Franz Ferdinand Interview

Exclusive chatter with the Glasgow greats...

Since breaking into the mainstream at the first time of asking with their classic-status self-titled album in 2004, Franz Ferdinand have ruled the nation’s indie scene with a glint in their eyes and a swagger of their hips.

‘Franz Ferdinand’ landed at three in the albums chart on its first week of release; less than two years later, ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ went two better, topping the chart in October 2005 and welcoming a new dawn for their label Domino, who would enjoy further number one releases with Arctic Monkeys.

The four-piece – Alex Kapranos, Bob Hardy, Paul Thomson and Nick McCarthy – began the promotion of ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ with a four-night sold-out run at London’s expansive Alexandra Palace in late 2005, before touring worldwide. But come 2007 they’d withdrawn from the circuit, focus shifting to album three only after a deserved break from the business.

Work on what would become ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ – released on Monday, January 26 – began in late 2007, but in March the following year the band parted company with Xenomania producer Brian Higgins, who’d previously worked on releases by Girls Aloud and Sugababes. Dan Carey stepped into the void, and brought to the table experience with the likes of Lily Allen, CSS and Hot Chip. He was a perfect fit for the band’s proposed ‘more dance-friendly’ direction.

“The industry has always moved in cycles – guitar bands won’t disappear”

And the end product makes good on the pre-release talk – ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ will sway you gently as any good partner should, rather than demand you headbang ‘til your neck’s a wreck. If its immediate predecessor was a rough and ready rock record, this new release is a sensuous, swinging affair that tickles the soles of one’s dancing feet. Reviews such as Clash’s have made comparisons to acts including Daft Punk and Arthur Russell – straightforward indie-rock this isn’t.

Clash got Bob Hardy on the phone to talk about the new album, the band’s plans for the year and the recent slide in fortunes for third-album-releasing indie acts.

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Franz Ferdinand – ‘Ulysses’

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Hey Bob. Where are you right now?

I’m at home at the minute, but we fly to Austria tomorrow for a show.

Taking it easy before things get too crazy?

It’s kind of already gone crazy – we’re in the middle of it right now, really.

You were here in London earlier this week for a show at Heaven. Good to see the whites of a crowd’s eyes again?

Yeah, it was great. It’s the first time I’d been in there – it’s a good venue.

Agreed. But onto the album: fair to say that it’s being released a little later than was originally intended?

I guess so, but we didn’t really ever have a date set – it was more about when it was ready, rather than meeting a pre-set deadline. We didn’t want to rush it at all.

And do you think it showcases a progression in sound, without alienating existing fans?

I think it definitely sounds like a Franz Ferdinand record, but there are new sounds on it. It’s quite different from the second album, as that was a very guitar-heavy record, very rock.

The new one certainly makes good on the dance-friendly promises…

The new one’s got more swing to it, yeah. The rhythm often leads, and the guitars are lower in the mix. There are more synthesizers in there, too.

And that’s something you were very keen to do, make an album that was designed for the dancefloor?

It’s something we were keen to do, to make a dance-friendly album, especially as the last one was so rock. As for the future, it is a direction we could pursue further but we’re not thinking about that just yet – we’ve a lot of touring to do for this record first.

I see you’ve dates confirmed for the spring – are there any festival dates confirmed too?

We’ll be playing a few festivals, but we don’t know much of what’s confirmed. Benicassim, in Spain, is confirmed – we’ve played that twice before and it’s a great festival. UK wise I’m not sure though.

I suppose some will want you as an exclusive headline act…

That’s the way some festivals are nowadays, isn’t it.

Totally. But it must feel restrictive for you guys, being told if you do one you can’t do this other one…

Yeah, that’s true.

Do you make an effort to get out and about at the festivals you play, to go and see bands on other stages?

Well that’s one of the best things about playing festivals – you can catch all these bands that you otherwise would not see. When you’re on tour it’s very different – you might have one support band that you see every night. But at a festival you can see ten, fifteen bands in a day, and we do make that effort. We’re not sat backstage the whole time. Part of the fun is finding new music.

That’s a healthy view to have. Some bands in your position would probably keep themselves to themselves.

We’re all fans of music, y’know – it’s not generally something you grow out of.

That being the case, what do you make of the idea in the press that 2009 is the year that female solo artists are going to break out – the likes of La Roux, Little Boots – consigning indie bands to the scrapheap?

I mean, the charts have changed a lot over the last few years – especially the singles chart, which is currently dominated by pop, and often good pop. These artists have their place, for sure.

It’s worth noting third albums from Kaiser Chiefs, Keane and Razorlight didn’t do so well last year – any worry that the new Franz album won’t do as well as its predecessors?

Perhaps a little, although we’re not really worried about it; we’re prepared for it not selling as fast as the ones before. But the music industry has always moved in cycles, so guitar bands won’t disappear completely. A hell of a lot of them have come out in a short period of time, and a lot of them are really shit, so I think it’s very natural that these bands begin to fall off the radar.

Perhaps the post-Libertines bubble has finally popped…

I play in a band – I’m no cultural commentator or journalist. But it’s not like guitars are going to go away. Right now there’s some young band in a garage somewhere writing songs on guitar, and they’ll be massive in two years’ time.

“Doing the first two albums back to back was exhausting”

You’re probably right. Do you ever find yourself, as someone who’s successfully navigated hype and delivered three decent albums, in a position to give up-and-coming acts a little advice?

I wouldn’t take it upon myself to start handing out advice – I think that’d be kind of patronising.

But you must get acts asking you about your experiences, when they’re just starting out?

Um, it depends on the band really. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and imparted wisdom, you know.

What about new bands you’re enjoying right now? Any around?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying Late Of The Pier. I saw them a few years ago at the Water Rats, supporting The Cribs. It was one of their first shows, and they were so exciting. Mystery Jets, too, are a band I really like. We played with them in Australia – I’d never properly listened to them before that, but afterwards I really got into their last record.

It’s one of last year’s most overlooked albums, I think.

I agree, totally.

And Late Of The Pier are proving that you can make pop intelligent, and do very well out of it…

They have so many ideas. It really gives you confidence that there is hope for bands that use guitars!

Talking of seeing bands, of Montreal (interview) supported you at Heaven, and they’re known for their extravagant live shows. What were they like in a smaller venue?

They pared it down a bit because the stage is quite small, but they definitely still put on a show. It wasn’t as full-blown as when we saw them in New York, where Kevin (Barnes, of Montreal mainman) sang a whole song from the back of a horse – a live, white horse. They’re amazing – totally mesmerising.

But not quite as big here as they are stateside, yet.

They’ve toured a lot more in the States. They’ve put out some very complicated records, but they’re very pop too. They’re brilliant.

And what of your next album? Would you like to turn it around faster than your third, perhaps begin work after touring this one?

That’s something that we’d only know after we finish touring – we’d need to see where we are mentally. Doing the first two albums back to back was very tiring, as we were constantly active. It was exhausting. For this album we’ll be a bit more relaxed, so we won’t make a decision on the fourth album until we’ve finished promoting this one.

I don’t suppose anyone at Domino is going to hassle you – I think you’re probably above label interference.

Definitely, but they’re a great label to be on anyway. They’ve been so good to us.

And they’re really busy right now, with the Animal Collective album attracting so much praise. You must feel great being part of a stable that’s still making great signings.

When I was a teenager I was a massive Domino fan – it is still a stamp of quality, and it’s maintained a fantastic reputation. When we signed we found ourselves with access to the back catalogue…

Had yourself a warehouse raid, eh?

Don’t tell Laurence (Bell, Domino founder), but we did go on something of a raid.

You know, I really don’t suppose he minds…

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‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ is released via Domino on January 26. Read the Clash review of the album HERE. The single ‘Ulysses’ is out now.

The band’s forthcoming UK/Ireland dates are as follows…


26 London O2

28 Limerick Dolans


1 Dublin Olympia

4+5 Glasgow Barrowlands

6 Manchester Academy

8 Birmingham Academy

9 London Hammersmith Apollo

10 Southampton Guildhall

Buy tickets to Franz Ferdinand HERE

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