Maja Ivarsson doesn't like to talk about being a sex symbol. Despite this, the lead singer of Swedish new-wave rockers the Sounds understands it's a topic of interest. The openly bisexual beauty — whose name is pronounced "Maya" — answers the questions with sincerity and a refreshing dollop of humor.
On record, Ivarsson's voice has a Deborah Harry-esque bravado that works wonderfully over her band's anti-love dance songs, which, yes, recall Blondie. Speaking via phone, though, Ivarsson, who turns 30 on October 2, sounds decidedly more vulnerable. It's an endearing voice, one that makes asking certain questions considerably easier.
"That's kind of more interesting than what I usually eat for breakfast," she says of the interest in her sexuality during a recent tour stop in Quebec. "It sells around the world. It's kind of sad — but I've used it myself. Every girl in a band likes to dress up in high heels, and the focus is on sex; it will sell. Typically, it's a little more taboo over here [in the United States]. You are a lot more religious, and sex is more forbidden here. Otherwise, it's the same everywhere."
The singer has talked candidly about girlfriends in the past but stresses that she doesn't want her love life to take center stage. It's a dilemma pretty much every attractive frontwoman in the history of popular music has had to deal with. Ivarsson's preference for dating men and women only ups the sensationalism factor. "I try and not talk about it too much. But people want to know more about other things in our lives, and if that gives them inspiration, maybe it's more important to some than to other people."
Ivarsson — in case you haven't noticed — is a striking blond with exotic, Nordic features. She has killer legs and a penchant for going pants-less. It's something the singer was doing long before the arrival of Lady GaGa, by the way. The Sounds, who return to Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday to support their excellent new record, Crossing the Rubicon, have been around for a decade. Most American listeners, though, didn't start paying attention until the release of the awesomely catchy, fatalistic 2006 single "Painted by Numbers."
If the song itself didn't grab you, the video did. In it, Ivarsson wears a short black skirt and silver heels and wields the microphone cord like a bullwhip. She looks freakishly hot, and there are ample low-angle shots with the singer offering karate kicks to remind viewers that she has the sexiest stems this side of Tina Turner.
"I enjoy the freedom that comes with being an artist and frontperson and not having to wear the same clothes I wear to walk down the street to get milk," she says. "It's a lot more liberating to dress the way you want and do some freaky stuff."