A decade ago, Swedish pop-rockers The Sounds broke big around the globe with their second album, Dying to Say This to You, featuring singles like “Tony the Beat (Push It),” “Painted by Numbers” and “Song with a Mission.” In celebration of the album, The Sounds headed out on a 10th-anniversary winter tour that wraps up next week. This interview with vocalist Maja (pronounced “Maya”) Ivarsson, however, took place in early 2006 right before the album dropped.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I get a little bit worried when I get to photo shoots. Sometimes it’s like, “Okay, this is a girl in a rock band, and we have to make her clothes kind of rock-y,” and that is the completely wrong idea. If you bring me beautiful clothes, I will bring the trash. I love the classic clothes, the classic cuts… good suits or a nice dress... but never any skulls and never any flames or bad stuff like that. When I get to photo shoots, I'm always afraid that I'm going to end up in freaky leather pants. I look the best when I am wearing something classic, like a black dress. The dress just speaks for itself as I think clothes should. The dress that I wore on Jimmy Kimmel Live looked great on TV, almost like a French maid.
Have you ever refused to wear something?
Sometimes you don't want to wear something, and the stylists get mad. If you say, “I just don't want to wear that because it's really not my style,” they take it personally. That's the worst part, when they say, “Hmmm… I don't like you either.” But I'm talking about the clothes! Once I showed up to this photo shoot, and they had all these weird shiny dresses with ʼ70s disco purple, and it was just awful. They said, “Oh, I thought you guys were in a rock band and would want something crazy.”
Have you ever sent one of the guys in the band back to the dress rooming for something they wore?
[Guitarist] Félix [Rodríguez], he is a cool guy who can get the most amazing ideas, but sometimes they are really bad, like one time he wanted to wear a cowboy hat. I was like, “No, we don't want to have that.” Still, it was in 1998, and that’s a long time ago. I think I let him go for that time, but now usually I think I’m okay with everything that they wear.
Was there one song that you wrote for the new album that helped guide the direction of the rest of the songs?
When we write music, I see every song in different colors. I know it's weird, but I do.
What color is “Song With a Mission”?
You know when you pee after drinking a lot of water? It's kind of a yellow, not really yellow, but it has a yellowish color.
You’re comparing your lead single to piss?
A little bit. “Painted By Numbers” is green with a little bit of blue in it, and “Hit Me!” from the old album is like super yellow, and “Seven Days a Week” is green, too.
Are any of the songs darker colors?
Absolutely. I like the twist of writing a happy melody but keeping the lyrics melancholy. You can sing it in an upbeat tempo, but it’s still, “Oh man, you broke my heart.” There is a lot more bluish on this record than on the last record. I am a very emotional person. I cry easy, and that is a good thing when you are an artist because you are more attached to your feelings. When I do feel sad, I write sad stuff.
Do you write better lyrics when you are happy or sad?
When I am sad, probably, because that is the classic songwriter: I'm lonely, I have heartache. It's true, when you have the blues, you are the most creative, and when you are really happy, you just want to write a disco song. That's fun, too. I remember when we wrote the first album, Félix and I would go out to the club, and in the middle of the night I would [often] write something down on a piece of paper and give it to him. It was like, “Put that in your pocket and read it to me in the morning.” Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was, “What the fuck?” So you can be very influenced by stuff even when you are happy.
You used more guitars and less keyboards on this album. Do you think this is a reaction to touring with so many rock bands in the States?
Absolutely, that is the main reason. Plus, it is a little more separated, like the electronic stuff is a lot more electronic with not as much guitars, while the guitar base has a lot less synthesizer. We basically split those two ideas, but absolutely, touring the U.S. with all these American bands and definitely playing the Warped Tour made an impression on us.
I noticed that you’re starting to stage dive a lot during shows. Doesn’t that scare you and doesn’t the crew get nervous?
I don't do it at every show. These last shows have been so amazing that I just couldn't help myself, but sometimes when you have a new crew, you don't want to tell them because it's more of a surprise. I never get scared, but sometimes the guy is like, “What the fuck did you do that for? I didn't know you were going to do that.” I'm like, “Hee hee, that's the fun part.”
I’m just saying, not a lot of female singers are going to stage dive into a sea of sweaty guys.
I suppose that's the point.
Are there any stereotypes about women in rock that you especially hate?
I mostly disagree when people say that it is so hard to be a woman in this industry. I think it is the opposite. Of course, it is a male-dominated industry, but that is what makes me more comfortable. I have my spot, and it is something that the guys can't compete with because I'm the lady and they are not. I feel very secure in what I'm doing, and as long as you’re surrounded by good guys, it's alright. I've always been a tomboy. I've always hung out with guys because it's so much easier.
Why is it so much easier?
Dude, don't you have a girlfriend?
What would be an example of girls being more difficult?
Last night I was in the bus after the show and I had my long johns on and no makeup. I just looked like shit, but it was after the show, and you don't want to look too fabulous. Well, there was this girl on the bus, and she was trying to hook up with Félix, and sometimes there is tension between girls and you don't even know why. It's just stupid. This girl was giving me all this evil eye, and I started to dance a little bit because we were playing techno in the bus, and she was like, “You never lose energy, do you?” I was like, “I'm just having a good time.” After awhile, she came up and wanted to arm wrestle. I'm like, “Why do you want to do that?” She said, “Come on, right now…” and of course I won. She said, “I let you win.” Of course you did. These guys are my friends, I'm not dating any of them, and they are all yours if you want them. You don't have to compete with me and arm wrestle.
Have you ever said to one of the guys, “You can do what you want, but you really should take a sober look at that girl”?
Well, I try not to judge their girls. I think they judge themselves enough. Everyone is in it for a good time, so I don't say a girl is nuts or weird.
Who in the band is most likely to get arrested?
I have been arrested a couple of times so I guess me.
I can't tell you.
Then who is most likely to get arrested in the future?
[Keyboardist] Jesper [Anderberg].
Because by saying Jesper, I get out of explaining why I was arrested.
Photo by Birte Filmer.