Sounding Off


By Derek de Koff

Oh, The Sounds -- why are you so fierce? Formed in 1999 and fronted by the refreshingly outspoken Maja Ivarsson, these childhood friends from Helsinborg, Sweden (who are as easy on the eyes as they are on the ears) have been relentlessly touring the world for a decade, exposing millions to their maniacally energetic concerts and their brash, guitar-infused synth-punk. On the heels of the release of their terrific third album, Crossing The Rubicon, and in-between opening for headliners No Doubt, we talked with Maja about partying with Gwen Stefani, sparring with Fall Out Boy's teenage girl fan-base, and why Sweden seems hell-bent on conquering the cultural landscape.

Out: Good morning.
Maja Ivarsson: Ugh, good morning. I just got out of bed half an hour ago and I'm still tired. I was at a party with No Doubt last night.

How is that going?
Awesome. I think it's one of the best tours we've ever done, and we've been touring for many, many years. They put on a great show every night and they're really friendly. We feel really welcome. It's not like we all party together every night or anything, but last night was one of those nights. It was very cool, a really nice vibe -- nothing too crazy. I mean, they have their kids with them.

So I was just reading about the Phil Spector sentencing when you called -- 19 years to life. Do you think they'll allow him to wear his wigs in jail?
(Laughs) Probably, right? I don't know how it works in America. I don't think they'd go for the wigs in Sweden, though. That is such a crazy, crazy case.

So let me get this out of the way: When Out last talked to you in 2007, you had a girlfriend that you'd been with for three and a half years. Are you guys still going strong?
Eeh' um' it's a secret right now. I'm not talking about it. My bisexuality has just become such a big thing' and I would really much rather talk about the music than my relationship.

I hear you. It must get a little tedious to discuss your sexuality with anonymous reporters such as myself.
It does a little bit, yeah -- but at the same time, if I can help somebody feel better about their sexuality, about being bisexual or gay, then that's great, of course. It's just that I don't want to distract from the music.

It seems like you guys haven't relented from your rigorous touring schedule. Have you noticed different reactions from the audience, based on where you're playing?
I would say that basically people are people wherever you go in the world -- and that's a good thing. But in El Paso we have an amazing Latino crowd, so performing there is always a special event for us. It's a crazy, crazy crowd in a good, good way. I think that American crowds are better than the crowds in Europe'

Why? Are we better dancers?
I don't know why, man -- you guys are very passionate about music, you have a lot of kids and people my age, and older people all coming out to see live bands. We don't have too many good venues in Sweden. We have a lot of discos but not enough real venues where bands can play music. Every night feels like it's 1962 or something.

At this point do you guys ever get attitude from audiences, or are they all pretty enthusiastic?
Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often but when it does, it really puts me off, because I'm not used to it and I get really pissed. I flip people off and scream, 'What the fuck did I do to you? That's not cool at all!' I shouldn't get so emotionally hurt, but I do. It happened a lot when we were touring with Fall Out Boy because they have such hardcore fans and most of them are teenage girls. Those girls were not having me. I told them, 'You guys are just jealous because I get to hang out with your favorite band and you don't!' So that happens about two or three times a year. One time we played with The Foo Fighters in Oslo and the crowd was giving me the finger.

Any battle scars from your recent tour?
Yes, actually. The other night in El Paso, a tour manager hurt his leg and got a very deep cut. See, the club only had the capacity for 450 people but 700 showed up. So we set it up in a way that people could stand outside and look in. At one point, the tour manager jumped through an open window for some reason and cut his leg. The cut is really, really deep. He showed it to me and I almost fainted. It was just crazy. There was a nurse outside, but she was just there for the show, and she was really drunk, but she took him to the fire department and they stitched him up. He's okay now' but it looks gnarly.