The Sounds, led by Maja Ivarsson (center), are on a U.S. tour promoting “Things We Do For Love.” (Courtesy David Möller)

The Sounds, led by Maja Ivarsson (center), are on a U.S. tour promoting “Things We Do For Love.” (Courtesy David Möller)

Sweden’s The Sounds play eventful COVID-era U.S. tour

‘Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong’

The Sounds front woman Maja Ivarsson never used to put much stock in Murphy’s law. But the past unsettling year and a half under sway of the pandemic has taught her otherwise. No sooner had her Swedish outfit announced a spring release of its sixth album “Things We Do For Love” — a fine return to the Blondie-retro energy of its hit 2002 debut “Living In America” — than lockdown pushed it deep into the summer schedule, canceling a world tour in the process. The most the Helsingborg-bred rocker could do to back it was perform a live-streamed concert and then take an eerie record-company rail trip into Stockholm with her 6-year-old son Dante to promote it in what had become a virtual ghost town; they had a huge train car all to themselves, and the entire floor at their hotel, too. When The Sounds finally managed to arrange a “Things We Do” U.S. tour that hits The City this weekend, Ivarsson was prepared for just about any snafu. A good thing, she says, phoning from her tour bus on the way from Chicago to a Denver gig, “Because it’s been an absolute nightmare just to get over here!”

For any other European band considering a U.S. jaunt, how many hurdles did you have to jump?

Oh, my God. It has been such a hassle, just arranging all the things, like the double shots of vaccine, and then I had to renew my passport, and I had to return to Stockholm to get a working visa, but the embassy was closed. And I had to get my vaccination certificate approved, and then another COVID test…. because now you always need to have everything double-checked, then triple-checked, with all your documents signed. But then with the embassy closing down and not responding, I only got my working visa two days before I had to leave for the U.S. — it was just insane. Plus, I was also leaving my son behind, and I’ve never been without him for this long in my life. So there was a lot of stress coming over here. But the reward has just been incredible, just playing the shows that we’ve played so far. In New York, I actually started to cry onstage, because it was just great to see the crowd and feel all the love. I think the audience is as excited as we are.

Your your problems didn’t end once you arrived here?

Well, we played D.C., and we were supposed to go to Cleveland, but the tour bus broke down in the middle of the freeway, so we couldn’t go to Cleveland. But first, we had a flat tire, then there was something wrong with the brakes, and then something else. Indeed, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, until we ended up stuck on the freeway 885 with smoke coming out of the engine and all these heavy trucks zooming by. So then we had to go in a little van for 10 hours to get to Chicago to play two shows, including one at midnight. And I’m a bit too old for midnight shows with sleep — I’ve done that many times in the past, but I’m not 25 anymore. I’m almost 42 now, which is a different story.

Last year, you maintained that Sweden was an intelligent social democracy, and natives didn’t need to be mandated to do the right thing. And sure enough, your current vaccination rate is 70%, with the country resuming pre-pandemic life now.

I think in Sweden in general right now, everyone is really scared of the delta version of the virus, and that’s what I’m scared of, too. But I can see that the crowds here in the States — even if they are vaccinated and we are vaccinated — they’re still wearing masks indoors. But I’m really proud of being a Swedish citizen; I think we did a good job. And we’re about to get a new prime minister — the last one got fired — so I’m really hoping for a female prime minister. I think it’s embarrassing that a country like Sweden has never had one.

You were working on a new Sounds song last year called “Words Don’t Always Come Out Right.”

Hmmm. Yeah, I’ve been writing so many songs. And I started to write songs in Swedish, and now I’ve finished maybe 20 or 30 for a solo project in Swedish. And it doesn’t change my singing, but I’m from the South, in Scania, and our Southern accents in Swedish are a very distinct dialect — the accent is so thick and distinct, I can sound exotic, even in my home country!

IF YOU GO

The Sounds, Starbenders

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24

Tickets: $27.50

Contact: (415) 885-0750, gamh.com

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