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Franz Ferdinand - The Archdukes Of Art Rock

Author: Anita Connors
Monday, January 5, 2009

Hot on the heels of their world tour, Glasgow’s favourite art school rock sons Franz Ferdinand are releasing their third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. 3D’s Anita Connors caught up with drummer Paul Thomson to find out what the band has been up to since their last release and what we can expect onstage this summer.

“What can they expect- Some new stuff and some old stuff,” laughs Franz Ferdinand drummer Paul Thomson. “We don’t even know what the direction is going to take ’cause there are some of the songs on the record we haven’t quite worked out how to play yet. So the music is still in state of evolution…just because they happen to be recorded, the songs will still continue to evolve when we play them live…and that’s what keeps it exciting. You know, as long as things aren’t tedious then it keeps it fresh for us.”

Any fan will know that Thomson is downplaying the band’s frenetic onstage antics; the four-piece is known worldwide for their live shows, no less in Australia. You just have to think of 2006’s Big Day Out with the whole stadium moshing to Take Me Out.

“Yeah that was great!” Thomson recalls. “I think it’s a great festival, I loved it. It’s one of my favourite tour experiences ever, I think. We hung out with all the other bands and there were some great bands about there as well.”

And Take Me Out- “I’m surprised we still play that song. People seem to enjoy it.”

On the road for 18 months with second album You Could Have It So Much Better With Franz Ferdinand, the tour took its toll on the band.

“We spent a lot of time doing gigs and then we drove each other crazy, and so we had to have a break from each other,” Paul remembers. “So we took five months off doing various things. I think we were on different continents at that time as well.”

In those five months, Thomson worked on the debut record of his side project Correcto, while frontman Alex Kapranos produced The Cribs’ record in Vancouver “and Bob Hardy [the bassist] bought an Xbox,” jokes Thompson. Like Paul, guitarist Nick McCarthy worked on his band Box Codax, as well as curating an art show in Los Angeles before the band got back together early last year.

“Nick had already found a new headquarters for us,” tells Thomson, “an old town hall in Govan in the south side of the city, which … the independent film production company called Film City, they use it as their office space, and obviously we were involved with them when we contributed a song to the Hallam Foe soundtrack.” The contribution is question is the dreamily acoustic Hallam Foe Dandelion Blow.

“We just kind of set up shop there, we started writing,” Paul continues. “Eventually we decided we all wanted to record it there as well. So over a course of a year and a half we were writing this record, we were also getting it out so it could be a really functional recording studio as well.”

Writing and recording Tonight, Franz Ferdinand decided to change musical pathways. Instead of following the harried beat of their first two albums, they opted to slow down their sound.

“You Could Have It So Much Better was recorded straight off the back of a world tour,” says the drummer, “so we were quite a, I guess, well oiled, tight live unit and as well it was quite an up tempo kind of guitar-rock record, which I guess was a sort of reflection where our heads were at the time. You know it’s quite sort of stroppy and anxious, which was definitely how we felt. But this record took some time off beforehand and then started kind of crafting this new sound. We cautiously took the tempos down as well; we didn’t want it to be as fast and furious as the second record. You know we wanted to try a heavier sound. We took the tempos back and kind of swinged a little bit more as well. It’s definitely an easier tempo to dance, and this is definitely a dance record that we’ve made.”

Franz Ferdinand even tweaked things in terms of the look of the band; they’re on the front cover of an album for the first time. What’s more, Tonight doesn’t follow the Russian avant-garde direction of Aleksander Rodchenko of their previous releases. As Thomson explains: “The whole idea was that the cover art of the last two records was a sort of rethink of Russian constructivism and we felt that kinda angular, geometric graphics reflected the sound of the record. But this one is slightly doesn’t have as a geometric sound. We wanted to try something different. We had a friend who is a photographer, Soren Starbird, he lives in Copenhagen, and he came down to Glasgow just to do some photographs for us. And suddenly on one of the days, it was after midnight, we thought we’d quite like to stage one of these Weegee-style 1940s crime scene photographs. And we liked that mix and we just sort of strike it and we decided to use it for the record and also decided to try and do more of this style of photographs in different cities around the world as well. We’ve done some in Paris, we’ve done some in Warsaw and did one in Brooklyn as well, which is on the front of the Ulysses cover… they’re all shot at night with one or more of the group, like, playing dead and the rest of the group just kinda standing around.”

Although having released Lucid Dreams several months ago, the band decided that the first official single off Tonight would be the spectacular Homeric pop stomp-a-thon Ulysses. “It had nice sort of edge about it, the way that it builds, we thought it would be a good introduction for people to the sound of the record. And I think that on a whole as well, the night we came to the realisation afterwards that the dynamic of the record could have solved the dynamic of like a night out if you like.”

WHO: Franz Ferdinand
WHAT: Plays Falls Festival, Lorne / Enmore Theatre / Tonight: Franz Ferdinand through Domino Records
WHEN: Tuesday 30 December & Wedensday 31 / Tuesday 6 January / Monday 26