What can you tell me about your new record "marble son"? I want to know everything about it...

 
Well, let's see.... it was recorded and mixed over the course of a year...the songs were written over a year’s time as well. It took longer than usual to make, but a lot was going on--Phil and I broke up after being a couple for 10 years and I needed some time to triage and convalesce a bit, then see if we could carry on together musically. Also in that window; babies were born, people died, and I got engaged to my new love...it was a heavy, but exciting two years! We recorded with Mell Dettmer mixed it with Martin Feveyear again, but produced it ourselves. We knew we wanted to make a record that was mostly live and reflected the dire energy we seemed to be generating at the time....so a good portion of these songs were recorded live in the studio; some more than others, but the bulk is live (with some overdubs of course). I don't know, it's hard to look back, because the recording process was so broken up... it feels like a dream....I remember the good stuff, but the bad found a way to come out in another form....I suppose I haven't processed the experience completely—it doesn’t feel done yet. (I’m still finishing up the artwork for US version, etc.) One thing I like, is that it feels to me ‘like an album’...it’s long and might require a certain commitment from the listener and will probably appeal to people that are willing to be taken somewhere. I feel like it succeeds on that level, in that it feels like the journey I needed to take at the time, while.in the back of my mind knowing I would get to go back and visit from time to time!

 

Where does the name of this album come from? What did you try to express?
 

I liked the idea of something beautiful that may or may not be appreciated in its own time...of course a statue comes to mind...they seem to last forever in human terms, and they still are considered beautiful and viable even as they disintegrate. Some were built so well that their dissolution is almost more powerful than the pristine form—as it disintegrates, it exposes the creative process, the bare essentials....and in the fragments left-an arm, a torso, speak volumes in their decaying state. There's a line in the song  that goes..."Oh marble son, why can’t I love you more? I wish I'd found you beautiful before." That line reflects where I'm at in life...many things I didn't appreciate when I was young, I find beautiful now and vice versa. I think about relationships and how people can "miss the boat” in their lifetime, but if we need to wait another lifetime to understand a certain kind of love, then so be it. For some, it might take many lifetimes to discover, for others--well... they luck out and have a love that transcends time! We all have our evolutionary path to understanding our capacity to love and to understand beauty. The idea or image of a marble son just spoke to me on all these levels.... strong, forgotten, loved, beautiful, sad..... eternal.

 

The new album definitely has a more expansive, adventurous sound than the previous. Was there a conscious effort to be more "heavy-doom" this time around or did the music just naturally fall into place?
 

First of all, I wouldn’t (and nor should anyone else) ever refer to our music as "heavy doom". I have no misconceptions about the fact that although we’ve moved into some sonically heavier territories, we are by no means what I would consider a sonically "heavy" band, and we’re definitely NOT a doom/drone metal band. If anything we’re an intense band, and our songs are emotionally heavy, and always have been. Working with SUNNO)) and Boris, playing with them and for that audience inspired us to stay honest with ourselves and the music. This record reflects where I am in life...I’m getting older, life feels more dire, the state of culture feels dire, and the music reflects this energy. A country folk song doesn’t feel like it can reflect this for me, although I wish it could. As I’ve gotten older, there’s more to reflect upon...my palate feels like a monolithic slab, and what I’m drawing from feels vast and impossible to mirror without a similarly varied sonic pallet. And again, there was also a lot of change: Phil's father died during the recording, Bill became a father...Phil and I broke up; I found the love of my life--god, all that change HAD to be embodied in the music.

 

Your duet with SunnO))) "the sinking belle" has become an underground classic. Does the new sound direction come from this collaboration ?
 

Well again, it’s complicated. That collaboration, with SUNNO)) and BORIS (from Japan) resulted in friendship and mutual respect, and the experience percolated over the last four years. I learned a lot about not being afraid to stretch out beyond my comfort zone, but they also met me more than half way, and in hindsight, it reflects their willingness to reach beyond their comfort zone as well—they wanted a pretty song, which was uncharacteristic for SUNNO))—so, they wrote beautiful music for me to work with, I wrote the lyrics and melody, and it felt very organic. We just understood what each other was trying to create metaphysically. And, it wasn't like I had to sing over a volcanic eruption! (although that would be beautiful and interesting!)

 

You also toured with Earth, another drone band. Does that mean that you are definitively interested by this slowdown tempo music? Was it something new for you or were you 'always" interested in this heavy sound ?

 
Well, Earth has really become less of a heavy sludge band and are now very elegant in their way...it's slow and heavy, but very musical and orchestrated...beautiful! But to answer your question: I am interested in ALL kinds of music...I've never understood why bands of the same genre always have to tour together. I like mixing it up...I think we don't give audiences enough credit. I think they can understand that if there’s a shared intent and commitment to vision, even if the music is not in the same “genre”, the intent is often understood. What I love about those guys is their commitment to their vision...they remain loyal to it, yet grow in context to it. This is what I am interested in. Like them, we are try to be loyal to our vision, yet always strive to reach out of our comfort zone.

 

Between the gorgeous instrumentation and your own distinctive voice, Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter have always been something of a dual showcase. Has there ever been any conflict in reconciling the two during the songwriting or studio process?


Honestly, with Phil and I there is always conflict and there always will be. I've come to the conclusion it isn't worth trying to fix; it-it is probably in some way a part of what we are. I don’t think I could expect someone to play guitar like him and be ordinary. He is as complex as his playing demonstrates and I accept that this is how it needs to be for our music to remain pure. I believe that sometimes tension and friction can create beautiful things....Phil is a good barometer for me too...he’s honest, doesn’t placate me...and I do the same...this is how we "keep it real". I write songs that provide Phil with a landscape to navigate--create a musical journey, so to speak. His guitar parts aren’t solos, but musical pieces, places to go and get lost....I welcome it...and frankly i get bored of music that doesn't provide shelter...his playing creates a shelter for my voice to live.

 

When i wrote my review about this new album, i have written something like "marble son is, in a way, the dorian gray portrait seen on the negative part of a picture. There is a beauty inside the album, in the lyrics but the outside is very very dark. What do you think about it ?

 
I think if you compare it to say, The Decemberists then it’s pretty dark...but, I don't know, I feel like the vast majority of music doesn’t deal with the full spectrum of reality—I feel like darkness has its beauty, in that it forces you to feel, reflect, and internalize emotions. For some this is uncomfortable--they don't want to be taken "there".....myself included...there are many days when I don't want to hear music because it forces me to face my internal world—it’s too painful sometimes. Music isn’t background filler for me, it sucks me in, whether I’m ready or not, and so often times I prefer silence.

 

A radical change in the sound has started with your EP "the tempest" that is definitively something different from your other records. Why did you decide to record this EP? For what reason? Why Shakespeare? Why the tempest and not Hamlet for example. Does Shakespeare inspired you for composing ?

 
We were commissioned to compose the music for the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest”. We wrote the music and melodies but used Shakespeare's words. It was a lot of work, but we both believed in the project, identified with the story, and thought it’d be rewarding—and it was; I’ll never forget seeing the play and hearing the actors sing our songs. It was stunning.

 

We never talked about Hominy. Can you tell me everything about this band? I mean the beginning, the middle and the end?

 
There’s not much to tell really. Sadly, I have little to say about this time of my life musically. It was a very inconsequential band, and frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed by the music. It was the first time I really tried to write and I hadn't figured it out yet...it was kind of a learning process for me, so on that level it was important...but nothing was left behind that I feel should be part of the world now...I'm glad it existed pre- internet so it can be forgotten!. It wasn't a band for more than a couple of years; never toured even.

 

If you look backwards, what do you think about this period of time ?

 
I think about how horrible that period was...my 20's were difficult. I was lost and depressed. Definitely an era I choose to not think about much.

 

When did you decide to change your sound ? Was it when you met Phil that has just finished his Whiskeytown experience ?

 
I never consciously tried to change anything, it just morphed into how our lives looked and felt. We were like sponges. I didn’t have a band, so it was just me and the acoustic, and yes, I was listening to a lot of singer song writers, so it’s not surprising that what we created was intimate and stripped down. Whiskeytown wasn't part of the equation...Phil played what he felt...and I think his guitar playing has progressed far beyond what he did in that band.

 

I have read that the name of your band, the Sweet Hereafter came from a dream you made one night. can you remind us exactly the story?

 
The night before i was to record "reckless burning" I had a flying dream—there was a narrator, we were flying (I never saw him as he was on my left shoulder) and we came upon a small graveyard on a wooded hillside at night. As we got closer to the graves i could her music coming up thru the ground and he said, "Do you know what that is?" and i said "what?". He followed "that is the sound we make after we die, it is the sound of our souls"...well, it was this gorgeous violin music and as we flew off it disappeared back into the ground ...then later in the dream I jumped up towards the full moon and heard these strange and beautiful horns that he said were angels, again a sound I've never heard on earth! I remember smiling and laughing and feeling a joy I've never felt, as I jumped up thousands of feet into the air face to face with the moon. When I woke I felt like I was in a state of grace and had been given some sort of divine gift. It's never happened since or before......Later that week when we recorded "lullaby" (the last song on "reckless burning") the beginning fades up and it’s mostly violin; I realized that this was the music from the dream. Weeks later, I named the band "The Sweet Hereafter”. Most said it was a terrible name, but i didn't care because I had had this dream.

 

I have the feeling that Europe is very supportive of your music, not the USA. Am i right ? And if it is the case, do you have an explanation?

 
well that a complicated question...starting with record labels, in the past we have always had great US support...i just think the times have changed...people aren't taking risks like they used to....as far as our relationship with Fargo, Michel is a lot like us, passionate, unafraid to express his emotions...doesn't walk on egg shells.....i think over the years we have all come to understand each other on a soul level...Michel is loyal and he has a vision-which i appreciate. in terms of crowds, its oddly enough a bit better for us in the US...of course it's a huge country here, and there are areas we have no draw...but the west coast and  east coast we do pretty well. I think in Europe it is more concentrated so it feels more consistent when you are on tour there....plus, i do think in Europe there is a greater respect for bands and musicians-a reverence...here in the states they almost treat you like the enemy which can be apparent when you first pull into a club....there is a complacent attitude...it is a reflection of the times i suppose. Too many bands!

 

Do you plan to be on tour to support this album? Do you have already a precise idea of the live set. Can you tell us what songs you will play... Please Jesse :)

 
 Yes, hopefully there will be lots of touring!  As far as songs...i wish i could tell you, but we haven't started rehearsals yet so i don't know...we will play the new record though. That i am sure of!

 

A last word about your projects?

  
Oh gee, I'm so busy getting this off the ground i have no new things in the works...maybe an EP of just Phil and I playing together, we will see!