20 Minute Loop

20 Minute Loop Biography

Greg Giles formed 20 Minute Loop in 1997. For a year, he considered various names that never stuck: With God on the Dog Team Trail, Pierre Bon Bon, Kill Whitey!, PSA Flight 182…. From the first recording in 1997 (a five-song CD still available), Greg began collaborating with Kelly Atkins, who would come to form with him the core of 20 Minute Loop. Joe Ostrowski joined in 1998, while various drummers and bassists alternately joined and fled until Nils Erickson and Mike Romano took their places, assuming the mantle of the rhythm section. Nils also became something of a de facto producer for our newest album, since he is the token music-store-employee-cum-guitar-teacher-cum-audiophile-with-carefully-organized-CD-and -vinyl-collection-cum-home-recording-nut-cum-man-with-a-plan-and-a-Hello-Kitty-grilled-cheese-iron. We all secretly despise his wealth of knowledge (but we enjoy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with Hello Kitty’s face seared into the bread). I think we’ve talked about Nils Erickson quite enough.

20 Minute Loop’s first self-titled album appeared in 1999, followed by Decline of Day in September 2001 (an auspicious autumn that was, no?). That September, we performed in Los Angeles at the Knitting Factory with the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, exactly three days after you-know-what, and on the way to our friend’s living room floor after the show, we saw the streets thronged with overwrought citizens in red, white, and blue, holding signs, screaming and cheering, while “Born in the USA” blasted from someone’s crappy sound system. Later that month, we had our CD release party at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. On TV monitors near the front of the stage we showed footage of Bollywood musicals, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Dumbo, which, we believe, crystallized our own feelings regarding the ugly turn of events (and corresponded vaguely to our half-baked Hindu theme).

Now, after much time spent building the correctly calibrated amount of raw excitement and despair, we have our new CD -- Yawn + House = Explosion. Already, Greg’s mother has called it “probably the most seminal third release since Lou Reed’s Berlin,” although Greg doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. It doesn’t sound anything like Lou Reed. We have, however, gotten many fine reviews on our albums and performances, and expect many more. Because we are a nifty band. Having toured the West Coast several times, we have yearned to expand our adventures, but alas, thus far, having to book all our own shows means that we suffer and slave for a Monday night at the Whirligig in Boontville. We did get played on Chilean and Ukrainian radio stations, which means a lot to Kelly, in particular, because she is half-Chilean and half-Ukrainian, which accounts for her red hair....

The Name... Often people ask us what “20 Minute Loop” means, and because it alludes to something a bit obscure, it might behoove us to provide a little explanation. On private jets, the length of time on a digital cockpit voice recorder (CVR) that elapses before the recording begins to overlap and erase itself—an audio snake eating its tail—is twenty minutes. On commercial aircraft, the length of time on the CVR is thirty minutes. This way, there will always be roughly half an hour of cockpit conversation recorded in the unfortunate event of a crash. What we say before we die is very important to those who survive us. Famous last words are always famous, and everyone hopes that the dying will say something pithy and conciliatory, something that might suggest (we shiver with horror as we use this wretched word) closure. In the case of the CVR, investigators hope a revelation will emerge, a key to the crash; they carry the indestructible box—the “black box” that is more often orange—away from the twisted metal and carnage like a sacred reliquary. Too often, however, the pilots’ voices betray nothing but their terminal proficiency mixed with a touch of animal fear and a heavy dose of frustration for not being able to control the flying beast. Often they are eerily calm, transmitting their imminent doom to air traffic controllers who helplessly watch a green blip descend on a black screen.

This digital loop, this endless recording that awaits a disaster, is part of our mortal expectancy. Michel Montaigne wrote: “we prepare ourselves against the preparations of death.” He probably wasn’t thinking of a jumbo jet when he wrote in the Renaissance, but we can enjoy larger meanings, we hope, without feeling too ambitious. We are not scared of dying; we’re scared of its anticipation. When we performed with I Am the World Trade Center and Smokey Hormel in 2002, a young man from the first band asked us (before he had heard our music) if we used a lot of tape loops and samples, as our band name implies. The simple answer is: No. But our sets usually run about half an hour, if not shorter, and this, of course, is the same length of time found on the CVR, and we do play the same songs, with some variation, from show to show and set to set, so maybe we do perform a kind of endless loop or sample of music that the audience rarely notices. Pop music, after all, is nothing if not repetition awaiting a disaster. Repetition is pleasurable and deep, just like the three-year-old who wants to read the same Maurice Sendak book over and over and over again, ritualizing the page-turning, the anticipation of wild things lurking in the paper leaves, mouthing the words along with the parent who feels anxious having to read this damned book one more time, only to cherish and preserve the battered copy once the child has grown older and moves on to richer repetitions that don’t include the parent. So, like everything else, 20 Minute Loop refers to the lovely repetition of life that can never quite escape its expectancy of death. Aren’t you glad you asked?

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