The Sounds have outlasted the new-wave revival of the early aughts, gliding along on their shimmery new-wave electro-pop for more than a decade. With singer Maja Ivarsson leading the band’s synth-driven, dance-friendly charge, the Swedish quintet has been touring throughout most of 2009 in support of its third album, Crossing The Rubicon. Before embarking on a three-month North American and European tour—including a stop at 9:30 Club on Sept. 21—keyboardist Jesper Anderberg spoke with The A.V. Club about being bilingual, starting the band’s own label, and the benefits of having a badass frontwoman.
The A.V. Club: You guys started playing together as teenagers—did you write your lyrics in English back then, too?
Jesper Anderberg: Yeah, we’ve always written in English. We’re from a very small town in the south of Sweden so our accent is—well, it sounds funny when you sing. Also English is a more universal language and a more useful one. It’s more interesting for forming cool sentences and not sounding too corny.
AVC: You and Felix [Rodriguez, guitarist] have worked with other bands. How do you keep your attentions separated?
JA: We write a lot and some songs fit with our band and others would be better for other bands, so we just see how that goes. Our music is, in a way, very different from other bands, so we know when it doesn’t fit. But at the same time, we’re very different people and sometimes we just want to make a metal song, you know? We write whenever we can write and we write whatever we can write—always from our hearts. It’s a hard balance, though.
AVC: Why did you decide to release Crossing The Rubicon on your own label?
JA: I don’t think we went the normal way. We’ve always loved touring so much that studio albums have always been kind of a drag—we’re hyper people, so we don’t settle well in that kind of space. When we did Living In America, we weren’t yet that good of friends, and now I think of [that album] and I don’t even know when we recorded it or how we recorded it. It’s all just a blur. We had no idea what we were doing in the studio—we were just so young. Then Dying To Say This To You wasn’t for another three or four years and took too much time. After that we were more like, “If we can do that, we can do anything.” [Laughs.] Doing it this way was more organized in a way. We didn’t have a label for a start and we had some friends we could record with, so we set up some time and just tried it. With Crossing The Rubicon, the songs feel more finished, much more polished.
AVC: Would you try this approach again?
JA: We’re always on our own, but this time we had to actually finance it ourselves. When you’re on a big label everything costs so much more, so we’d rather do it ourselves like this. An album really shouldn’t cost more than what it took this time, but somehow it’ll cost some bands like, a million dollars, and I can’t even imagine what they’re doing.
AVC: With all your international popularity, how have you avoided that kind of big-label machine?
JA: We wouldn’t last in the business for this many years any other way. If we had a big media push and then nothing happened—I mean, there are so many bands that can’t really get a tour out of an album because they’ve only been hyped for one song. The good thing for us is that we always have such a great experience live and people want to come back and see us perform. They appreciate the albums more than one particular song, but also we don’t lose focus from the big picture. Of course it’s a struggle, but right now I feel that it’s better this way—it’s really hard to be on a main label these days, to get priority and attention.
AVC: You must’ve gotten a big boost from your recent tour with No Doubt though.
JA: It was a really good tour. They treated us so well—they’re the sweetest guys ever. We were the first band out of three, so we didn’t really expect anything, but it ended up being so much fun. We couldn’t have asked for a better summer.
AVC: And Maja definitely fits in with Gwen Stefani in terms of her look and attitude.
JA: We don’t really think about it that much. Sometimes it’s weird—there’s a lot more attention paid to her, but many times I think girls can do a much better job at it than guys. Women can have more emotions, and especially Maja has a lot of ups and downs, which can definitely give something to the live music and energy.
AVC: There’s a fan forum—and 29 language options—on your website. Do you find that The Sounds’ fans really stick together?
JA: We have a lot of fans from all around the world and people will often meet each other at concerts. There are tons and tons of people who met at a Sounds show and then ask us to play at their wedding. Two of our friends saw us in Mexico and followed us after that for 14 shows across the U.S. They got married last winter and had a baby named Maja. There are a lot of places online where people can meet and it’s not about music, but this lets people connect over something they share.