Beauty And The Beat: The Sounds’ Maja Ivarsson’s Platinum Standard
Back in 2002, when I was still a college co-ed, my best girlfriend got me the only thing I wanted for my 19th birthday: tickets to see the Sounds. The Swedish electropop outfit had just broken into the U.S. with their debut album, Living in America, and I couldn’t get enough of it, which made trekking out to a small club on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, nothing short of a dream. Almost ten years later and the band of boys that’s fronted by the petite, platinum blonde Maja Ivarsson is still going strong. They’re in New York tonight and Friday for the first leg of a U.S. tour in support of their fourth studio album, Something to Die For, so we caught up with Ivarsson—a newly named Visionary for Sebastian’s Color Ignite line—to talk beauty icons and a waterproof mascara find that keeps her from “looking like Alice Cooper” onstage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.—Celia Ellenberg
So how did you get hooked up with Sebastian?
I just got an e-mail from my manager. They had a list of ten girls that they were thinking about using for the [Color Ignite] campaign and he asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I already used their [Shaper] Hairspray, so that I thought it’d be cool.
Seeing as how you are Scandinavian, I realize that it’s entirely possible that your hair is naturally that blond. But is it?
I was born a blonde, but as with most people you get darker as you get older. I’ve been bleaching my hair for a long time because really platinum blond looks better than dirty blond. So it’s not really real, but it’s not fake either.
How often do you need to color it to keep it at an optimal shade of cornsilk?
I’m one of those lazy people, so whenever I’m home, I let it grow out and I’ll have roots that are a few inches long. But I’ll bleach it again before we go back on tour. I heard on the No Doubt tour, Gwen Stefani bleaches her hair every eight days. But I don’t do that. In the past I always did it myself because we didn’t have much money—like any chick who starts playing music. But now we’re more successful and I have this great relationship with Sebastian, so every time I’m in L.A. I see [Sebastian stylist design team member] Janine [Jarman] at Hairroin Salon.
What about pre-show beauty rituals? Do you travel with a hair/makeup person or are those perfect waves and black smoky eyes all you?
There was a while when I wanted to be curly, so I had to do my hair two hours before the show. But I’m not into that anymore. I’m not really that girly. I just have a really good haircut and with a good haircut you don’t have to do much. I cut it myself—and I used to cut the boys’ hair, too. I went to art school so anything you need to do creatively with your hands, I’m good at it.
So makeup application is presumably a breeze for you then, too?
Yeah, but most of the time, I don’t do anything too special because I know I’m going to look like I just took a shower when I get off the stage. But I do need eye shadow, I need eyeliner, and I need mascara. I got a lot of stuff from Kat Von D when we played a show together at the Sephora store in Times Square during fashion week. So that’s what I’ve been using recently. Otherwise it’s MAC. I also just bought this new mascara. It’s almost waterproof. It’s called 38-degrees. Now I don’t have to worry about looking like Alice Cooper!
With the bright blond hair, badass attitude, and the band of merry men, do you get Blondie comparisons?
In the beginning, absolutely, I did—a lot more than now. I take it as a compliment. Debbie Harry is one of a kind—one of the best women in rock ever. But the guys get a little annoyed by it because we don’t really sound like Blondie.
Aside from Debbie Harry, do you have any other beauty icons?
I really like Grace Jones. She’s also one of those people—you know, there’s only one of them. I saw her perform at a festival in London and she still looks good! And she’s got a crazy stage persona. Stevie Nicks too—she’s a really cool lady.
Out.com just awarded you the impressive distinction of “best legs in music since Tina Turner.” Do you work out a lot when you’re on tour to keep your gams in shape?
Tina does have good legs so that’s a great compliment. To be honest with you, I don’t do anything. I’ve got good genes. The shows themselves are the workout. I can pretty much eat and drink anything I want and I still look the same.
I’ve always been curious: How did Leigh Lezark wind up on the cover of 2006′s Dying to Say This to You album?
At the time she wasn’t so famous, and we used to go to that party she did in New York, the Misshapes. Our drummer had the idea of having two girls on the cover of the album whispering to each other. I was in New York by myself and thought, that’s a really good idea, let me see if I can find some girls. We kind of knew her already so we just called her up. She said, yeah, and we asked her if she had any other friends and she said, yeah. After that, I started seeing her everywhere. She’s wearing my cardigan in the picture!
After touring nonstop for the past ten years, it seems as though you’ve managed to hone in on a specific onstage aesthetic. How would you describe your style?
I don’t really know how to answer that—it’s like asking, “What kind of music do you play?!” There a lot of great Swedish designers right now. My friends have a collection called ALTEWOI.SAOME, so I’ve been wearing a lot of that lately. And Ivana Helsinki, who’s pretty big in Finland. I’m going to check out a couple of vintage stores while I’m in New York.
What can we expect to see from the Sounds in the new year?
We’re going to have a little time off and then we’ll start another tour in Europe. We all have different projects going on besides the band at the moment, too. I can’t really talk about mine right now, but it’s going to be really cool.
Photo: Courtesy of Sebastian Professional