“Right now I couldn’t think of a life I’d rather have,” Alex Kapranos says of helming Franz Ferdinand. But it wasn’t long ago the singer and his band were hardly confident in their future. In 2016, following the departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy, the three original members of the Scottish band — Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy, and drummer Paul Thompson — gathered in a Glasgow studio and attempted to write new music.
“But we were really only a hypothetical band at that point,” Hardy admits. “We didn’t even know what we were working on or that it was going to be made into a Franz Ferdinand record, for that matter.” In short order, however, the songs began to appear. “And it felt like we had completely started up afresh,” Kapranos says of the groove-based, dance music-influenced songs that comprise Always Ascending, the band’s fifth studio album, and a sonic left-turn for the 16-year veterans.
Produced by Philippe Zdar (Phoenix), the album’s slick and snappy, synth-heavy jams (“Always Ascending,” “Huck and Jim”) are a world away from their breakout single, 2004’s “Take Me Out.” But as Kapranos explains, the album is really a product of what he views as dance music’s through line over the course of musical history. The singer says he took as much inspiration from his father’s collection of ancient Greek dance music as he did in recording extensively with Ableton, the advanced production software, for the first time “We’ve always been a band that played dance music live,” Hardy contends, “but I think maybe we just ran with that idea more this time.”
While recording, the band replaced McCarthy with two new band members — multi-instrumentalists Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot — both of whom Kapranos says “are smart but don’t take themselves too seriously — the opposite is unbearable, isn’t it?” he asks with a laugh, before adding, “kind of like your President, huh?” His negative opinion of Trump is hardly surprising: last fall Franz Ferdinand released the anti-Trump song “Demagogue” as part of the “30 Days, 30 Songs” program created by writer Dave Eggers.
Political grievances aside, the band have never felt more positive about their future. “There’s that saying that every crisis is an opportunity,” Hardy notes. “We kind of seized on that idea. We felt like everything could fall apart at any minute, so let’s just get on with it and have fun.”