Always Ascending: Franz Ferdinand return as a band reborn
It’s taken three attempts to get through to Alex Kapranos. A few technical hitches mean that I keep being pushed to the back of a queue of waiting journalists. It’s not surprising that the Franz Ferdinand frontman is a man in demand.
He’s speaking about Always Ascending, the Scottish indie rock outfit’s first album in five years. The record is in many ways a revitalising rather than a reinvention of the band’s sound. It’s vastly different to the band’s earlier output but – as Kapranos mentions himself – unmistakably a Franz Ferdinand record.
If anything it’s probably posturing the band towards the 00’s New York scene with The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, and away from the decade of UK post-punk revivalism, but Kapranos is keen to stay away from associating himself with any particular group, “I was part of the underground for a long time in Glasgow, where I was working myself to death for absolutely no reward, apart from being at the most amazing gigs that were happening in town,” he emphasises. “Franz started in my third decade of making music, so I don’t see it as being associated in my head with a decade, we didn’t just make one record and stop – it’s a continued piece of work.
“While you can tell this new record is Franz Ferdinand, it also sounds massively different from our second, third or fourth records.” He takes a pause, “maybe that’s it, maybe that’s the secret. You’ve got to be unashamed of who you are, but equally unafraid of going somewhere completely new and embracing it.”
During our conversation that sense of enjoyment keeps returning. After I ask whether he actively thinks about the reaction to this new sound while writing and recording the album, he tells me that from him writing “is actually a very selfish thing in a way, you’re writing to give yourself a buzz and that feels really great.”
He does concede, however, that in the past he was preoccupied with looking at album reviews once the record was out in the world. This time, however he tells me he’s been “psychologically very strong” and has avoided reading any reviews. He laughs and says that it’s got to the stage where he’ll interrupt friends who ask about reviews.
True to his word, he does the same to me once I say he’d probably be very happy with the reception. “The thing is, I felt good making the record. I put everything in to it, and we came up with something pretty original.” He already sounds nostalgic about the album, despite it being released just four days before we speak, “My memories of the record are really, really good and just having a good social time to laugh with my pals and that’s how I want to remember it, not through the filter of somebody else’s reaction”
Given the five-year gap between albums, it feels pre-emptive to start discussing album number six but there is a palpable lift around the band – from everyone in the press, to fans, to the band themselves. Will we have to wait until 2023 before we speak again about a new album? “I hope not,” Kapranos laughs, “the band feels really great at the moment. I love being back, I’m literally counting down the hours because I’m desperate to get on stage.”
He does say though that he hopes they avoids the touring burnout this time around. He lists countries like Brazil and South Korea where fans repeatedly asks for shows; “it’s very tempting, but before you know it you’re spending two years on the road. I want to do all that, but I also want to get back into the studio and make another record. I don’t want this creative side to dissipate in anyway.”