- Birte Filmer
- Voluntarily abandon your major label? The Sounds celebrate the consequences.
When the Sounds named their forthcoming third album Crossing the Rubicon, they had begun to believe they were doing just that.
"It's all about crossing the point of no return, and that's what it felt like for us when we did this record," says frontwoman Maja Ivarsson, who walked away from New Line Records so that the Swedish band could regain total creative control.
Financing their own album was a bold gamble, but Ivarsson swears she'd gotten sick of major imprints "where you have one guy plugging your band, but six months later he's kicked out of that company and then you simply get lost in this big jungle of other bands. So we actually said no to some fairly big American record labels with a lot more money than we've got right now. But we knew this was gonna be for the better, in the long run."
Recording in L.A., New York and Sweden, the band called in favors from several longtime producer friends and kept their budget bare-bones minimum. Then they licensed their finished product to various companies around the globe; Original Signal won the rights here in the States.
"It was very important for us to work with people who wanted to do this, and not only for the money," Ivarsson explains. "You don't have to rely on a big label to get a breakthrough. Big labels get their paycheck every month, even though it's not going that well for you, so for us it's been really tough — we haven't gotten that much radio play or had some huge single on MTV. But at the same time, now I know that nothing is impossible."
The gamble seems to have paid off. Every track on Rubicon boasts a sound that walks the line between vintage New Wave and the bombast of Europe's campy, keyboard-fluffed "The Final Countdown." It's retro arena-rawk, with a punky Sounds-scruffed twist, from kickoff single "No One Sleeps When I'm Awake" (taken from a Ron Wood quote about a noisy, nocturnal Keith Richards) to "4 Songs and a Fight," which details a real-life concert run-in with the obstreperous outfit Embassy. (Clue: The brawl did not end well for Embassy. Ivarsson may be tiny, but she's street-scrappy tough.)
These days, Ivarsson grumbles, "every other band is trying to do some kind of indie/electro/pop. But I think that's what we did with our last record, so we're like, 'Blah! We're over that! We'll do something else!' So we tried to make our sound a little bit bigger, 'cause we feel like we're a bigger band now. We're better musicians, and I think I sing better than I used to. And naturally, the first single is gonna be anthemic and huge in that way."
Striking out on their own may have been risky, but the Sounds remain optimistic about their future and hopeful that others artists will choose to follow in their wake.
"We put in all of our money to this album," concludes Ivarsson, "so we have nobody else to blame if it doesn't go well. And nobody else can take credit for it if it goes really nicely, either."