An Interview with Johan Bengtsson of The Sounds
by Heather Christie
When I caught up with Johan Bengtsson, the basist from The Sounds, he was doing precisely what any self-respecting member of an emerging uber-hip, Swede-pop, electro-rock, cut-the-schlock band would be doing: he was perusing the interweb, trying to figure out how to make his new retro analog camera work.
Ahh, the delicious irony of trolling the information superhighway in order to make an obsolete technology function. But while Bengtsson may paint this lovely image of resurrecting times gone by, this nostalgia is at distinct odds with where The Sounds are in their musical trajectory.
The band’s upcoming album, Crossing the Rubicon, due out in stores on June 2 has been wished and hoped for over the last six long years. During those six years, Bengtsson, along with band mates Maja Ivarsson, Jesper Anderberg, Fredrik Nilsson, and Felix Rodriguez, toured a bunch—over 200 shows in 2006 alone!–and spent much of the rest of the time doing a shakedown of their management structure, which amounted to “getting rid of lots of people who didn’t fit in,” says Bengtsson.
Lest that sound a little too Courtney Love for you, the result of this shakedown is quite a killer album, best described by Bengtsson in one word: “happiness.” This time, The Sounds have “really nailed it;” ‘it’ being the powerful, New Wave synth-rock sound they’ve been aiming for since day 1—way back in 1999 when the crew got together.
Crossing the Rubicon, Bengtsson clarifies, “is the point of no return, there’s no turning back to the old model [of the band’s structural management].” So they tour, crossing Rubicons both metaphoric and literal. And once you tour with No Doubt, as The Sounds are set to do this summer, it would indeed be hard, if impossible, to go back.
Which brings us back to Bengtsson and his camera. I would imagine the appeal—other than the fact that retro is just, like, soooo fashionably acceptable—is in the ability to freeze time so that one day, when this current touring firestorm is done, he and the band will be able to look back at the moment their career exploded into supernova stardom.