The Sounds wrapped up a short run of dates a few weeks ago to promote their new album,Weekend, and this loyal racketeer was lucky enough to sit down with guitarist and keyboard player Jesper at their LA show. The band, now 15 years into their career and 4 albums under their belt, have decided to go back to basics with their 5th release; opting to forgo the traditional label route and self releasing their music as they have done in the past. In our conversation Jesper and I were able to discuss the evolution of the music industry and how the band has been able to stay successful due to the dedication of their fans over the years.
M: You have been a band for a very long time and you finally made the decision to put out your most recent album on your own; why did you decide to go that route as opposed to going through a label?
J: Well it’s not our first album on our own label. This is our third album on our own label. So we have actually made more albums on our own label than on other labels. We’ve had pretty bad experiences with the music industry and business people and I think it’s more important for us to do our thing. I guess release our music to our fans instead of having other people come in with opinions about music. We don’t really like that. We want to do our thing. I don’t care about how it should be or how it should sound or to make it trendy; whatever fucking hype is going on. We’ve always done our thing and I think for our creativity it’s important to never compromise on that. I’m not saying that all bands on major labels are compromising their creativity. They’re not. But in some ways you have much more pressure. You have much more pressure from the business people.
M: There are more voices than just your own as to how your music should sound.
J: Exactly. I think we only want to listen to our own voice and not anyone else’s. it’s pretty simple
M: I like the new record. It might be my favorite since “Dying to Say This to You” which is my favorite record from your catalogue. I think this one could replace it.
J: It’s funny, I think everyone has their own favorite record and I think that’s cool. I always look up to artists that make their music career their lifetime career at the same time. I don’t like writing albums of music for just our fans, which is obviously important, but I like to write for me and what inspires me. If I want to make a record that sounds like this because that is what I love at the moment I’m going to do it. Then after 6 months I’m going to back and say “I’m not going to do that again because that sucked” but at least you have to be honest in your initial thought.
M: Right. Your music is your art and you do want people to like it but at the end of the day they’re kind of secondary. You want to be the one who likes it the most out of everybody.
M: If other people happen to enjoy it just as much that’s a bonus.
M: Ok, you’ve been a band for a very long time so you’ve been around to see the entire evolution of how the music industry works. You’ve seen things from the heyday of the major labels to now where a band can put out their own record and still have it be successful. How is it to experience all of that?
J: I think in the beginning it was kind of frightening. I remember we sold a ton of records with the first and second record but for the third record there was a major drop in the market. All the labels were like “what are we going to do? We have to find other ways” Because labels have always tried to push away the internet and try to work against it. Now they’re working with it but that’s what they should have done from beginning.
M: I get you. From the beginning they were scared of it.
M: So it took them close to a decade to embrace it but bands all across the board, big and small, suffered because of it.
J:Yeah but I think for us our strength has been our live show. We’ve always had great fans who came to our shows. We survived because we are a live band, we love touring. Those are the bands I love, who release albums and then they tour because they have fans. Not because they have music on the radio or anything. They make music because they love it. That’s what we do as well. We don’t really care if the business is dropping. Of course we lose money on it but at the same time we gain new fans because of all the new media. I think it’s interesting to have seen It happen and it was scary at first but we came out winners.
M: Yeah. Even throughout all the ups and downs of the rollercoaster ride that is the music industry you’re still a very strong band. Like tonight is sold out.
J: yeah, in two hours.
M: Exactly. You’re still playing sold out shows even if the records aren’t selling like they used to. People still care and are buying tickets & merchandise.
J: Merchandise is a band’s savior, especially when you’re a young band. That’s my advice for every young band, fucking start selling merch right away.
M: Oh yeah. So we’ve talked about the evolution of the music industry now let’s talk about the evolution of the band. There’s always been a pop dance element to your sound but I feel you’ve incorporated more of that over the past couple of years. Is that more so because of what you’re listening to now or have you always kind of listened to that music and decided that you wanted to experiment with those sounds after listening to them for so long?
J: I think both. We’ve always listened to dance music, well not dance music. That sounds corny, like groovy music and I think maybe in the past we didn’t know so much how to produce albums but now we know more. I think our whole strength is we combine punk with electro music and it’s something we’ve become better at recently but at the same time we don’t want to lose the edginess of having the punk influences. The punk influences is where all connect together. That’s where the live part comes in. Nowadays you can make an album sound so fucking good, flawless but you don’t want to do that. On this album we stepped back and decided we don’t want to do that. It should sound like we just switched on the amps after walking into the rehearsal space because that’s who we are and that’s what we sound like on stage. That’s the way it should be, that’s how an album should sound like.
M: I feel like too many bands want this perfect, clean, polished sound but I feel like that ruins it because at the end of the day that’s not what it’s going to sound like live.
J: No and we’ve always thought if you can’t play it live, if you can’t play a song live it’s not a song. I love bands when they play the stuff live and they don’t have to have everything live but I don’t like there being 5 computers on stage and 2 people. That’s not my way of live music.
M: It should be living.
J: Yeah and especially 5 people’s chemistry who have been playing together for 10 years. That’s what we are good at and sometimes we suck but that’s part of the whole live aspect.
M: I have yet to see you suck and this is my 6th time seeing you over the past few years. So if you’ve ever sucked I’m thankful I wasn’t there.
J: Trust me, we’ve sucked.
M: Every band has sucked, I’m just saying I’m glad I wasn’t there to experience it. In fact you’re one of my top 5 favorite live bands and I’m not just saying that because you’re in front of me. I’m saying that because I see a lot of bands all the time and I’m always impressed. The set list is always diverse, you always bring the energy, and the crowd is always there with you. Bigger or bands or smaller bands it’s not always the same. Sometimes the band isn’t into it or vice versa but you’ve always brought the energy to the table.
J: Yeah and I think it’s perfect for us to connect with the audience and we have a great audience. Our band would be nothing without our fans. It’s not fun to play in front of an empty room. We don’t like to rehearse too much either, some things have to go wrong. Some things should go wrong at a live concert. You don’t want something to go wrong because of a computer though.
M: You want it to go wrong because of you.
J: Because of human failure.
M: Life isn’t perfect and neither should music.
M: I like that you agree with me on that. I guess I have one more question to wrap it up since you’re pretty busy. So the new record comes out next week and you’re on tour now, what do you have scheduled to either wrap up this year or start next year?
J: Well the week after this we start our European tour for 5 weeks and that will end right before Christmas. Then we have Christmas off before prepping for the U.S. tour next spring. Before that we might hit Mexico and South America. Maybe some other places. We’re always busy.
M: Oh totally. I’ve seen your schedules in the past. You’re always globetrotting.
J: And that’s also a great thing about our band. Even when the record business dropped we never had a problem being booked. Getting a show for us is not a problem at all and that’s great. That’s what we’ve always had when the record labels dropped. We’ve always had ourselves and that’s important.
M: Yeah, a little while ago in the summer you played the U.S. Surf Open and a lot of big bands play that and you guys are up there.
J: yes but I think people like to book us because we are an act you can always rely on. It’s a fun time with us. That’s what people say. Sometimes we don’t have fun but we try to have fun all the time. It’s a great job.
M: But it’s still a job.
J: Exactly. It becomes more and more like a job when you have be away from your family as you get older. Like 10 years ago when I came here for the first time, I was 20 and I didn’t have anything. Now you have a family and everything so you have to be more protective of that. Make sure that everything in your life is working, not just your job.