Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, at its core, is the result of the enduring musical alchemy between singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher, which began in Seattle, Washington in 2001.
Blending folk, blues, orchestral pop and various psychedelic stylings, their sound culminates in what Sykes describes as “spectral folk rock”. Known for her dusky, otherworldly vocals and lyrics that touch on the metaphysical-she was once described by MAGNET as being “less like a performer and more like a sage,” and “weather the sonic setting is one of doomy distortion or fragile finger picking, Sykes remains a truly unique vocalist whose dusky voice is capable of imparting a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to almost any tune it touches.” The New York Times has described their sound as “spellbound music, rapt in fatalism and sorrow” and Rolling Stone called them “utterly transfixing.”
The band has released four critically acclaimed albums–three on Barsuk Records (USA) Reckless Burning (2002), Oh, My Girl (2005) and Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul (2007), while their fourth album Marble Son (2011) was released through Thirty Tigers on their own US imprint (Station Grey). All records were released in Europe on the highly regarded Parisian label, Fargo (sadly now defunct) and Marble Son was also released in Japan on Daymare Recordings.
In 2004 the band was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, which brought to them a new found national audience. They have traveled extensively in the US and Europe and have had the pleasure of touring with: Black Mountain, Earth, Sparklehorse (rip), Bright Eyes, Iron And Wine, Marissa Nadler, Laura Veirs, J. Tillman, Jason Isbell, The Knitters, The Sadies and many more. They have shared the stage with acts on opposite ends of a vast spectrum of genres, ranging from Sunno))), Boris, Nicolai Dunger, Giant Sand, Calexico, Coco Rosie all the way to Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch.
Sykes is also known for her diverse collaborations–most notably for co-writing and singing “The Sinking Belle” on the monolithic album “Altar”(Southern Lord), a joint project with art metal bands Sunn O))) and Boris (Japan). Pitchfork called The Sinking Belle the albums “centerpiece and masterpiece.” Wandscher and (bassist) Bill Herzog also appear on this recording and the three have performed with the ensemble on a number of occasions, including the headlining performance at the prestigious “All Tomorrows Parties” music festival in Monticello, NY in 2010 (curated by film maker Jim Jarmusch). Sykes also collaborated on the musical score (composed by Steven O’Malley of Sunn O))) for “Eternal Idol” (Shelter Press, Paris, 2015), a performance art piece written, choreographed, and directed by the acclaimed French artist, Giselle Vienne. In 2008, Sykes and Wandscher composed the music for the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (soundtrack self-released 2008). Syke’s (also a visual artist) photographic work has been featured in Vice magazine.
The two took on full production duties for “Marble Son” (2011) which moved the band progressively into its own unique genre, allowing Wandscher to explore heavier tones and more complex song structures, further blurring the lines between the avant-garde and the timeless. Spin magazine called Marble Son “a sprawling psyche rock vision” and the UK’s Line Of Best Fit called it; “a triumph… in a word”. Sykes claims the album was directly influenced by her collaborations with Sunn O))) and Boris and the “Altar” album’s producer, Randall Dunn.
Prior to his work with Jesse Sykes, Phil Wandscher co-founded the influential alt- country band Whiskeytown, with Ryan Adams. He also appears on Marissa Nadler’s acclaimed album “July” and has recently recorded and toured with Jon Langford, the leader of the legendary Mekons.
In 2019 Sykes appeared on legendary guitarist and songwriter Dave Alvin’s release of a side project called the The Third Mind, on Yep Roc Records, alongside members of Camper Van Beethoven, Counting Crows and Richard Thompson’s band. A national tour had been booked, but due to Covid hitting, all shows were cancelled and the music was never performed live.
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter were fortunate to have worked under the guidance of notable producers; Tucker Martine, Martin Feveyear, Mell Dettmer and Randall Dunn.
Past and sometimes present members have included Bill Herzog (bass), also of (Earth and Joel R.L. Phelps), Eric Eagle (drums), Anne Marie Ruljancich (viola), Kevin Warner (drums), Jason Merculief (drums) and Rebecca Young (bass).