Savvy Swedes

The Sounds have all the right hook-ups

THE SOUNDS play with MORNING WOOD and ACTION ACTION at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Sunday (April 16). $15.75. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

The Sounds’ founding guitar player, Felix Rodriguez, reminds me of that kid from the old Twisted Sister video. You know, the one who says to his authoritarian father, when he asks what he wants to do with his life, “I wanna rock!”

“We all had the same idea, that we should dedicate our whole lives to this,” Rodriguez says on the phone from Tampa, Florida. “We don’t have any kind of education after high school, and we have to give it 100 per cent.”

But the enthusiasm in his voice tells me that the Swedish rock ‘n’ roll band – rounded out by singer Maja Ivarsson, bassist Johan Bengtsson, keyboardist Jesper Anderberg and drummer Fredrik Nilsson – wouldn’t have it any other way. They got together in 1998 when they were all 18, barely out of school.

“We were all in different bands before this one, but when we started playing together something was different the chemistry was right from the start. We felt we had something really good with our band and our vibe.”

It’s easy to get caught up in Rodriguez’s passion. He’s just so damn happy about it all. “We’ve always had the mentality,” he’s saying through a choppy cellphone connection a necessity for a band that travels as much as the Sounds do. They’re presently three weeks into a North American tour that stops at the Opera House Sunday. “It’s not if we’re gonna do it, it’s when we’re gonna do it.”

It’s that kind of attitude that’s allowed the band to tour repeatedly across North America, Europe and beyond. They’re currently supporting their just-released Dying To Say This To You (New Line), which debuted at an impressive number-one on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. They’ve also been opening for some of the more popular kids on the rock block, like the Foo Fighters and the Strokes, both bands big fans of Rodriguez’s.

Those shows wound up being some of the biggest the band had played, and also gave them the chance to meet some personal musical heroes.

“With the Foo Fighters it was awesome. We played in front of, like, 10,000 people, and since I was such a big Nirvana fan, it was flattering that (Dave) Grohl liked our music.”

They were also on last year’s Warped Tour, where they made friends with the likes of Bad Religion (who, Rodriguez is happy to announce, often wore his band’s shirts while performing), New Found Glory and Lars Frederiksen from Rancid. They held their own among 100 punk bands, and while they felt they stuck out like sore thumbs amid the mohawks and studded belts, they did, in fact, get a great response from the audience.

Now they’re pumped to keep on trucking in support of Dying.

“It’s about personal experiences on tour, on the bus, and distant relationships with family and friends. We’ve been growing as people, and we’re definitely closer now than before.”

Maybe the genuine strength of their friendship is at the heart of the Sounds’ success, or maybe it’s their determination to tour non-stop for close to two years straight. Either way, Rodriguez and his bandmates are doing exactly what they set out to do.

“I love it,”he says. “I’m living life.”

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