
The program comes as the Discovery Park District – rolled out in 2018 as a live-work-play concept covering 400 acres and hoped to spur more than $1 billion in new development – is in a housing building surge. Construction on suburban-style homes, surrounded by townhouses and apartments, continues near the corner of State Street and Airport Road.
‘DAYS INN KILLER’ IDENTIFIED
If you’re still catching up with Tuesday’s news, here are a few ways into the announcement that Indiana State Police investigators said they were 99.9999% sure they’d solved the “Days Inn murders” of the 1980s, including two just north of Lafayette in March 1989.
So much chilling coverage about how ISP officials credit investigative genealogy to trace back to Harry Edward Greenwell, a career criminal who died at age 68 in 2013 in Iowa. Among his murder victims were: Vicki Heath, killed at a Super 8 Motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Peggy Gill, killed March 3, 1989, at a Days Inn in Merrillville; and Jeanne Gilbert, killed March 3, 1989, at a Days Inn in Remington, less than an hour north of Lafayette along Interstate 65.
During the police press conference Tuesday, Kim Wright – Gilbert’s daughter, who is an attorney in Lafayette, said: “I’d like to believe that whatever each of us defines as justice, or what each of us might define as closure, that we’re all now able to share the healing process knowing the long known attacker has now been brought out of the dark, into the light,”
For more details about how police wound up with Greenwell, here’s an account from The Associated Press and another one from the Indianapolis Star. The Star also had this timeline of events, provided by police.
IN PARKING LOT NEWS …
Among the construction projects out there already (good morning, Teal Road; hello, Indiana 38), the parking lot on the old Osco site at Main and Kossuth streets might not be the biggest. The Lafayette board of works on Tuesday signed off on a $519,000 contract to repave the lot, install islands, install lighting, reconfigure entrances and rework sidewalks at a space that was a temporary lot last year for Loeb Stadium events. The work should start this week, with things ready to use by the end of May, Jeromy Grenard, Lafayette city engineer, said. The significance of the timing: June 1 is opening night for the Lafayette Aviators against Terre Haute Rex.
Thanks to the Center for C-SPAN Scholarship & Engagement for sponsoring today’s edition. Tonight, Wednesday, April 6, Lafayette native and C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb will host Harold Holzer, author of “The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media – from Founding Fathers to Fake News.” See below for more details about attending in person or livestreaming the event.
Here’s to everyone, including you, making the Based in Lafayette reporting project work. Not a subscriber, but thinking about it? I’ll do my best to make it worthwhile.