At their recent shows, Franz Ferdinand have been playing a song that sounds like nothing they've ever recorded. The track, "Turn It On," throws a big, buzzy synth riff from guitarist-keyboardist Nick McCarthy on top of a Cavern Club beat, with frontman Alex Kapranos repeatedly purring Bryan Ferry-style: "It ain't easy being this kind of lover."
That one, it's clear, is a keeper. And Franz have thirty-four or so other new songs in various stages of completion -- as well as an idea about the overall direction of their new record. "When we did the second album, the dance and synthesizer side of what we do maybe went to the side and the rock side came to the fore a little bit," says Kapranos. "I suppose we're heading back to the idea of dance music. It's more of a dance record than a rock record."
And after blazing through the writing and recording of its second album, 2005's You Could Have It So Much Better, the band is taking its time on the follow-up. "There was a real, almost frantic frustration within the band to get back into the studio when we did that second album," says Kapranos. "This time we wanted to spend more time developing, and also, I suppose, allowing songs and sounds to evolve more before we ended up writing an album, and absorbing more music and ideas and, I suppose, life itself. And when I say life, I mean life off the road, because I wouldn't classify life on the road as real life."
To that end, Franz took their first real break since the band began its album-and-tour cycle in 2004, and the members of the group scattered around the world to unwind. "We completely stopped -- Franz Ferdinand was no longer a part of our lives," says Kapranos, who used the downtime to produce an album by Brit rockers the Cribs. "It was almost like we had to clear the filth of those years of touring from our personalities and our relationships with each other."
Indie-rock purists might be shocked by Franz's likely choice of producer: They've recorded tracks with Brian Higgins, a British pop hitmaker who's previously worked with Kylie Minogue, Cher and the girl group Girls Aloud. "It appeals to my contrary side," says Kapranos. "And I don't like the distance between bands and pop music there is now. Dr. Dre or Timbaland or the Neptunes are making the songs you've never heard before, not the indie kids strumming their fucking guitars."
Guitars or not, Franz are holding their latest songs to a high standard. Kapranos adds, "Will it fit well on a greatest-hits? If not, then it shouldn't be on the album."
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