A “Fireside” Chat with Angela Perley

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Columbus, Ohio’s Angela Perley and The Howlin’ Moons return to Athens on Saturday, Feb. 4, opening for the Missouri-based Ha Ha Tonka at Casa Cantina.

Since forming in 2009, Perley and her band have made a name for themselves in Columbus and have received some airplay overseas on the BBC. Next month, they’ll hit the road on a tour of the South that includes a performance at Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest music festival (SXSW).

I caught up with Angela to discuss the tour, her music, the band’s new EP and her old musical stomping grounds in Athens, Ohio.

BG: Let’s start at the beginning. Were you a solo performer during your time at Ohio University, or did you play in a band?

AP: I was writing a lot of songs during college but keeping them to myself. I had the urge to start performing, so I became a backup singer/violin player for a band called Vintage Green. They inspired me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, so I started performing my solo songs at Donkey Coffee and at different singer-songwriter showcases. After I got some recording equipment, I started recording all of my songs as soon as I wrote them, then released them to friends as themed “mini records” in paper bag envelopes. After some band members moved out of Ohio, I formed and fronted a band called Scarlet and the Yellow Moons.

BG: You earned teaching and English Literature degrees at OU. How did you go from a possible teaching career to playing music full-time?

AP: My little “paper bag CDs” ended up making their way to Columbus during my last year of school. My college roommate got a job as an intern at Vital Companies in Columbus, which is a film/indie music label/studio. Fred Blitzer from Vital heard my songs and had my roommate contact me. Fred asked me, “Do you want to teach, or do you want to make music? Because we think you need to make music.” I had just earned my degrees and was about to look for jobs when they approached me. I knew I needed to play music so I ended up dropping my job search. I am doing music full-time now with The Howlin’ Moons and my all-girl band trio The Salty Caramels.

BG: How did you meet your Howlin’ Moon bandmates?

AP: Fred set me up on a blind date of sorts with some of his top studio musicians, which included bassist Billy Zehnal and guitarist Chris Connor. We hit it off immediately and started playing out everywhere. We didn’t have a consistent drummer until this year when we added Steve Rupp into the mix.

BG: Your latest release, Fireside, is the third in a series of EPs. Why EPs?

AP: As an emerging band, we decided to break up the songs into a four-part EP series instead of putting out a full-length album (previous releases include the Black Cat EP in 2010 and the Yellow Moon EP in 2011). We’re hoping to release the single from the fourth EP right before SXSW. We think that Fireside shows our growth as a band and hopefully it can gain us some more attention this year to launch us into some good music festivals. I think we all would love to start getting our music into various forms of film and television. Not only would that help us financially, but it would get our music out to a wider audience.

BG: It sounds like you’ve got quite a tour lined up for March. Is this your first foray into national touring?

AP: This will definitely be our first big tour. We have done a lot of shows outside Ohio on weekend tours or 3-4 day runs, but nothing like this. On this tour, we’ll be playing in Knoxville, Little Rock, Houston, Austin, New Orleans and Atlanta. We’re also bringing along Fred and Vital Film director John Daugherty to film the whole experience, so it’s going to be wild.

BG: Are you looking forward to playing at SXSW?

AP: I have never been to SXSW. Although I’ve heard it has gotten quite overblown and hectic, I’m still excited to be in the pit of it all and hope to make some good connections and soak in everything while we are there.

BG: How about your marketing efforts? How are you getting your music out there to people?

AP: We have a radio campaign going on in the UK right now. We’ve been played on BBC Radio and various podcasts, which has been a great step for the band. Stateside, I have been doing everything indie-style by emailing, mailing CDs to people, and using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to invite people to our shows. Vital Companies has supported our band a lot in helping with the marketing process and has produced all our music and videos. We are actually trying to put out a new video for a new song right before the SXSW tour so we can send it out to places in advance.

BG: Finally, how does it feel to play in Athens these days?

AP: I love returning to Athens because it always feels like it hasn’t changed. Sure, little things change, but it always has that young and crazy energy whirling around it. I’m excited to have some pre-show tea at the Donkey, some dinner and music at Casa, and then a late night veggie dog at O’ Betty’s.

Saturday’s show time is 10 p.m. For more information about Angela Perley and The Howlin’ Moons, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.