Friday, June 5th, 2020
Haley Fohr of Jackie Lynn and Circuit des Yeux — COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In
“I am disheartened and upset by the lack of human compassion and the corruption of human rights that is currently happening in exchange for corporate profit.”
Jun 05, 2020
By Mark Redfern (with Samantha Small)
We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Jackie Lynn (aka Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux).
We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).
We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.
Jackie Lynn is not Haley Fohr; she is the (fictional) alter-ego of the singer/songwriter. It makes sense, as the new sound of Jackie Lynn is a dramatic shift from her indie folk project, Circuit des Yeux. With a more ambient, vocally driven folk sound that lent itself to Circuit des Yeux’s five albums, Fohr crafted anguishing, melismatic, almost harrowing soundtracks that are dynamic and introspective in their own right.
Within Jacqueline, we see “Jackie Lynn” in a new light. The band’s self-titled debut LP was released in 2016 to widespread acclaim and it told the story of Jackie’s (fictional!) life. But, the first LP was but a brief introduction into the world of the glamorous country-icon. Now, Fohr allows us to dive deeper, ironically, with easily digestible pop-tunes. With Jacqueline, Jackie Lynn returns and her continuing story is brought to us by Fohr, Cooper Crain, Rob Frye ,and Dan Quinlivan of Bitchin Bajas.
From the one-lined chorus of the synthy (yet twangy) jam of “Shugar Water” to the of Montreal-esque hypnotic beat of opener “Casino Queen,” Jackie Lynn gives listeners a shimmery, pep in their step during a particularly dull time. But for this interview, we return to the wizard behind the curtain, Fohr, as she reflects on the real-world implications of the virus’ impact on music, her creativity and just her general, personal (not fictional) struggle with quarantine.
Read on as Fohr reflects on her COVID-19 experience so far. (Note: This interview was conducted before the massive and vital protests across America in response to the death of George Floyd began, which is why that isn’t addressed in any of the answers.)
Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?
Cooper and I (Haley) are quarantined together in our Chicago apartment with our cat, Keiji-Dot. We have collectively quarantined with our upstairs and backyard neighbors, Nandini, Annie, and Lynn. Figuring out how to share space responsibly was a little awkward at first, but we have figured out a pretty beautiful alternate community that circulates around socially distant bonfires in the evening and garden tending in the afternoon. I feel very fortunate for my neighbors, and hope to be more neighborly after quarantine.
Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?
Everyone in my immediate household is healthy and safe. Unfortunately, an elderly family member of mine has contracted COVID-19 and is currently fighting for his life.
What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?
COVID-19 has certainly created a situation that feels like financial ruin for me, personally. Our new album came out in April, and all of our tours, both in the U.S. and abroad are obviously canceled or postponed for 21. Record stores and distribution shut down within days of our album release. Some days it’s hard to stomach, but to be honest, I am really just more concerned with the possibilities of performing live and in the flesh. Our band is not a huge money maker for anyone in the world, including ourselves, and our fan base is certainly a small group of special supportive folks. We just hope to be given the opportunity to perform to those people when the time is right. I am nervous about the closing of venues, shops, and an over saturation of bands needing more resources than are available post COVID-19.
Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad?
I do not trust that our leaders have effectively dealt with the pandemic. I am disheartened and upset by the lack of human compassion and the corruption of human rights that is currently happening in exchange for corporate profit.
How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?
I think the crisis will affect a person’s ability to be a responsible citizen, and participate in the election. I find it hard to say if it will make things easier or harder for the president to be reelected, due to the unprecedented nature of our time.
Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?
I have a news app on my phone that curates articles from The New York Times, The New Yorker, Washing Post, The Economist, BBC, etc, that I read when I am feeling strong and brave. I have detoxed mostly out of social media at this time. And to be honest, some weeks I skip the news because it often leaves me anxious and upset. I have a hard time with Instagram in particular. It’s a portal of alternate realities, and checking into it leaves me disoriented. I still use Twitter a few times a week. I like its speedy update for COVID-19 related news, and the trending function.
What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?
Oh wow, so much, maybe. I am not a prophet, and prefer not to go down that thought tunnel…I hope folks are kinder, and more empathetic. That would be nice.
Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?
My grandmother does not live in Chicago, but is currently living at an assisted living facility in my hometown. We talk a couple times a week. She has been isolated in her room for almost 75 days now. They are not allowed to accept mail or gifts. She has run out of facial lotion and other items and naturally, feels totally shut out from the world. I worry about her. I worry about the elderly feeling like a burden, or negatively toward themselves because of the virus. Society loves and needs the elderly and even though we cannot see them at this time, I hope they can remember this sentiment.
What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?
Ooof, I have no idea. I’ve honestly been wondering what I can do for the music industry. We all seem to be in the same boat. I think musicians having the ability to release what they want, when they want is a good idea right now. I think the one on one connection between artist and recipient feels more important now than ever. I, for one, miss the human to human connection more than anything. I just want to be a person who is singing to a person who is listening, in real time.
What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?
Please consider buying our album directly from Drag City. Mail-order, or digitally through Bandcamp. We have made these limited hats that are fun, and can be bundled with our album. The quote on the hat is a lyric from our song “Traveler’s Code”: “Making peace with all the puzzles, and telling jokes along the way.”
Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?
Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time, and Pema Chödrön’s True Happiness.
Have you been doing any livestreamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?
As a band we did one socially distant acoustic session for Vanity Fair. It’s hard to livestream with a full band. Cooper and I also did a pre-recorded set for a recent livestream. We both find it difficult, but are open to trying. We work hard to maintain control in our creative output, and I think maintaining control in the sound and visual parameters are a challenge for the current livestream. I am interested to see how the medium matures. It is nowhere near a live show experience, and I look forward to returning to the live medium when it is safe to do so.
Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors?
I try to take it day by day. There is a crusade in my heart right now, and I am just trying to be easy on myself. I think it’s important to feed yourself—things like books, art, movies—they carry the human spirit and everyone needs more of that than they are probably getting at this time. I haven’t been very “productive” in that I haven’t produced much art in my time quarantined. I’d like to think that maybe by not producing, I am achieving something.
Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?
We stock up on lots of citrus, and garlic, maybe? We are lucky that Chicago has many grocery stores and resources. We try to limit our grocery trips as much as possible, but haven’t really stocked up on anything more than the usual. We do only have two rolls of TP left…! Time to mask up!