If it feels like The Sounds are always on tour, it’s because they practically are. Since these Swedes first came together in 1999 and started making fierce, fist-pumping rock, blond frontwoman Maja Ivarsson estimates they’ve played nearly 1,000 shows in 25 countries—500 alone for their last album, 2006’s Dying to Say This to You.
Now they’re preparing to tour for their latest album, Crossing the Rubicon. Though the band has always experimented with a wide range of sounds, this record swings possibly the farthest, stretching from the ’80s hip- hop-inspired track “Beatbox” to the melodic “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” which was recorded on a whim their last day in the studio.
All of this will be on display when Ivarsson and the rest of the band share the road this summer with No Doubt and their own high-energy golden-haired singer, Gwen Stefani.
The nonstop traveling was the inspiration for Ivarsson’s latest tattoo, three dots in the fleshy crook between her thumb and index finger. “My father passed away when I was a kid, and he was a sailor. If you’ve been to all seven seas you get a tattoo like that.” (It’s also a symbol of naval protection that sailors get before their first journey.)
A rebellious teenager—she credits her intense angst and anger, which nearly got her kicked out of school three months prior to graduation, with helping fuel her music career—Ivarsson had a tribal sun tattooed onto her forearm when she was 16. But she dodged the “tattoo bug” and didn’t sit down for her second tattoo until her 24th birthday. Inked by Los Angeles tattooer Small Paul Stottler, the large black-and-white image on her arm is of Modesty Blaise, a character from the comic series Agent X-9. “I wanted something no one else is going to have. … Then my tour manager did exactly the same one. But he has tattoos all over his body, so it doesn’t stand out as much.”
For Ivarsson, performing onstage has yielded three bro- ken ribs, accidental indecent exposure, and an audience member who attempted to bite a chunk out of her leg. Is there a tattoo for that?