Scottish band Franz Ferdinand has been kicking out tunes since 2001, and they still have more to give. The group just dropped a new album, Hits To The Head, a collection of 21 years' worth of bangers. The 20 tracks include two new ones, "Billy Goodbye" and "Curious."
The original lineup comprised vocalist/guitarist Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy on guitar/keys, bassist Bob Hardy and Paul Thomson on drums. The current lineup has the brilliant Audrey Tait picking up the sticks where Thomson left off, and Julian Corrie (of Miaoux Miaoux) on second guitar/keys. Their 2004 incendiary track "Take Me Out" launched the band to such fame that the name "Franz Ferdinand" became synonymous with danceable rock rather than the band's namesake, the long-gone Austrian archduke.
The group is about to return for their first proper U.S. tour since 2018, and their first night brings them to the House of Blues in Dallas, on Thursday, Aug. 4. We spoke over the phone with Kapranos about Franz Ferdinand's album and why Dallas is such a rad city.
When we spoke, the band was just coming off a European tour leg.
"I was just in Spain the other day," Kapranos says. "We were playing in [the city] A Coruña, which is in the most northwesterly part of Spain, and this blew my mind ... they have this lighthouse there, which was built by Romans and it still works, isn't that incredible?"
After telling Kapranos about our state's doomed electric grid and joking that Texas should take notes from the Spanish, he offers some positive memories of North Texas.
"Oh, you're in Dallas! Ah, nice, I love Dallas — looking forward to getting back, actually," he says. "I spent a bit of time there a few years ago. We did this album with Sparks named FFS and we mixed that in Dallas with [producer] John Congleton. I was staying at a house in Bishop Arts for about three weeks or something, so yeah, I really enjoyed it. It's a cool part."
FFS stands for Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, a supergroup the band formed with the American duo made up of brothers Ron and Russell Mael.
After the departure of drummer Thomson, one of Franz Ferdinand's founding members, the group recruited longtime friend Audrey Tait. This is her first time touring the U.S. other than having played SXSW a few years ago with another band from Glasgow.
"She's got the groove," Kapranos says. "It's been too fun playing the concerts with her. When it comes to playing the songs, every person has their different personalities. I really enjoyed playing with Paul, and I really enjoy playing with Audrey."
The way Kapranos sees it, a band's harmony can remain intact despite any changes in lineup.
"You know, the way I like to think about it is, you know when you go out with a group of friends? Your pal Ryan might come down with your group of friends one night, then it's Jessica the next night," he says. "That subtle change will change the mood of the whole night and that's kind of how it is when you're playing with different musicians. You get the same buzz from it, but slightly different ways 'cause everybody has different personalities."
Tait's first recording with the band was on one of the brand-new singles, "Curious," a bass-heavy marvel that will make even the most joyless listener spring up to dance.
"Yeah, it's funny, it's very 'Franz Ferdinand,' but a little bit different as well," Kapranos says of the song. "It's very dance-y, but it's slightly different in a way, and the bass, wow ... well you know, Bob is the bass master. That's the first recording we did with Audrey as well."
The tour's setlist is made up from the nothing-but-bangers album, which Kapranos is excited about.
"So looking forward to doing this tour going along with the Hits To The Head album; we're playing a set which is essentially all of the songs from that album," he says. "Which is, you know, all of the bangers from the last 18 years of the band, so it's kinda crazy to do that. It's the sort of set we would normally do at a festival, but not for as long. It's gonna be fun, it's going to be a great way of getting back into it."
Until recently, Kapranos wasn't sure when or if the band would be able to tour at all.
"You know, a couple of years ago there was a period where I was asking myself, 'Are we gonna get to go back? Like in the darkest moments, 'Will the world ever return to kind of like what it was?'" he says. "So now that it is finally happening, I'm trying to constantly remind myself of those periods so I don't take it for granted at all and appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to do it."
While touring in Europe, the group got to headline the Balmain fashion show last October, celebrating Olivier Rousteing's 10th year as the brand's creative director. As far as audiences go, Kapranos says, they don't seem to vary much between countries; the true differences really lie from city to city. Dallas is different from San Francisco, which is different from Atlanta and so forth. One funny memory that really made America stand out to Kapranos, however, was when they first played Coachella. Here he learned the true definition of the expression "California sober."
"I remember the first time playing Coachella finding it unusual because people didn't really drink," he says. "I think you weren't allowed to drink in the area in front of the stage, so everybody was completely sober and that felt weird." Kapranos continues, between laughs, "They were all sober, and really stoned. Felt very different from Glasgow [where] they're usually definitely not sober."
The singer says a new album of Franz Ferdinand originals is in the works, but he can't give too much away as it's still a fresh project and they don't want to set expectations for an album that hasn't been fully formulated.
"There are some things that are a little bit different, but, I'm gonna stop here because I always make the mistake of saying too much of what an album is going to be before I actually finish it," he says. "Usually what happens is I'll say it's gonna be like something, and then totally change my mind and redo it." Along with "Curious," the group released a slick music video that's a departure from anything they've done in the past. We get to see the band dressed to the nines at a studio, feeling the track with some highly impressive dance moves.
Having a "greatest hits" album feels strange to Kapranos, as it quantifies the band's large body of work.
"It's like summarizing what you've done up until now, and it allows you to go do something else," he says.
Kapranos says the years away from touring and producing new material allowed the band the time to work on new things.
"Normally, when you work on a new album, you've got kind of the shadow of the previous album hanging over you a little bit," he says. "Normally, you kind of react against it in a way; you're trying to do the opposite of what you did last time. Whereas now it just feels like putting the greatest hits together, there's a collection, this is kind of like a summary of what we've done. It's liberating, it allows you to go on and approach everything with a fresh mind."
The album includes popular Franz Ferdinand songs "This Fire," "Dark of The Matinee" and "Outsiders," all examples of the group's signature witty lyrics and universal themes. Kapranos takes inspiration from just about everywhere.
"You can be writing about something that was inspired from a film or a book that you read or overheard conversation," he says. "I'm sure it's different for every other songwriter, but I know when I write lyrics and when I'm writing songs, when I first write, my mind is in a pretty loose form. It's in quite a loose, untangled consciousness, so you'll find images jumble together and sort of cross over each other, so you'll find that you're drawing from personal experience and external influences simultaneously and it will allow it to go quite freely as you're writing.
"Then, after you've written the first version of the song, that's when the focused part of your mind comes in. It's like the scalpel of a sculptor coming in to cut away the edges and that's where you get the fine nature of the form."
Kapranos is looking forward to exploring vintage shops in Dallas. He can no longer remember the name of his favorite stores.
"I can't remember the name of it, and I'm sorry I can't give you guys a plug, but I'll look it up when I get there," he says. If any Dallas fans have suggestions about local vintage shops, Kapranos would like to be tweeted @AlKapranos.
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