Editor’s Note: We see the Interview Issue as an annual rolling conversation on local culture, carried over the spectrum of this diverse dozen subjects. What better way to evolve that conversation than by asking one of last year’s interviewees to turn interviewer – in this case, touring musician and rising Columbus star, Lydia Loveless.
Columbus beauty Angela Perley, who has previously exclusively released EPs, crafted her first full-length record with her band (Chris Connor on lead guitar, Billy Zehnal on bass and Steve Rupp on drums) over the spring and summer. Hey Kid, due out January 21st, is an excellent blend of jangly Americana and sexy, reverb-laden rock’n’roll – a sound that contradicts Perley’s rather reserved offstage demeanor. We got together at her home in Grandview over a few beers, a bag of carrots, and some old-timey records to discuss the album, songwriting, living in Ohio, and more.
This is your first full-length…were the four EPs a specific thematic project?
It started out as a seasonal thing, then we got really behind on the scheduling so it was basically one EP per year (laughs). Basically in lieu of doing a full-length CD, Fred Blitzer, who funds and produces everything, had an idea that we should just do EPs and kinda break up the songs. I’m actually glad we did it that way, because we could sneak in new songs with each release.
Was there any particular reason why you did a full-length now? Did you just have a lot more material?
Mostly to capture all the songs we’ve been playing live for a while. Then there were a few we kinda squeezed in towards the end. The single, “Hurricane,” we put on there after we’d already thought we’d finished the album.
Yeah, there was a song that didn’t work out…we just weren’t excited about it and I was like “Hmm, I don’t really want to record this.” There was pressure to make it the single, but…it’s actually not even on the record. But, we needed a single, something different. So I wrote “Hurricane” and everyone really liked that. It’s the first song we’ve played where we recorded it in the studio first. We usually play stuff for a while and then record it. So that was kind of cool.
Where did you record everything?
In Grandview at Vital Music USA. It’s a part of Vital Companies. They have a film studio, Vital Film Works. Fred Blitzer, from there, who’s funded basically everything, actually introduced me to [bandmates] Chris [Connor] and Billy [Zehnal]. Then our drummer, Steve Rupp, we went to the same high school. Chris was playing with him in a different band, and mentioned “Hey, I know this guy who’s just kinda playing around, not really in one particular band…” We had been cycling three different drummers. So it was like the Spinal Tap of Americana. (laughs) The band couldn’t really ever gel. We were constantly doing something different. Finally we found Steve, and he was able to be the solid drummer. We noticed a big change having the same four people. I almost feel like the last couple years that we’ve had Steve are the real beginning of the band. Everyone’s comfortable with each other. At first they were cautious, but…it’s definitely a “band sound” now.
Guitar player Chris Connor, walking in to flip the record, speaks up:
Plus that comes from driving around on the road, listening to music…You find out what sounds everyone likes. That comes out in playing; we can take things in different directions. If Angela’s listening to Jack White, or some Lucinda [Williams], or say, the Heartless Bastards, we’ll listen to that, and maybe I’ll use the fuzz a little more often because we all like it. Before, I didn’t want to step on the fuzz [pedal] because I felt like I was trashing her song…
Yeah, now they don’t care, they just turn my amp off, offers Angela, laughing.
As far as your daily routine, do you try to keep certain creative rituals?
I feel like I’m a little bit on a vampire schedule (laughs). I never can get to sleep, I’ll get to sleep at like 5:30. I’m always sending out press releases, booking shows…I do a lot of that at night. That’s pretty consistent. It’s not the most fun thing to do, but it’s a good learning experience. Play a show, come back and do it again…
Yeah, I’m trying to get better at a more consistent schedule but it’s pretty random. Whenever it happens. I used to be crazy. I had a ton of time, but since I’ve had a lot more work to do, it’s not always easy to find the time. I feel like I go through periods of absorbing, and then writing.
So when you write do you labor over it or is it more like wham, it hits you?
It’s always seemed like it just happened. I don’t put much thought into it, I just start writing. I’ll start playing guitar or singing a capella, messing around. It usually just kinda happens in a period of a half hour, an hour, working it out. Then I’ll bring it to Chris and he always helps me put an extra sound on it. I’m pretty limited; I play very basic chords. I usually go to him to take it somewhere else. There’ve been more and more songs lately where I’ve not played guitar, just singing, and we haven’t done that before. But I feel like it adds to my songwriting; it frees me up.
It seems like there’s been a big burst of pride lately regarding being from Ohio – Columbus in particular. I ask myself every winter why I still live where it’s cold and gloomy. What do you think that special thing is that keeps us here?
Definitely Columbus has grown a lot since I’ve lived here. And if you’re traveling, it’s central to go anywhere, it’s cheap, and it’s good for musicians. The whole band is from here and we’re really comfortable. It’s just home to me. I’ve traveled and thought, “Oh, I like this city…I like East Nashville, I like Brooklyn…” But for the most part I just feel good in Columbus. There’s a really cool thing going on. A lot of good bands, a lot of supportive people. People have been saying to me lately, “Ooh, Ohio has so much great music, it’s cool.” And here, it’s really chill, not as much of a rat race for bands.
I guess it’s just that Midwest thing. People are more laidback, more willing to bounce ideas off each other. So how much touring do you do?
We haven’t really done a lot. We did a longer tour, to SXSW a couple years ago; that was the longest one we’ve done. Other than that we’ve been building a regional circuit. We do weekend warrior stuff. We go to New York a lot. That seems to be our latest thing. It’s one of our best-received places thus far. It’s funny, because I had a feeling I’d hate it; it just didn’t seem like something I would like, but I really like it there. It ended up being really cool.
What do you want people to take away from your live show? How do you want them to feel afterwards?
I guess to make them feel emotions in general. If it’s sad or happy. Anything that makes people feel, “Wow, you really inspire me,” or “This show really moved me.” That’s what matters to me. What type of feeling doesn’t matter. Well, unless it’s hatred (laughs).
See Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons, and get a copy of Hey Kid January 17 at Skully’s Music Diner, 1151 N High St. For more, visit www.angelaperley.com. Loveless will release her long-awaited third album, Somewhere Else, on February 18. For more, visit www.bloodshotrecords.com.