Jesse Sykes (née Solomon) (born July 17, 1967) is an American singer and songwriter, best known for her band Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, which was formed in 1999 with Phil Wandscher.
Sykes was born in Mount Kisco, New York, and grew up in Pound Ridge, New York. An obsession with Lynyrd Skynyrd drove her to purchase her first guitar at age 12.
She has a BFA in photography from Rhode Island School of Design.
Sykes moved to Seattle in 1990 after a brief stint in New York City. "I was open to anything new, and on a whim just came out here," she said to the Seattle P.I. "I didn't expect to stay so long."
Sykes also told the Seattle P.I that among her more memorable experiences in the '90s was meeting maverick songwriter Townes Van Zandt after a Seattle show. "Instantly, I felt like I knew him. There was something very, very powerful about him," she said. "I think he's one of those guys who was kind of like a shaman. He was full of love. I think he made everyone who met him feel that love. He was there to receive and to give. When he hugged me, it felt like a river was going right through my heart. That feeling never really went away."
In 1990 Sykes moved to Seattle, Washington, and began playing in bands. Sykes was formerly in the band Hominy with then husband, Jim Sykes, who played guitar. The band released a self-titled album in 1998 on the Ivy label.
In 1998, she met Phil Wandscher, who was well known for both co-founding and for being fired from alt-country band Whiskeytown. They formed the band Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter. Members of The Sweet Hereafter included Anne Marie Ruljancich on viola, Bill Herzog on bass, Kevin Warner on drums (on first two albums) and Eric Eagle on drums.
In 1999 Sykes met producer Tucker Martine who recorded and produced the first three albums of The Sweet Hereafter. 2011's "Marble Son" was produced by Sykes and Wandscher along with engineer Mell Dettmer. There was additional recording and production on both Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul and Marble Son by Martin Feveyear and both albums were mixed by Feveyear. The band was signed to Barsuk Records in 2003 after Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie, also a Barsuk band, heard the debut album "Reckless Burning" and brought it to the attention of label head Josh Rosenfeld. The same year the band signed with Paris-based label Fargo. Their follow-up album, "Oh, My Girl" was recognized by music critic Jon Pareles of the New York Times on his end of the year list of "2004 albums that deserve notice before turning the calendar page" and was featured on NPR's All Things Considered. The Seattle Times said; "Rolling Stone magazine called Sykes' brooding, emotionally-raw album "quiet marvels of lamentation," and "Oh, My Girl" made a handful of Top 10 of 2004 lists."
According to the Miami New Times, "At this time the band spent the majority of time on the road, mostly in Europe where The Sweet Hereafter received its earliest accolades." The band played the Roskilde musical festival in Denmark in 2004. In 2005, Conor Oberst, a fan of the band, invited them to tour with his band Bright Eyes. After the release of their third album, Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul which the Dallas Observer called "her first masterpiece" and CMJ said "a significant step forward for Sykes as a torchbearer of masterful mourning", the band toured with Sparklehorse. The New York Times reviewed the show at New York City's Webster Hall, saying "in some ways Ms. Sykes could be a female counterpoint to Mr. Linkous" in an article titled "Everything Crumbles Toward Eternities". Sadly, Mark Linkous died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound in 2010. Sparklehorse was dropped from its label during the tour with the Sweet Hereafter, which Jesse Sykes described as a "bomb dropped on the Sparklehorse camp--most critically on Mark Linkous" in an article for the Seattle Weekly she authored describing her experience touring with Mark Linkous. The song, "Birds Of Passerine" on Marble Son was written by Sykes for Mark Linkous after his death.
In 2008 the band toured with Earth and Black Mountain. In 2009 Sykes and Wandscher wrote and recorded original music for The Seattle Shakespeare Company's performance of "The Tempest".
In 2010, Sykes sang at All Tomorrow's Parties in Monticello, New York with the festival's headliner Altar, a collaborative project (as well as album name) between Sunn O))) and Boris. The festival was curated by the film director Jim Jarmusch. That same weekend Sykes also performed in Altar at Brooklyn's Masonic Temple. The show was opened by BXI the collaborative project with Ian Astbury, front person of the band The Cult, and Boris, followed by Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter. On this night a power outage occurred, lasting forty-five minutes. In order to preserve power, Altar was performed in the dark. On December 10, 2007 Sykes also performed with Altar as part of ATP at The Forum, London.
Sykes' association with Altar came about in 2006 when she had been asked by the members of Sunn O))), to write lyrics and a melody and sing over music they had created with members of Boris, for the upcoming collaborative album. Sykes named the song "The Sinking Belle". Sykes said she drew inspiration for the song from author Joan Didion's widow's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. Pitchfork Media called The Sinking Belle "Altars centerpiece and masterpiece".
In 2011 Marble Son was released garnering critical praise from The New York Times, Spin,Consequence of Sound, and others The UK's The Line Of Best Fit called it; "a triumph, in a word".Spin called it "a sprawling psyche rock vision".
Sykes was previously married to musician Jim Sykes. She was in a 10-year relationship with Sweet Hereafter band mate, Phil Wandscher.
Sykes is currently living in Iowa.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license