Just as the peaceful caterpillar completes its metamorphosis into the wonderful butterfly, Angela Perley transforms from a quiet and demure songwriter into an emotive performer the moment she steps on stage.
The contrast was not lost on me when I met with Ms. Perley and Chris Connor recently prior to one of their hometown shows.
Ed. – read our review of that show HERE
The 28 year-old Columbus native began playing the piano at 10, was part of her first band (The Frankies) in high school, and had a band (Scarlet and the Yellow Moons) while attending college at Ohio University. And then in 2008, one of her demos was heard by Fred Blitzer, CEO of Vital Companies.
Through Blitzer, she was introduced to musicians Chris Connor and Billy Zehnal. Vital Music (her label and part of Vital Companies) has released all her music since 2008.
“It started as kind of the band being studio musicians,” she said, while sitting in the green room at the Rumba Café. “We started booking some shows around town and it kind of ‘clicked’ right off the bat.”
“The band was a little rockin’ at that point,” Connor interjected, “but not where it is now. We had sort of a ‘howling’ vibe, and she was dead-set on incorporating ‘moon’ in there, so it was Scarlet and the Yellow Moons at that point. That morphed into The Howlin’ Moons.”
Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons is comprised of Perley (vocals/guitar/bowed-saw), Chris Connor (guitar), Billy Zehnal (bass) and Jake Levy (drums).
Keeping costs down (and putting more money in their own pocket), the band manage their own tours and drive themselves from show to show. They have kept busy over the last few years, playing numerous shows and expanding their footprint across the United States.
“We’ve done about 120 shows a year for the last four years,” said Connor with pride, a smile coming from underneath his hat. “We’ve been slowly spiraling out to a nine-hour radius (from Columbus), and we’re starting to push a little further… we went down to Texas recently and we’re trying to get out toward the West Coast. We’re trying to fill-in that area between Ohio and Colorado, too.
“You’ve got to get your boots on the ground to see what’s happening.”
As well as playing more shows south and west of Columbus, they have been playing the East Coast, as well.
“We’ve done New York City a lot,” Perley said, “New Jersey… and we’ve done Delaware, too.”
“Lately,” Connor said of playing in New York City, “we’ve been playing this place called ‘Hill Country Live.’ We manage to get a parking space right out front for load-in at 7 p.m. each time. And you know how hard it is to find parking in New York. Plus, there’s a beautiful stage downstairs.”
Incorporating many of the influences of the various band members, their sound is not one that can be pigeonholed into a single category. There’s Americana, Country, Rock, Blues and more in their wide-ranging discography.
Asked to describe their sound, Perley thought for a long moment before saying, “It’s rock-n-roll with a country and blues influence.”
“There’s a bit of Americana and a bit of psychedelic in there,” added Connor, “but it’s definitely a rock-n-roll band. We touch on a bunch things and try to beat it into a unified sound and weave it into something that’s coherent to us. That hopefully creates a sound that’s unique to us, to some extent.”
While their recorded music is very good and vibrant, their sound is especially showcased when they play live. That’s when you’ll see, hear and feel the raw emotion Perley puts into her songs, letting you almost viscerally experience what she does.
In the live setting, you will also see, hear and feel the band pulling out all stops as they channel their myriad influences. From Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez to David Gilmour and Tom Petty, it’s all on full display.
Their most-recent album, Homemade Vision, was released in January 2016. All ten tracks are sonically powerful and capture the vibe of the quartet. The video that accompanies Your Love begins with Perley and a white wolf riding a motorcycle. Yes, it may be campy, but it works in the storyline of the lyrical tale that she’s telling the listener.
“I was creating a list of things to send to Vital (Companies) and their film team there,” Perley said with a shy smile. “I had kind of like, a weird… I was up at three in the morning and was like what if…”
Do yourself a favor and watch the video. You will then understand that the juxtaposition works perfectly.
They have plans to release a new album of material in 2018, with the songwriting already well underway.
“It will probably be next year (for the new record),” she said. “We are looking at the end of this year, late fall or winter, to start recording the next record.”
Connor added, “We’ll start doing some basic demos, get some arrangement ideas going and see how things feel. We’ll probably do twelve or thirteen songs. It just takes time. We’re going to try and get all the basic tracks done, just flesh them out as quickly as we can.”
Until that point, they have a busy schedule of live shows to keep their fans entertained as they wait for new music from the band.
“We’ve just been so busy with our touring,” Perley concluded, “and I don’t see that it’s going to stop. So, we’ll block two weeks in the studio once we pick out what we’re doing and get it worked out.
“We’re really looking forward to it.”
And with that, Perley and Connor made their way downstairs to catch the opening band. Following them, I was about to witness the metamorphosis at firsthand.
At the end of the evening, no one left the venue unimpressed or unsatisfied after having our souls washed with Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons.
They are touring through Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois, before returning to Ohio on June 9 (Cleveland).
Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons – Your Love