Released earlier this year on SideOneDummy, The Sounds’ fourth record is arguably their strongest yet. All driving melodies and electronic beats, the thumping dance-punk sound they’re known for has been perfected and matured. Musically, lyrically and personally, every component blends flawlessly. And they did it all themselves.
“This album differs in a big way from our previous ones because we produced it ourselves,” says guitarist Felix Rodriguez, who is also one of the group’s main songwriters. “We’ve grown so much together over the years, and we know each other more than any other producer could. We knew exactly what we wanted. And when we were finished, we had it. It was an amazing experience. We‘ve really grown up, not only as musicians and songwriters, but as people. It‘s more natural, and less naïve, I guess you could say.”
The Sounds spent a good amount of 2010 writing, recording and producing Something To Die For in their very own studio. After the success of their debut record in 2002, Living In America, the two albums released between then and now were recorded with experienced teams. Big names in the industry such as Jeff Saltzman, Mark Saunders, Adam Schlesinger and James Iha were on board for the production of Dying To Say This To You (2006) and Crossing The Rubicon (2009). But this latest record has something different. Different but also familiar. Something that can only truly be achieved when a group is right in tune with who they are and what they want.
You reach points while listening to this album where you think singer Maja Ivarsson is waiting for a lull in the song to jump out of your speakers and kick your ass; other times you’re transported to the center of a post-apocalyptic discotheque, and you love every minute of it. It’s almost primal and animalistic in a way. How the hell did they pull it off?
Felix laughs and says, “We’ve got crazy brains! It’s just a natural process for us. Late nights in the studio—writing and programming and working—it’s all in our heads. Whatever we feel at any given moment just comes out in the studio and is captured in song. We never repeat ourselves. Jesper and I were working on the blueprints for this record and also sometimes writing for other artists as well, and it was awesome, we were inspired by new ideas and we learned so much.”
All their hard work paid off in the creation of something that seems damn near effortless, and Something To Die For has met a lot of success since its release in March. Now the band, originally from Sweden, is in the first phase of a North American headlining tour—their first in two years—and are excited to be back in the States.
“Oh, we are so excited to be back, we love to tour in the U.S. It feels like a second home to us, and I feel like this is going to be our best tour yet. We have a month’s vacation when we’re finished here, and then we’re heading out around Europe. We’ll probably tour for another year on this album, and then go home and write new songs. It’s while we’re on tour that we collect ideas and experiences and get inspired to write.”
“We just love what we do, we love music. Being out there in different clubs and venues, we get to discover something new every night. We meet new people with new and different beliefs, and we see the fans. Our fans are so important. Without them, we really wouldn’t be able to be doing this. And playing shows in the U.S. is also a rather different experience, a different culture. In Sweden, a lot of emphasis is placed on live shows. You go out and see people you’ve never heard, just heard about, and have an open-minded, good time. In America, it’s like everyone at the show already knows you. They’re here because they know they like you, and they’re having a good time as well. We feed off that energy!”
Extensive touring is a grueling thing for any musician, let alone a band that has to travel internationally. Instead of letting it wear them down though, The Sounds play with the same raw emotion and energy every night. “There’s not much I dislike about touring in America; everywhere we get to go is just so charming, and we get to see a lot of different people in a new environment, and it’s fun! Every place is so different, we’ll go from Texas to New York City to Nevada, and it’s something new every night. The only real downside is not being close to family, but at the same time, our fans are also our family.”
In volatile times such as these, upbeat and positive music is what’s keeping many people going. We come home from work, or, in some cases, home from searching for work, and put an uplifting record on. The title track on their first record, Living In America, which was released back in 2002, was sort of a commentary on things as they were at that time. But what about today? “I’m really not a political guy,” Felix admits. “I try to avoid reading up on these things; they’re depressing. It’s just so sad. Everyone just has to try to do their best to stay positive. That’s what we try to do with our music. Send a positive message. ‘Something To Die For’ is one of those songs for us, especially today. It’s all about self belief. Believing you can make things better.”
Perhaps one of the harshest truths about the music industry is that success can either make or completely destroy a band. But The Sounds, having formed in 1998 while many of the members were still in high school, have pushed past the decade mark and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “We’ve always been ambitious and have believed in ourselves. It’s always been more of a when than an if. But we also know that a band doesn’t always get big in a year [so] we set goals. And we made them. We kept climbing up and we stayed true and we had fun. And that is what we want to continue to do. Have fun and do our thing and make our music. It’s been that way since the beginning. We’ll keep playing and doing what we’re good at. And as long as people are still appreciating it, we’ll still do it. And in doing so, we’ll stay happy in life and put out records and tour.”
You can’t write songs about self belief without having absolute conviction in all that you do yourself.
The Sounds will play at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Nov. 1 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on Nov. 2. For more information, go to the-sounds.com.