By Juliana Scheiderer ’16
English alum Angela Perley is playing a saw on stage in the Scripps Amphitheater.
The August Moon Music Festival audience cheers, entranced and surprised by the unorthodox instrument, as Perley draws the violin bow across the saw.
This reaction seems to be common for fans of Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons. Everything about the band seems to be delightfully unexpected.
Seven years ago, Perley was an English student at Ohio University, reading novels in Scripps Amphitheater, never expecting she’d be playing it one day.
Even the band’s origin story involves a twist of fate. Perley’s college roommate was interning in Columbus while the two lived together at OHIO, doing video production work for a company that also owned a small record label.
“I made these homemade demos and [my roommate] had one in her purse. It fell out at work and they were like, ‘What is this?’ because it was in a paper bag and it looked really weird,” Perley laughs. “So they put it on in their office and the head of that label, Fred Blitzer, was like, “I wanna meet this girl. I wanna professionally record her music.”
Blitzer then introduced Perley to bandmates Billy Zehnal and Chris Connor. The group started as a studio project, and then began playing shows around Columbus.
“It just started snowballing,” Perley said. “Now we’re traveling all over the country.”
From English Major to Songwriter
Currently, Perley and the Howlin’ Moons are headlining the inaugural August Moon Music Festival, a free music festival featuring local talent, presented by Scripps College of Communication and the College of Fine Arts, as well as several student media organizations.
From 2004 to 2008, however, Perley was an English student at Ohio University. She added a teaching certificate for language arts in her senior year.
“That’s when I realized I was horrible at teaching,” Perley said with a laugh. “I just liked reading books and writing.”
Perley enjoyed her classes in the English Department, but also took classes in film and theater. She performed in a few theater productions on campus and honed her interest in music by playing in local bands in Athens.
When asked how her classes at OHIO influenced her career as a songwriter, Perley explained that branching out and exploring her passions helped her nourish her creative side.
“My classes at OU taught me to absorb literature. They taught me how to write about characters,” Perley explained. “My time at OU helped me be more creative. It’s something that definitely helped nourish that side of my imagination.”
Perley’s life at OHIO also inspired the band’s hit song, “Athens,” which was released on their first full-length record in 2014. When writing the song, Perley tried to capture the town’s unique charm.
“Athens has such a vibe. There’s definitely an energy here,” she said. “The song is very reflective of my time here because I have so many memories and I grew so much.”
‘Make Sure Your Art is the Best It Can Be’
The band’s present focus is a new album, available later this year. When it comes to promoting their music, the band has a very do-it-yourself attitude.
“We’ve been very grassroots by self-releasing everything,” Perley explained. “It’s lots of emails and just getting the music out however we can.”
Along with this attitude, comes a sense of gratitude. Guitarist Chris Connor summed up how he feels about having the opportunity to play in the Howlin’ Moons.
“We’re lucky to have been able to stay together this long. We’re very grateful that we’ve been able to continue doing it,” he said. “We’re hoping to keep it going for as long as we can because we’re having so much fun. I can’t imagine not playing music with this band.”
When asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming bands, Perley said simply: “Make sure your art is the best it can be.”
“If you work hard, good things are going to come from it,” she continued. “So just put your heart and soul into it. That’s all that matters”
Back on stage, Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons finish their song. The last note echoes through the amphitheater as the audience—composed of Ohio University students, faculty, and Athens residents—applaud enthusiastically, saluting a band that perfectly captures what it means to live in Athens.
(originally posted on Ohio Forum)