OLYMPIA, WA—Slightly paunchy, thin-haired Robert Pelton, 27, is just like a brother to area musician Tara Leland, the attractive blonde said Monday.

A 1997 photo of longtime platonic friends Pelton (left) and Leland.

"Rob is so cool," the 26-year-old Leland said. "He's just the greatest friend in the world. I love him so much!"

Pelton blushed and smiled as the statuesque Leland, dressed in a miniskirt, high boots and a tight tank top, bent over and kissed him on the cheek.

Founder of the Olympia indie label Important Records, Pelton met Leland two years ago when Leland's band, the Drama Queens, held a release party for its new seven-inch at the record store where Pelton works.

"Tara and I hit it off right away," said Pelton, who, despite his tremendous music-production skills and near-encyclopedic knowledge of '70s power pop and punk, has not had a date in over two years. "At first, we'd just talk about the music business, but then I finally got up the courage to ask her to a show."

"I'm sure glad I did, because we've been the best of friends ever since," he added.

The two spend a great deal of time together, talking on the phone for hours when Leland has had a bad day, shopping at women's shoe stores and attending Drama Queens shows, at which Pelton generally carries all the equipment to the van while Leland lets men from the club buy her drinks after her set.

While Leland's friends have never questioned the platonic nature of the relationship, Pelton's co-workers have encouraged him to "take it to the next level."

"I always tell them it's not like that between Tara and me," Pelton said. "And, besides, she's seeing Derek right now. I think we're too much alike for something like that to work, anyway."

"Perhaps, though, if it were the right time, I'd be open to seeing her romantically, I guess," said Pelton, whose skin still shows the slight scarring effects of heavy teen acne. "Because we really care about each other a lot."

According to Leland, Pelton has gone out of his way to help her music career.

"Rob has done so much for me, it's amazing," Leland said. "He's made tons of calls and gone all over the place to get people to listen to our demo. And we're really finding our voice now that Rob's been recording stuff with me on lead vocals. It's great to have someone who understands my potential."

Leland said Pelton understands her so well, he is "practically like family." But despite the deep familial bond, Pelton has on three separate occasions tried to kiss her when drunk.

Leland, however, was unfazed by the advances. "We're so close, when funny stuff like that happens every now and then it doesn't even matter," Leland said. "I'm sure he doesn't even think about it."

According to Pelton, Leland is very open, regularly sharing with him her problems, especially those concerning her unending string of hip, handsome boyfriends.

"Tara really wants to find someone she can respect," Pelton said. "She needs someone who can be her friend and confidant, as well as her lover, and that means not just some guy with a pretty face."

"The trouble is, people take Tara for granted," Pelton continued. "No one really understands her like I do."

Leland trusts Pelton so much, she often tells him in detail how much she enjoys receiving oral sex and how annoyed she is that some of some of her boyfriends are inept at providing it.

"I also know that she likes sex really hard and rough," Leland's honorary brother said. "She's talked about that a bunch of times."

Despite Leland's openness, Pelton said he sometimes can't shake the feeling that she is holding something back from him.

"I know her so well, sometimes I just get a funny feeling she's not saying everything," Pelton said. "Maybe she has some deeper feelings for me, but she doesn't know how I'd react, seeing as we're such good friends and all."