In the late 1990s, the world of mainstream pop was dominated by teen-pop groups like the Backstreet Boys and N∗Sync, as well as hip-hop and R&B. Come the new millennium, however, rock and roll seemed to start kicking back, bolstered by the newfound success of bands like the White Stripes and the Strokes. Soon, rock was again a viable source of entertainment for mainstream music fans, and bands outfitted with guitars and drum sets started taking the crown back from groups with choreographed dance moves and songs intended for a pre-teen audience. One of the surprise successes of this era was a Scottish band of four well-dressed songsmiths known as Franz Ferdinand. Armed with razor-sharp hooks, danceable rhythms, and a flippant style and flair that hearkened back to the days of the Beatles, the boys stormed the world's airwaves with bombastic tracks like "Take Me Out" and "Darts of Pleasure" (from their self-titled debut), ushering in a slew of post-punk inspired groups destined to prove that, once and for all, rock was indeed not dead.
Though the trajectory of Franz Ferdinand into the public eye seemed to come out of nowhere, the members of the band—vocalist/guitarist Alex Kapranos, guitarist/vocalist Nick McCarthy, drummer Paul Thomson, and bassist Bob Hardy—paid their dues working odd jobs and playing in other Glaswegian bands, before some of them even met one another. Thomson was the drummer for art-rock combo Yummy Fur, who bore a slight resemblance to bands like the Fall and Wire. Headed by John McKeown, Yummy Fur started in 1992, and released numerous albums, including Night Club and Sexy World. Thomson joined in 1997, and appeared on the bands last three albums. After Sexy World was released, Kapranos, then going by the name Alex Huntley, joined the band on bass, later switching to guitar before the bands' demise. Before his appearance in Yummy Fur, Kapranos was a member of Scottish bands the Amphetameanies, Quinn, and The Karelia (a.k.a. The Blisters), and also contributed to the recordings of the band Urusei Yatsura. Though Kapranos' bands reached varied amounts of success in Glasgow, he really made a name for himself as a bartender at The 13th Note, and as a promoter at The Kazoo Club and the 99p Club. Booking the first gigs by Glaswegian bands like the Delgados and Mogwai, Kapranos was an integral part of the emerging Glasgow scene.
Following the breakup of Yummy Fur, the only future member of Franz Ferdinand to pursue any kind of musical success was Thomson, who formed the electro-punk band Pro Forma, singing and playing drums, in 2000. But Thomson's time in that band was fleeting—they released one album with Thomson in the band—when his old friend Kapranos contacted him about a new project intended to make "songs girls can dance to" with his new friend Nick McCarthy and school chum Bob Hardy.
According to the band's official biography, Kapranos first met McCarthy at a mutual friends house. McCarthy, somewhat of a renowned thief from Munich, was spotted stealing some of Kapranos vodka, resulting in near fisticuffs. Before a fight could truly break out, Kapranos asked McCarthy—an accomplished pianist and double bass player in school—if he played the drums. McCarthy lied and said yes. Hardy was convinced by Kapranos to take up the bass, even though his interests lied more in the realms of art. Hardy told People Magazine, "I was in art school, and Alex and I worked as chefs together. I'd never played an instrument." After drafting Thomson to play guitar, after the drummer sold his kit due to the rising popularity of drum machines in modern Scottish bands, the lineup for the band was complete … to a degree.
After initial practices at McCarthy's house, he and Thomson decided to switch instruments, as Thomson was a much more proficient drummer. So it was in 2001 that Franz Ferdinand—named after former Archduke of Austria—formed with a solidified instrumental lineup. Soon, the band was contacted by students at the Glasgow School of Art to play their first gig in a house to about 80 people.
After their initial show, the band decided to keep pursuing unconventional places to play, eventually moving into an old jail house they dubbed the Chateau to practice, host parties, play gigs, and even live. "We just wanted a place where we could play, put on art shows, and screen films, and we knew there were places that were abandoned and free," Kapranos told Interview Magazine in 2004. Eventually the police caught on to the activities going down at the Chateau, and the band had to look elsewhere for places to play. Kapranos said, "The arrangement we had with the owner was that as long as we didn't draw too much attention to ourselves, we were okay. We did exactly what we were told not to do." After this setback, they started gigging at places like Flourish Studios, and Stereo, the first official "pub" that the band performed at.
For the Record …
Members include Bob Hardy, bass; Alex Kapranos (born Alex Huntley), vocals, guitar; Nick McCarthy, guitar; Paul Thomson, drums.
Group formed in Scotland, 2001; signed with Domino Recording Co., 2003; released first single, "Darts of Pleasure," 2003; second single, "Take Me Out" was a big hit, 2004; released debut album Franz Ferdinand, 2004; released You Could Have It So Much Better, 2005.
Awards: Mercury Music Prize, 2005; Brit Awards, Best British Rock Act and Best British Group, 2005; NME Awards, Best Album and Best Single, 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Domino Recording Co., P.O. Box 47039, London SW18 1WD, United Kingdom, website: http://www.dominorecordco.com. Booking—Little Big Man, 155 Ave. of the Americas, 6th Fl., New York, NY 10013, phone: (646) 336-8520, website: http://www.littlebigman.com. Website—Franz Ferdinand Official Website: http://www.franzferdinand.co.uk.
Luckily, the band happened upon another abandoned building, this time an old courthouse, and decided to recreate the Chateau experience, again hosting parties, gigs, art exhibitions, and the like for anybody who was daring enough to participate. The police, however, shut them down again. It was then that the band decided to venture outside of Glasgow's confines, and started gigging in London, where they met Laurence Bell, who headed up Domino Records—a label that released records by the likes of Elliott Smith, Clinic, and Sebadoh in the United Kingdom.
After a few years of gigging around Scotland and England, Franz Ferdinand signed with Domino Records in June of 2003. In September of that year, the band released their first single for the label, "Darts of Pleasure," and immediately a buzz started circulating in the British press, most notably from the influential magazine NME. The buzz soon followed across the pond, as bands like the Strokes started heralding Franz Ferdinand in interviews. In November, a 5-track version of the "Darts of Pleasure" single was released in America. Though the success was a bit sudden, the band never really seemed uncomfortable being in the spotlight, even if their confidence sometimes swayed. Looking back on their beginning aspirations, Kapranos told Esquire, "There's a difference between expectations and aspirations. I remember when we wanted to be the best pop group in the world, like David Bowie, the Beatles, or the Clash. And then at the same time, you're thinking, 'If we sell 500 copies of our single, that would be fantastic!'"
But it seemed that the "Darts of Pleasure" single was just a warning shot, as it was Franz Ferdinand's next single, "Take Me Out," that catapulted them into the public eye. Once released in January of 2004, the buzz had reached its breaking point in the United Kingdom and America, as the band started showing up in the pages of magazines everywhere. There was no doubt that a full-length album was a mere step behind, and in February of 2004, Franz Ferdinand was released on Domino Records in the United Kingdom. The NME said, "this is an album as much about preening and posing as passion, that'll have you poring over the lyrics for an age. The fear that they couldn't match their first two singles has proved unfounded. They've done it. With style, wit and, well, great posture."
A bidding war began in the United States, with Epic Records finally winning out, releasing Franz Ferdinand in the States later that year. It was then that hipsters and passive music fans alike started paying great attention to the band, bolstered by the success of their video for "Take Me Out," which received massive airplay on MTV. The band then hit the road, touring constantly throughout 2004, alongside the Rapture, the Von Bondies, and fellow Scots Sons and Daughters. Their infectious Gang of Four-meets-Television new-wave guitar-centric dance tracks helped them achieve a Gold Record in the United States, an MTV Video Music Award nomination, and various other accolades.
The band continued touring in 2005, hitting the road with the likes of Pretty Girls Make Graves. Somehow, the band found time to write and record another album, releasing You Could Have It So Much Better on Epic/Domino in October of that year. Slightly differently stylistically, the band still delivered their catchy brand of danceable pop, including the glammy first single "Do You Want To." But still, the changes were noticeable, as Interview stated, "This sophomore effort from Franz Ferdinand isn't so much a follow-up to their 2004 serftitled debut as it is the payoff. The group's herky-jerky nods to the Clash and the Specials are still there as they spastically bounce through propulsive tracks like 'The Fallen,' 'You're the Reason I'm Leaving,' and 'Do You Want To,' with singer Alex Kapranos' surly croon leading the procession. But elsewhere they venture into more unexpected territory with a patently twisted joie de vivre: 'Walk Away,' for example, evokes early R.E.M.; 'Fade Together' is an evil campfire ballad that would cause Nick Cave to raise an eyebrow; and 'Eleanor' sounds like an outtake from the Beatles' White Album (1968). It's rousing, rollicking, and ridiculously good." Kapranos told Newsweek in October of 2005, "I think we have a huge Zeppelin thing going on," says Kapranos, apparently in earnest. "When we were recording this record, we kept thinking, 'Does this sound too much like 'Kashmir'?' That's the best thing that happens in music—when in your head you're doing something that sounds like someone else, but it sounds totally different when it comes out."
Darts of Pleasure (EP), Domino, 2003.
Franz Ferdinand, Domino, 2004.
You Could Have It So Much Better, Sony, 2005.
Esquire, November 2005.
Interview, April 2004; October 2005.
Newsweek, October 17, 2005.
People, October 31, 2005.
Domino Recording Co., http://www.dominorecordco.com (May 24, 2006).
"Franz Ferdinand," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 24, 2006).
Franz Ferdinand Official Website, http://www.franzferdinand.co.uk (May 24, 2006).
"Ferdinand Win Mercury Music Prize," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3636272.stm (May 24, 2006).
"Review: Franz Ferdinand," NME, http://www.nme.com/reviews/franz-ferdinand/7307 (May 24, 2006).
"Franz Ferdinand." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/franz-ferdinand
"Franz Ferdinand." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/franz-ferdinand
"Franz Ferdinand." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/franz-ferdinand
"Franz Ferdinand." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/franz-ferdinand