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All New Outer Loop Full-Length Album is completed! For a sample, download the promo EP for free or, just go ahead and order the full album, "Later ..." from Steamy Attic Records!


7 Cities' MOG - The Local Band Invasion Part 1

By Joe Atkinson
7 Cities
August, 2004


This week's mp3s come from a couple of our more interesting local bands.

Before I say anything about Hampton's The Outer Loop , I have a confession or two to make. These guys are good friends of mine. And I date the guitar player's twin sister. And my band, The King & Caroline, has twice ended up with drummers who spent time playing with The Loop.

So, you're thinking, isn't this a blatant display of favoritism?

Well, no, it isn't. In fact, none of this stuff would've happened had I not walked into an open mic night at a smoky bar in downtown Hampton in the spring of 2000 and caught one of The Outer Loop's earliest sets. It took me all of 20 seconds to fall in love with their music. It was catchy. It was funny. It was serious. It was sad. It was celebratory. And more than anything else, it was different. After sitting patiently through countless Dave Matthews and Jimmy Buffet covers, The Outer Loop's songs hit my ears like a cool drink of water. They were the band I had been waiting to hear.

Four years on, I still love The Outer Loop's music as much as I did the first time I heard it. Sure they've changed some. They've ditched their acoustic instruments for electric guitars. They've been through five drummers. Their songs have gotten more complex. None of that matters though. They're still one the best and most overlooked bands in Hampton Roads.

Today's songs are from The Outer Loop's self-released debut album, "Who's On the Ceiling?," which came out last year. They have a new EP coming out soon, and trust you me, it's excellent. Check The Loop's website for updates.



Ninevolt Local Spins CD Review

By Jeff Maisey
May, 2004

The Outer Loop
Who's On The Ceiling?

Who > Quirky Hampton trio

Low Down > There's something about the jerky guitar, the voice of bassist Matt Thomas and the hilarious lyrical maneuvers that smacks of the Violent Femmes. Take the opening line of "Bum": "I'm a bum/I'm a bum/And I'm really good at being one/I'll ask you for a cigarette/Then ask you for a light/I'll thank you for a bong hit/Then say good night." Funny stuff. The 19 songs offer plenty of amusement for any party. Sing along; the words are easy to catch-on to. You'll likely end up rolling on the floor and holding your stomach for fear you might bust.



In the Loop

By Sam McDonald
Daily Press
February 27, 2004

Four Hampton Roads bands will rock The NorVa in Norfolk Saturday, jamming in the name of better housing for the region's poor. The concert, called Homegrow 2004, will feature Slim, Rainmarket, Guta and The Outer Loop with proceeds benefitting Habitat for Humanity. The night's performers cover a range of rock styles, from Slim's reggae-influenced grooves to the Dave Matthews-influenced pop of Rainmarket and the good-natured folk-punk of The Outer Loop. A new shop in downtown Norfolk, Relative Theory Records, is a sponsor of the all-ages event. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $10. Call The NorVa at 627-4500.



Charity Concert to Raise Money For Habitat House

By Angelique Moon
Soundings Staff
February 25, 2004

The buzz of conversation and introductions in the dining area of the Backstage Café on a recent Sunday night made the room comfortable and warm. The 16 musicians from four local bands nodded and smiled at each other as they realized they were there for the same reason - and it wasn't to promote themselves.

The bands are uniting Feb. 28 for a charity concert at The Norva to raise funds for the South Hampton Roads Habitat for Humanity.

The idea began with Jesse Cantelope, a former bartender at The Norva and current student at Tidewater Community College.

"We were running out of fundraising ideas. We were $5,000 short," Cantelope explained about how the idea came into being. "Music is my love and passion, and I thought we could put that together and fill the remaining budget gap."

He soon began contacting local bands, and it didn't take much convincing to get The Outer Loop, Guta, Rainmarket and Slim on board with the project.

"They're all local, all grass roots, and they're all ecstatic to do it for free, because it's not about financial gain," he added.

Money from ticket sales, just $10 per ticket, will go toward the building of a Habitat house in Berkeley area of Norfolk.

Before the show, however, people can get a taste of what they'll be listening to Feb. 28. There are free promotional CDs available from band members, as well as local music stores, which showcase two tracks from each band.

In the meantime, here's the skinny on the four bands that will be playing for the Homegrow concert:

(Loop note: other band's "skinnies" are removed from this copy of the article - no offense guys - you rock!)

The Outer Loop

When Rhonda Piasecki (drums, vocals) joined The Outer Loop about six months ago, Jason Helmintoller (guitar, vocals) and Matt Thomas (bass, vocals) had been together as a band for seven years. They had just gotten rid of their drummer when the goofy, yet endearing, duo of Helmintoller and Thomas met Piasecki.

With more than 20 years of experience as a drummer, she had what it took to be in the Loop.

Flashing glances and grins at each other, Helmintoller and Thomas agree things in the band have changed for the better since she joined them.

"It changes every time we practice," Helmintoller said jokingly. "Songs are completely different from the record. But a different beat makes a different feel. We're changing because we're getting better."

Their music is fun, light pop-rock.

Quickly looking over at Helmintoller before laughing, he added, "We try to keep it as hokey as possible. Our goal is to have people not stop humming our songs. It's fun music."

With funny lyrics that cover everything from how pets are true friends to why becoming a hermit is feasible, The Outer Loop begs to be heard.

"We're just a bunch of goofballs," Helmintoller said. The guitarist/vocalist added, "There's no shame."

That extends into their fans, who are called Loopies, not groupies.

"You can sign up on our Web site, but you have to take a picture with our (giant stuffed) panther to be a Loopy," Piasecki said.

The band released their first CD, Who's On The Ceiling?, last year and have shows scheduled in the area through the summer.


Hampton's Outer Loop struggles to find its niche in alternative rock world

By Sam McDonald
Daily Press
August 10, 2003

It started with a casual afternoon drive.

Crusin' down the Center Parkway
'Blister in the Sun' came on
I was feelin' the heat
From the girl in my rearview mirror
Jammin' along with the beat
And right at the point where Gordon whines out
'I don't even know why'
She made this funny evil face
And mouthed those words right into my eye
It's a beautiful day to be alone ...

- From "Never Said She Didn't"

Those words were penned by Matt Thomas, bassist, vocalist and songwriter with The Outer Loop, a Hampton-based alternative rock trio. Thomas says many of his songs - including this one - were drawn from his experiences.

And certainly, the setting of "Never Said ..." would be familiar to anyone who has lived very long on the Peninsula. Aside from the Hampton Roads Center Parkway reference, it mentions Sandy Bottom Nature Park and an actual Citgo convenience store positioned nearby.

The song is a quirky slice of local culture - a creation that could not have been made anywhere else but right here.

More importantly, like many Outer Loop songs, it's good.

The tune is catchy. It bristles with weird energy. And the lyrics - about a guy who refuses to sulk although he's been given the cold shoulder by a girl - express an outlook that's positive but neither sappy nor naive.

Some music lovers may be put off by The Outer Loop's sometimes brash, sometimes ragged, post-punk sound. But most would acknowledge its sound is distinctive. It makes a noise like no band in Hampton Roads. And the group's oddball humor is icing on the cake.

"They sound different - delightfully eccentric," said Bob Gurske, the engineer who ran sessions for the band's CD "Who's On the Ceiling?" at Winter Sound Recording Studio at Gloucester Point. The independent disc was released in May. "They just have a different sound. Different, lyrically and musically."

What exactly makes The Outer Loop unique?

The trio - Thomas, with Jason Helmintoller on guitar and Steve Hill on drums - blends punk energy, pop melodicism and folk simplicity. Lyrics are often shouted in unison, in the time-honored style of punk anthems. Instrumentally, the band often produces a sort of loping, shambling, bouncing groove. Part of the sound is derived from the loose, jangling strum of Helmintoller's acoustic guitar. The other key element is Thomas' bass. Using an acoustic instrument, he creates lines that dart this way and that, leaping between octaves. His bass shoulders the responsibility of a lead melodic instrument instead of accepting a more traditional supporting role.

The off-kilter acoustic Outer Loop sound recalls that of the Violent Femmes, a Wisconsin band that made a mark for itself in the 1980s with underground hits including "Kiss Off" and "Blister in the Sun" - the very same tune Thomas name-checked in "Never Said She Didn't."

Both Thomas and Helmintoller are prolific songwriters whose odd, often playful tunes draw from influences ranging from Cat Stevens and Tommy James to underground rock bands such as Jawbreaker, The Pixies and Citizen Fish. With nearly 40 original songs between them, Thomas and Helmintoller have created an impressive and idiosyncratic body of work.

"They're offbeat, which I think is pretty cool," Gurske said. "But that means they're going to do really well or really bad."

And there's the catch.

As an indie rock band attempting to put down roots in a place with almost no indie rock scene, The Outer Loop faces a difficult future. Our region has produced a handful of underground rock bands of regional or national acclaim. Waxing Poetics became a regional sensation in the 1980s. Since then, bands such as Antic Hay, The Mockers, The Hollowbodies and more recently The Candy Snatchers and Astropop 3 have earned strong reputations in the nation's rock underground. But few would describe the area as an independent rock hotbed.

Enter The Outer Loop. Over four years, the group has produced an artful new CD and played dozens of gigs across the region. But it hasn't progressed nearly as far as Thomas and his bandmates would have hoped.

Thomas sees signs of hope that local audiences are becoming more friendly toward fresh, original music. But it's happening slowly. "I think the environment has gotten better, but not six years better," he said. "I don't see a big increase in our following. Our friends still come to see us."

Considering the region's meager appetite for original rock music, it may be a miracle that The Outer Loop has survived this long.

"This is not one of the greatest areas for that kind of thing, historically," Gurske said. "But even if they don't go over locally, they might have a better chance of making it on the road or getting a deal out of town."

Lindsay Silverman, with the restaurant and bar Marker 20 in downtown Hampton, has booked the band numerous times in the last eight months. She said the group stands out among area rock combos. "They kind of have a They Might Be Giants element," Silverman said. "They bring back the old-school punk sound, the fun stuff. They do theme songs, like the one from the TV show 'Diff'rent Strokes.'

"I think they're pretty unique and they have a good following. They bring in a younger crowd, a younger laid-back crowd," she said.

The Outer Loop's humor - even silliness - may have helped it attract an embryonic fan base here.

But there's a more serious undercurrent running through much of the material. Listen closely and you'll hear the sound of young men struggling to find their places in the world, groping for a place where they can fit in without sacrificing their souls.

"I think the message we are trying to get across is that you can be free," Thomas said, "you can free yourself and still do what you have to do."

Helmintoller puts another spin on that idea. "The world is not an easy place to live in. There are always going to be downfalls and pitfalls. Everybody suffers sometimes. But we want people to look at it in a more positive perspective."

Thomas is 27 years old. Helmintoller and Hill both turn 25 later this month. The three musicians in The Outer Loop are not kids. For them, playing in a rock band isn't a way to meet girls or fill spare time after school or over a summer vacation. And at this stage, income from gigs and CD sales is negligible.

Obviously, The Outer Loop is motivated by something beyond boredom or career ambitions.

Helmintoller - whose songs describe a vision of a world that's more open, more loving and more free - hopes that his music reaches out to his fellow man. "I would like to think we are communicating with people, but sometimes, it's hard to say," Helmintoller observed. "Some people don't care about live music. They just come out to get drunk or whatever.

"But I like being in front of a crowd and entertaining people. That's part of what drives me."

For Thomas, songwriting and performing is something akin to therapy.

"Playing music is something I do whether the financial rewards are there or not," Thomas said. "It keeps me busy, keeps me out of trouble. It's such a big part of my life. I don't feel normal if I'm not doing it."

His job as a computer programmer pays the bills, but The Outer Loop keeps him relatively centered. The combination of job and band means a lot of hard work. But Thomas says that's fine.

"I'd rather be doing too much than nothing," he said.

Sam McDonald can be reached at 247-4732 or by e-mail at
Copyright © 2003, Daily Press


Who's On the Ceiling?

By Sam McDonald
Daily Press
May 30, 2003

Hampton's own tenacious acoustic-punk combo The Outer Loop has survived long enough to make an impressive debut CD titled "Who's On The Ceiling." Now, for the first time, fans can take home deliciously quirky tunes such as "Animal Friends", "Big Kahuna", and "Comfortably Uncomfortable".

The disc, recorded at Winter Sound in Gloucester, is being celebrated tonight with a CD release party at Marker 20 in downtown Hampton.

Action starts at 9 p.m. The show is free. A CD will set you back $8, but will most likely come with a money-back guarantee. Call Marker 20 at 728-9410. If you can't make the show but would like to buy a disc, e-mail the band at

Sam McDonald can be reached at 247-4732 or by e-mail at
Copyright © 2003, Daily Press



The Loop Has Landed

By Sam McDonald
Daily Press
November 24, 2000

Will somebody please give these guys a recording contract? Matt Thomas, Jason Helmintoller and Kevin Rickman call themselves The Outer Loop. And these Hampton residents are writing quirky, funny, amazingly catchy tunes that the world deserves to hear.

“Animal Friends”, “Function of a Filthy Mouth”, “Hug”, and “Rearview Mirror” are songs built on solid melodic hooks and a deliciously skewed perspective.

They’re completely fresh, very fun and, for me, unforgettable.

Sadly, though few local music fans have heard them.

The rock trio began playing small gigs and open mike nights on the Peninsula over the summer. But their roots stretch back to a group called Bully Girl and the Battered Husbands, a punk outfit that performed at a few parties, a handful of open mike nights and at least one gig at Williamsburg’s College Deli.

But Bully Girl was not to be. Eventually the band’s drummer, Sam Ponzar, took off to Richmond where he eventually joined a group called The Can Utility. Thomas and Helmintoller continued to jam, writing songs and developing a unique style. Thomas plays acoustic bass guitar and Helmintoller plays acoustic guitar. And Rickman, who joined much later, uses a small drum kit. The resulting sound is similar to that of the Violent Femmes. But The Outer Loop’s off-kilter songwriting bears more of a resemblance to They Might Be Giants.

Basically, Bully Girl turned down the volulme and became The Outer Loop. “The idea of the songwriting is very similar,” Thomas said. “But the feel is a lot more laid back and folky than Bully Girl. Bully Girl had a very hardcore feel to it. We felt like to be cool we had to be hardcore. As far as our songwriting, it stayed the same. But we mellowed out the feel.”

Of course, The Outer Loop’s acoustic configuration makes it nearly impossible to sound hardcore. But there was also a maturing of their musical approach. “We were trying to do more with our voices than just belting it out,” Thomas said. “And trying to do something different than everybody else is doing around here.

“I think I also said it would be cool to play something that my parents would actually appreciate.” Want to be pulled into The Outer Loop? Find out about future bookings by calling Thomas at 826-6283.

Sam McDonald may be reached at 247-4732 or by email at
Copyright © 2003, Daily Press



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