The Sounds - Dying To Play This To You
Friday, 21 September 2007
There was a time when electronic music represented the antithesis of rock 'n' roll. Still, many a brave band straddled the divide. In the acid house era it was Happy Mondays with their indie-dance. Then Prodigy ushered in the bombastic rocktronica, which, at its most commercial, was regarded suspiciously by electronic purists. But today relative harmony exists between rock and rave, with Soulwax, LCD Soundsystem and the credible Modular stable. The Swedish group The Sounds, fronted by the blonde (and Deborah Harry look-alike) Maja Ivarsson, belong to this curious milieu.
The punk-dance combo - their music also a hit with extreme sports freaks - are playing Parklife alongside the equally transgressive Digitalism. In fact, The Sounds have gigged for months behind their rowdy LP Dying To Say This To You.
Felix Rodriguez is thrilled to finally reach Australia. "I can't wait!" he enthuses down the line from the UK. "I've been wanting to go to Australia since, I don't know, the first time I saw Kylie Minogue and Crocodile Dundee. We've been really looking forward to this tour." The guitarist already plans to surf.
With such clout on the live circuit, it's strange that The Sounds haven't toured here before. Nonetheless, they've devoted the past few years to the US, where they're huge. Indeed, Rodriguez holds that The Sounds owe their popularity Stateside to constantly performing. "We got the chance to go to the States and play a couple of shows and people seemed to like us so we kept coming back. We got offers to do another tour after another tour... I think that's the key to building a good fanbase if you don't have radio and if you don't have a big record company that puts out a lot of money for you. We've been just building our fanbase out of touring. We've been spending a lot of time in the States, so that's probably why we haven't been able to go to other markets."
Once, a Swedish outfit might have struggled to break into the US. But even Americans no longer associate Sweden with light pop. As for The Sounds, they've never paid heed to cultural barriers, anyway. "When we came to the States for the first time, there was this thing going on that they called 'the Swedish Invasion', because there were a lot of Swedish bands that were coming to the States that were pretty successful after The Hives and other bands like The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. There were a lot of good bands coming from Sweden. I think that the American people like Swedish music."
The Sounds hail from the southern Swedish city of Helsingborg, though they've since moved to nearby Malmo. Not long out of high school, they debuted with 2002's Living In America. It left a big impact in Sweden as well as the US, the band courting "celebrity" fans like Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters. The Sounds somehow found their way onto the soundtrack to the so-bad-it's-good Snakes On A Plane. They recorded their second LP, Dying To Say This To You, in California with producer Jeff Saltzman, who previously worked on The Killers' debut, Hot Fuss.
In the meantime, The Sounds were picked up by former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha for Scratchie Records, which he runs with Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne). They befriended Iha in Stockholm cutting Living In America. He played sax for them.
Rodriguez touts Dying as more 'grown-up' than Living. "We've definitely been growing. We're more mature now. I think the first album that we wrote was about going out partying and stuff that you do when you're younger - you're naive and you don't think so much about what's going on in the world. The second album is more personal. It's about what we've been doing as a band and as people and what we've been going through and what we've experienced as a band. The older you get, the more you see - especially when you tour so much, as we do. It's great to be able to write about the things that you see - 'cause you discover new things every day because of the travelling and all the people you meet."
The Sounds is unusually democratic, with any member throwing in ideas. "When we write music, everything is allowed, pretty much. There's no boss. It's not like one is in charge - we're all in charge." Felix brings the electronic influence. As a teenager, he snuck into underground (read: illegal) raves in Sweden and Denmark. And he DJed. "I was really into ol' skool rave music - like progressive trance," he recalls, wistfully. "Nowadays I listen to modern electronic music like MSTRKRFT and Digitalism and stuff like that. They're making electronic music to take it to another step."
Felix DJs when he can with Sounds buddies Jesper Anderberg and Johan Bengtsson, dropping "nu-skool electro" at the upcoming Afterlife in Sydney.
The Sounds will wrap touring on the back of Dying with their Australian trek. They're busting to commence a third LP. "Now we've been touring for two years on this album - pretty much every day. Last year we did 210 shows - and I think it's the same this year. We're always on tour. We're going to be in Australia for two weeks and, after that, we're done - we're done with touring on this album.
"We're gonna go into the studio and write new material and, hopefully, next year we will release the third album - but it depends. We're a band that will never put out an album if we're not 100 percent satisfied. There will be a third album, I can't tell you when, but we will start to write it in November."
If there's a band with a greater work ethic than The Sounds, then they're in rehab. Remarkably, the ebullient Felix betrays no sign of fatigue or, worse, burn-out. "We enjoy it because this was our dream when we were kids - to be on a tour bus and play shows and meet people. We wanna reach out to as many people as we can with our music. Sometimes it can be tiring, but it's also fun. I don't mind working 24/7 as long as I do something that I love.
"The day that you feel that this is not fun any more, that's the day you should quit."
WHO: The Sounds
WHAT: Dying To Say This To You out through Warner / Play Parklife and Afterlife
WHEN: Out now / Sunday 30 September
MORE: the-sounds.com / fuzzy.com.au