The Swedish band the Sounds has a taste for the '80s and rock 'n' roll. Its third album, Something To Die For, has a new-wave flavor with a punk attitude. Windy City Times caught up with Maja Ivarsson, the lead singer, on the road before the band hits Chicago. Although very private, Ivarsson discussed being bisexual, the band's intense lyrics and the group's start.
Windy City Times: Hello, Maja. You are from Sweden?
Maja Ivarsson: Born and raised. I am from the southern part. I was born in √ … hus, Sk√•ne. It is a small fishing village, very picturesque. It was very cute. Then I moved to another city, Helsingborg, when I was 10. That is where we formed the band in 1998. Now I live in Malm√∂.
WCT: You were all classmates when you formed the band, correct?
MI: At least me and F√©lix, the guitarist; we met in high school. That is how I ended up in the band. We had music class together. I was not a singer. I never dreamt about becoming a singer. I played guitar. In music class I was supposed to play a cover song. I told F√©lix that I knew a song by The Smashing Pumpkins. I knew the chords and the lyrics, so we played that one. I told him I was not a singer but he said I am the only one that knew the lyrics so I had to, anyway. He asked me if I wanted to join this new band but I had to sing. I played guitar the first year into the band but after that I focused on becoming a better singer.
WCT: You have a very strong voice.
MI: Thank you. I don't hit every note perfectly but I do know that I have character. I think that is more important than being typical sounding. I would rather have the personality.
WCT: Where did the name The Sounds come from?
MI: We were a band for six months and about to have our first show in our hometown. Since I didn't know the other guys in the band that wellI only knew F√©lix from schoolwe decided to go on a trip to London. It was more of a partying, drinking kind of a trip to get to know each other a little bit.
We went to a punk-rock club. Outside there was a poster that said, "The sound" of something. When we came back to Sweden the promoter called us to say that we had a show the next day and we needed a name. Felix remembered that poster and asked me what I thought about "The Sound" but add an "s." We just got stuck with that name. I think that is common, thoughalmost every band's name sounds cheesy. Even a band like Smashing Pumpkins. What kind of name is that? But it is a great band with good music.
WCT: They are playing this weekend.
MI: That is so cool!
WCT: What do you think of Swedish bands like The Cardigans?
MI: We used to share rehearsal space with them. The drummer and his wife I know really well. Sometimes I bump into Nina when she is in Sweden when we are out and about in the city. We are not close but definitely friends.
WCT: You have opened for groups like No Doubt.
MI: Yes. The first big tour we did was with The Strokes. That was such a cool experience for all of us in the band. It was back in 2003. We were such a young band and to be able to go out on the road with a band that we all look up to and are influenced by, it was amazing. We had such a good time. We became very close. They actually invited us to come with them to Mexico. We were not supposed to go that long on the tour. That was very flattering and we had so much fun.
No Doubt were so cool and down to earth. The Strokes were a party band back then. No Doubt was more like a family. They had all their kids and nannies, personal trainers, the whole thing. Foo Fighters were great too.
WCT: Tell me about the song "Dance With the Devil."
MI: I hate explaining songs because it is really up to the listeners to make their own opinion. When I grew up listening to music my brother was a big Depeche Mode fan. I didn't know any English at the time and asked him to translate the song "My Secret Garden." All the magic was gone! But "Dance With The Devil," for us, is about when you know something you are not supposed to do or up to no good but still do it. It feels good but it is totally bad. I'm dancing with the devil…
WCT: Is your song "Diana" about someone?
MI: Yes and no. It is not about a person in particular but I had a friend when I grew up named Diana. She died of an overdose. She was 21. It was sad and I lost my best friend. When I sing that song I think of her. I did write a song about her called "Seven Days a Week."
WCT: Do you write a lot of the lyrics?
MI: I did for the first record. For the second one I wrote most of the lyrics. For this third album Something To Die For not as much as the other ones. I am so happy that the guys write really good lyrics too. I think it is very unusual in a band to have five people who are equally involved in the process of making the music and the lyrics. F√©lix and Jesper are the main two songwriters at the moment. It has been changing from record to record.
WCT: Do you consider yourself bisexual?
MI: I have only had one girlfriend in my whole life. We are not together anymore. I don't think I will date another girl. At the same time, when I met her I totally fell in love with her. We had a great relationship but it ended really badly.
I think with many lesbian relationships there is a curse where you become best friends more than lovers. That is what happened with us. We are not in the sexual relationship anymore. We had more of a friendship. If I meet someone and fall in love with them then I am going date them no matter what the gender. If I fall in love with someone then I am going to go for it. I can honestly say I am leaning more towards boys than women. But that girl was so beautiful. Anybody would have fallen in love with her. She was like a Brigitte Bardot and stunning.
WCT: How many times have you been to Chicago?
MI: I think we have been there, like, 6,000 times. No, at the Metro at least four times. We have played at venues all over Chicago. We have been touring since 2003 in America. With Chicago being a bigger city we have been there almost every tour in the U.S. I can't really count any more; it has been so many times!
Don't miss this time out at The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., on Oct. 22. Visit www.jamusa.com or www.the-sounds.com for tickets and information.