When Nick McCarthy announced his departure from pop behemoths Franz Ferdinand, fans must have feared the worst. The tight-knit Glasgow-formed foursome had been a unit for 15 years, after all. However, as lead singer Alex Kapranos says, splitting up wasn’t an option.
“We never thought of winding it up,” confides the singer. “Of course the three of us all met up to see how we all felt, but it was pretty obvious that we were probably more into it than we’d ever been.”
The band had already been through a period of change, of course, with various solo projects in and out of music, and most famously, the quartet’s collaboration with 70s pop icons Sparks as FFS. However, Alex dismisses the likelihood of another collaboration with the Mael brothers.
“What I loved about the FFS LP was how much of a surprise it was. Nobody was expecting it. Not even Domino. It doesn’t work the same way when you come back and go “SURPRISE... again...”
New album Always Ascending is reassuringly Franz, but also different, with the band’s new signings signifying a change in sound, if not songwriting (while producer Philippe Zdar has brought a new approach given his background in hiphop and electronica.
“With this record, it feels like the beginning of a new decade,” Alex agrees. “It felt like the band’s first decade was neatly bookended by ‘Right Thoughts’ - it seemed to sum up what we’d done, while (that album’s final single) 'Stand On The Horizon' hinted at where we could go. Time to see what we can explore, while being unafraid of our identity.”
And they go into this brave new world with a couple of intrepid new explorers. Guitarist Dino Bardot will be familiar to some fans having come from labelmates the 1990s, while those of an more underground persuasion will know Julian Corrie, or at least his electronic music pseudonym Miaoux Miaoux.
“I loved what Julian had been up to,” Alex admits. “I guess I’ve always kept tabs on what (his label) Chemikal Underground have been up to over the years, so was very aware of his stuff. He’s cool. (Mogwai’s) Stuart Braithwaite, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage who all suggested him.
“Then Dino... he’s just the greatest rockstar to ever come out of Glasgow.”
Which puts a hole in my theory that with Julian’s almost futuristic electronic influence, Dino may offer a link back to their indie guitar roots.
“I’m not sure if I am the best judge of that,” he contends. “I’m not sure Dino considers himself an Indie Rocker... Julian’s also a great guitarist too.
“I don’t know,” he muses. “I find it hard to think of people in those terms. I think more about their personalities.”
So the recruitment process wasn’t a traditional audition-based process.
“It was important to go back to Glasgow for the new members,” Alex admits. “Very few people around the world truly understand the... sense of humour.”
And following the lay-off, the band can finally play live to a home audience. And Alex has no fears about the new lineup hitting UK stages.
“Bring it on,” he enthuses. “I love playing gigs. It’s the best buzz in the world. We’ve been playing live with this new lineup for almost a year and I know we sound better now than we ever have.”
And similarly, the new material has been well road-tested on their US tour. “I love playing the new songs,” he enthuses. “The ten songs on the LP are divided into eight total bangers and two complete heartbreakers.
"That makes for a pretty powerful set. There are a few bangers in the back catalogue too. With space for the odd esoteric deeper cut...
So, it’s good to be back? “I get very frustrated when I’m not performing, writing or in the studio. Man, that’s what I do!”
Always Ascending is out now. The band tour the UK throughout February.