Few artists arrive without traveling quite as well as Loop.
Starting in 1986, the British troupe evolved from a spacy garage band to a smoke-obscured, atmospheric monster that all but abandoned traditional songsmithery for tuneful stasis. A Gilded Eternity, the band's 1990 masterpiece, remains a striking convergence of riff and drone that continues influencing mantra-minded musicians today.
Loop split the following year due to pressures from an industry hostile to uncompromising, exploratory sounds. Bandleader Robert Hampson abandoned his guitar in favor of electronic sound composition, both as his next project Main and as a solo act. Fans believed his decades-long insistence that Loop would never reform. Then the A Gilded Eternity lineup did just that.
"It was very difficult to even think about it. I really had distanced myself so far from it," says Hampson from his hotel at the start of Loop's first U.S. tour in 24 years. "But interesting things were being talked about. Mogwai were curating a really big festival in London and they wanted us play. After that, All Tomorrow's Parties said, 'Well, listen, if you seriously did do it, would you curate an ATP festival?' It was very weird, because suddenly – after years of a constant request stream coming in – it all suddenly amplified. I thought maybe I'm being too much of a stick in the mud, and should seriously think about reactivating it to see what happens.
"We've had a few trials and tribulations along the way. Being in a band is very difficult. I don't think people really appreciate how hard it is. All down the line, the ramifications of even the slightest thing going wrong with logistics really can hamper you. So it's a lot to take on, but I've not been one to run away from challenges."
Certainly it's easier with a band going out solely on its own terms.
"We're not obliged to do anything we don't want to do this time 'round," agrees Hampson. "We don't have any record company pressure or any sort of commitment to anything right now, except obviously turning up in the town and playing the show. That's very simple to deal with – as long as the van works!"
After two decades of not standing in front of an amplifier, how does it feel to strap on the ax again?
"I've enjoyed it more than I anticipated," he admits. "It was slightly difficult to come to terms with for a while, but it doesn't take very long to fall back into old habits. I'm really enjoying it at the moment. It's been really great to play those old songs again, and a lot of people seem to be really enjoying it. Which is all you can ask for, really."
And Loop's future?
"I'm firmly sitting on the fence right now. We just have to see how it goes. We've only played about 13 shows together so far – it's still very early days. But the energy is there, which I guess is the greatest contributing factor for other things to mature from that. We shall see."
Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.