Indie music heroes Franz Ferdinand are back with an eccentric fourth album. James Manning met with them at their London studio to find out what they’ve been up to and talk lions, Terry Wogan and anti-nostalgia.
Whatever happened to Franz Ferdinand? If you’ve had that thought pass through your mind in the past few years, then you’re not alone.
‘Everyone was desperate to know what we were working on,’ explains guitarist Nick McCarthy. ‘We deliberately decided not to talk about anything.’ Alex Kapranos, the band’s impossibly gangly singer, chips in: ‘Some people can talk endlessly when there’s nothing to say. We’re pretty bad at it. But if you’re not in the public eye, you feel like you can do anything you want.’
Things have changed, then, since Franz Ferdinand fantasised about being interviewed by Irish TV star Terry Wogan on their 2004 single ‘The Dark Of The Matinée’. Sir Terry never came calling, but the four-piece did win Brit and Mercury awards, sell millions of albums and – for a while – could legitimately have been called the biggest band in Britain.
They look like they’ve enjoyed their break from the spotlight, however, as they down coffee and brownies at Sausage Studios in Hackney, London.
Kapranos sits hunched on a piano stool, with Paul Thomson (drummer, gap-toothed, grinning) and the affable McCarthy (the studio’s owner) beside him. It’s here – surrounded by vintage organs, a Bond villain-style spinning leather chair and an enormous stuffed lion – that Franz Ferdinand have spent much of the last year making their fourth LP, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action.
‘It’s a pretty quirky record,’ Kapranos says. ‘There are some odd moments.’ He’s not wrong: the LP couches the usual earworm riffs and funk bass in creepier, lo-fi production. ‘The last year has been more like the first year of the band,’ says Thomson, of the music’s rawness.
In reality, it’s been a decade since their debut single ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ was released. The band are all about ‘anti-nostalgia’ and won’t be marking the occasion. But still, it’s a good moment to reflect on Franz’s trajectory from the art squats of Glasgow to the heights of rock fame, including a surreal performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards – ‘sandwiched between Gwen Stefani and The Black Eyed Peas,’ Thomson recalls in disbelief. They were even popular enough to cause a backlash among so-called ‘real rock’ fans. Not that Kapranos minded. ‘It’s great to trigger hatred among people you don’t particularly like,’ he says.
So, still thriving on friction, the band are almost ready to reveal some of the oddest music of their career. Perhaps this time they’ll even get that Wogan interview. Or perhaps not: ‘I don’t think he has any interest in us,’ grins Thomson.
‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ is available from www.amazon.co.uk.
Alex Kapranos on
Doing it yourself
‘You have no idea how much stress the ’90s DIY scene caused me. “We’ve got to do this ourselves. We’ve got to take control.” I can’t even put up a shelf, let alone put a record out!’
Fake Mexican merchandise
‘They have stock graphics for the metal bands that come through. I’ve got this great T-shirt: a skull with horns and fire and “Franz Ferdinand” written above.’
The band’s stuffed lion
‘That’s a bass trap [an acoustic energy absorber]. Why else would you have a lion in your studio?’
‘We had to ask to use his image in the video for ‘The Dark Of The Matinée’. He was like, “Actually, I was never on BBC2.” But “Radio 2” didn’t scan as well as “BBC2”, so shut up, and let’s get on with the poetic licence. Sorry, Terry. Much respect.’