Blonde ambitious

The Sounds lead singer Maja Ivarsson (sort of) swears off women and focuses on music greatness

thesounds3_bandphoto-4

SOUNDS OFF | Singer Maja Ivarsson doesn’t mind Blondie comparisons, but the guys — not so much.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Maja (pronounced like Maya) Ivarsson has mentioned time and again that she will “never date another girl.” This isn’t breaking news, but the media is overly fascinated with The Sounds singer’s bisexuality, though she never uses the term. Ivarsson is passionate about love but without mincing words, her one and only same-sex relationship was downright hard.

“There was a lot of bad stuff, just like in any relationship,” Ivarsson says. “I think for a lot of lesbian couples, you end up turning into friends. And there were issues of cheating, but it was a great relationship. We didn’t have sex. I don’t blame her. It sucks.”

Ivarsson wasn’t interested in women before, but the chemistry was there and she admits to having some bi-curiosity. But now, she swears to never be with a woman again… though she’ll never say never.

“I love boys, too,” she snickers. “But who knows? I’m getting old! I’m 32 and I want to have a baby.”

All this comes from one of the more dynamic singers on the scene, who wants The Sounds to be the biggest band in the world. Following up their fourth album release this year, the band is on its North American leg of the tour supporting Something To Die For; it comes to the Granada Theater on Thursday. Ivarsson doesn’t need to reconcile the conflict of fame and family. She’s figuring it out as the band rolls along.

“We definitely deserve to be a bigger band but I’m also very proud and very humbled,” she says. “We are quite happy with what we’ve accomplished, but our main goal is to get as big as possible.”

It’s been a slow ride, but promising. While well received, their 2002 debut album Living in America suffered an identity crisis. Radio stations didn’t what to do with this post-punk pop dance music conglomeration.

“I think since Day One, we were ahead of our time, mixing these electronic elements and rock,” she says. “But the industry wondered what we were. Later, The Killers and MGMT broke out. We know for sure they were influenced by us and that’s a compliment.”

Appearances on the Warped Tour increased exposure, and celebrities like Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl hyped them up. Even Geico picked up one of their songs, “Hurt You,” for a commercial. They are straddling the line right now between blowing up and indie cred.

But Ivarsson might be the one responsible for the success of the band. As the single blond female  in front of a group of men, it’s apparent where the focus is. Think Courtney Love and Hole, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, and ultimately, Deborah Harry and Blondie. The last being a popular comparison.

“The guys don’t like that so much, but I don’t mind,” she laughs. “I think Debbie Harry is one of the cooler chicks out there. I was 13 when I discovered Blondie and I just thought this is the way it should be: looking fab and kicking ass. I never liked the strung out or slutty singers.”

Otherwise, Ivarsson does her own thing. She won’t read reviews unless someone shares a more glowing one with her. But don’t confuse that for ego. It’s all part of a plan.

“During our first record, there were some good things written about me, but also some mean things, and I’m a very emotional person,” she says. “Some people only have bad shit to say and I just stopped reading reviews. The more I read about myself from other people, I think it censors me. I may think I shouldn’t do whatever, but I wanna be as authentic as possible.”

There’s no doubt of that onstage. As the frontwoman, Ivarsson is legend and should go down as one of the greats. The Sounds pump up their live show into frenzy and almost strive to mesh the audience in with the band. For her, it’s another day at work.

“I don’t know what else I could do,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to do it. Being onstage is where I belong and I love getting the audience involved and on stage. We’re here to have a fucking dance party!”

Which is the next option if worldwide domination isn’t theirs yet.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Voice of Pride finals tonight

Sing for your life

Voice of Pride comes to a climax tonight as winners in both solo and group categories are selected. After all those preliminaries in various clubs, tonight’s the night this crop of singers will pull it all together and offer up as much awesomeness as they possibly can. Winners earn a cash prize and performances at Pride. So this is a big deal.

DEETS: Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 8 p.m. DallaTavernGuild.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Voice of Pride elimination round at Barbara’s Pavilion tonight

Start the eliminations

Voice of Pride is is now in elimination mode across clubland. Tonight, singer hopefuls head to Oak Cliff to test their vocal mettle at Barbara’s Pavilion and move on to the final.  Good luck to the contestants.

DEETS: Barbara’s Pavilion, 325 Centre St. 8 p.m. DallasTavernGuild.org/VoiceOfPride

—  Rich Lopez

Women’s Chorus holds open auditions

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas is holding open auditions for singers interested in joining its ranks. Rehearsals will begin on the next two Mondays — Feb. 14 and 21 — promptly at 7 p.m. at the Sammons Center on Harry Hines near Oak Lawn. Anyone who’d like to check it out is invited to sit in.

Valentine’s Day, though? OK, the timing isn’t the best, but then again, maybe it’s a great way to network and meet other eligible ladies in the mod for romance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Twist GLBT announces 2nd show in East Dallas, but where are all the gay male artists?

SuZanne Kimbrell put on such a great night of gay musicians, that I had to include it in our year in review list. And that was just the first night. She’s made some tweaks for this second edition of Twist GLBT where she brings mostly local LGBT bands with original music and gives them a stage at the Lakewood Bar & Grill. This lineup already looks vastly different than the one in November.

Kimbrell and I met to talk about the local LGBT live music scene and wondered where the boys are. Lesbian women dominate the scene but she and I agreed that there have to be a slew of gay men doling out the music as well. We listed a few names, but they were far outweighed by the number of female artists. And Kimbrell wants to keep the Twist lineups diverse. So here’s a call to all the gay male musicians and singers as well as trans and bi folk to land a slot on upcoming Twist nights. It’ll be so worth it — not just to you, but to local LGBT music supporters as well.

—  Rich Lopez

The Singer’s Name Is Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, And V Is Trans

"When I was younger I used to refer to myself as a 'non-op transexual,'" writes the singer-songwriter Justin Bond, "meaning I was a transexual who didn’t need to have surgery to assert what I was. But I was wrong because without assertions people can only make assumptions and I no longer wish to indulge or refute the assumptions or labels other people choose to place on me, I simply want to inhabit my very clear vision of myself." Which means Bond, in addition to beginning a hormone regimen, is adding the name "Vivian" and assuming the prefix "Mx." And so: Mx. Justin Vivian Bond is neither male nor female, but transgender, and you may refer to Bond as neither a he nor a she, but a v. [photo: Amos Mac, via]


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Chorale to hold open auditions

The Turtle Creek Chorale, on the heals of its successful holiday concerts last month, is looking for new blood — though Edward Cullen isn’t involved. The chorale will hold open rehearsal and orientation at the TCC’s offices in the Sammons Center for the Arts at 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, from 7 to 10 p.m., and prospective members are asked to attend and participate. The actual auditions for any singers interested in joining the gay men’s chorus will occur on Sunday, Jan. 9, from 3 to 6 p.m. an the Grace United Methodist Church at 4105 Junius St.

All vocal parts (tenor, bass, baritone … even countertenor if you got the chops) are open. To view a video sample of an actual audition, go here, or to learn more about the chorale, go to TurtleCreek.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Voice of Pride winners Mi Diva Loca team with local band helloeARTh for YouTube covers

Mel Arizpe, right, of Mi Diva Loca just posted a video on her Facebook where she and her partner Laura Carrizales (and other half of Loca) teamed up with local band helloeARTh for a cover of Rihanna’s “Only Girl.” The band’s M.O. is to team up with local singers and rappers and perform a cover on video to post to YouTube. That’s the nutshell.

In this video, the sound’s a little rough, but MDL’s voices are a good match with the funksters playing. Initially, I thought it was a one-time thing, but then Arizpe told me they also recorded a video for a cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You.” I thought ‘Oh, shiz,’ and was quick to search for it. It’s not too bad either, although the recording pulls in more of the music than the ladies’ voices. But when they start belting it out, it’s outta control. And by that I mean pretty priceless.

Both videos are below.

—  Rich Lopez

Dallas’ vocal adrenaline

VOP runners-up raised the bar for everyone this year

Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe knew this was a great year to win the contest, with the new groups category and the trip to England, but she also knew it was the toughest yet. She and the other finalists all agree the competition was stronger than ever: Third through fifth place took home prize money, but also released a collective sigh just to make it on the proverbial podium this time around.

Runners-up Juliana Jeffrey, Angie Landers and Robert Olivas give some insight to their experience at this year’s competition and how firsts always seem to happen, no matter how long they’ve been competing.

— Rich Lopez

…………………………….

The Bridesmaid: Juliana Jeffrey, 2d  runner-up
Competition songs: “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts and “So Small” by Carrie Underwood.

Why these songs? I love the Underwood song, no question. I pick songs I really love or feel like I’m going through. I was just like Eek! But I don’t think my first song was a good choice.

What changed from last year? The talent was a lot better. Everybody was good and I think more people are finding out about it. It felt different this year — there wasn’t a lot of bonding like before. Every year I’ve made a friend. There was a lot more pressure.

TROIKA | Jeffrey, left, Landers, center, and Olivas gave the also-ran list star power. (Dallas Voice/ Arnold Wayne Jones)

Did the trip to England affect your performance? Who doesn’t wanna go to England? But personally, I try not to think about the prizes. It’s added stress. I like amazing singers and that makes me wanna be better.

You’re a VOP veteran. Would you rather win or keep placing and racking up change? Hey, all I can say is my rent is paid! The reason I do it every year is because I have so much fun with people I meet. We hang out.

Any immediate musical plans? I’m 29 but I don’t really have anything to show for my singing. So, I need to get more serious about that. But I gotta work these 40 hours a week. It’s tough, but I gotta make a demo.

Any thoughts on next year’s Voice of Pride? I know what to expect and I know what motions to go through so that’s relaxing. I think next year I will broaden my song choices. I just don’t wanna put myself in a box. I tell myself I’m gonna step out of this country box, but I never really know what judges are looking for. I just go with what feels good and pray for the best. I just try to do me.
The Breakthrough: Angie Landers, 3d runner-up
Competition songs: “I Drove All Night” and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

Any second thoughts? No, though I tend to think that I should have shown my country side as well as my pop side. There’s always next year.

How was it when your name was called? Oh my gosh, it was such a surreal moment.

Do you pick songs you like or that will sound good? I only perform songs that touch me or I enjoy, but for competition I try to choose songs that show off who I am and what I can do.

How do you prepare? Practice — in my living room!


The Dude: Robert Olivas, 4th runner-up

Competition songs: “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train and “Remember When It Rained” by Josh Groban.

Why these two? I love those songs and I wanted to show my range. I’ve been paying attention to the judges’ comments and I wanted to win the crowd. But dang, the gays love their women singers.

Yeah, you were the highest placed male this year. The competition was gonna be so strong and it was all about the women this year.

How’d you strategize? I made it my business to go to the preliminaries and see the competition. I’ve grown to see what judges are looking for.

When did you start singing? I started singing about four but didn’t have training until my girlfriend at the time talked me into taking a vocal class at UTEP.

What did you learn about yourself this time? I’ve only made finals three times so I’m proving that I can be consistent.

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It takes two

Mel Arizpe, far right, and Laura Carrizales had quite  summer. The real-life couple took the No. 1 and 2 spots in the solo competition at Voice of Pride and scored the inaugural group competition victory. As Mi Diva Loca, the duo won over the crowd with their second performance, a medley of pop hits which might have been risky. “Because it wasn’t a whole song, we wondered if the judges would see past that into our harmonies,” Carrizales says. “These were just songs we liked.” They also got to perform at Pride in Manchester, England.

If you missed ’em before, though, you can catch them (plus third place Juliana Jeffrey) riding in the parade Sunday, followed by a performance at the festival in Lee Park afterward.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens