Karen Moskowitz

Love and all its trappings, all of its mannerisms, will continue to bedevil man and woman, boy and girl, until time no longer exists. The amount of time already spent on the confounded emotion in song is obsessive and most definitely compulsive, but it's how love is thought about and explored that gives it any kind of importance at all, and makes it more than just an easy topic. Love has become rote so many times that it can often feel dead when it's put to music—when the identical sentiments are just realigned and thrown out for no good reason.

This, Jesse Sykes realized, didn't have to be the standard order. There could still be elements of the mystical emotion that were unmapped, and she learned this from a tattoo needled onto a complete stranger in a state that wasn't her own. She learned a valuable lesson in what affirms the very notion of love and what true love supposedly looked like in the flesh, and it made her well up enough—this love between two bikers—to dedicate an entire record (the just released Like Love Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul) to exploring the well-traveled subject even further. She wrote a song about the burning that happens at the onset of love, and if you're lucky, the entirety of it, and in the liner note "thank yous" of the album she specifically thanked the "LLL couple."

"They kind of inspired the entire record," Sykes said last week driving near the Canadian border. "I met this couple outside of a bar in Reno. They looked like bikers, and the man had a lot of tattoos. He had one that was just written in script and I asked him what it said and he told me, 'Like Love Lust, baby. It's all you need in life,' and he pointed to his wife, whom he obviously loved very much. I was taken by his adoration for his wife. At first glance, we thought he was drunk, but he told us that he had Alzheimer's. It turns out that he was a painter. I was so blown away by them. When you break it down, it really is all about those three things. In some ways, it's the most uninteresting thing to talk about, love. It's such a simple thing. But it really is all we have. When I met them, it was kind of like feeling like you met your soul mate."

Sykes recorded Like Love Lust with Tucker Martine, who recently co-produced the Decemberists' The Crane Wife and the upcoming record by his girlfriend, Laura Veirs. It's a record that embodies a sort of hereafter feeling influenced by golden pop and a heavy dose of authentic country-ish tones. "Tucker did seem to be a good listener. He never made me feel stupid for the way I express myself. I express myself in a very visual and emotional sense and it frustrates some people. I think, ultimately, all you can ever do is hope that people see those things in what we're doing. One word can express so much if you believe where that person is coming from. It could make you really believe in them."

We're believers, firm believers.