Earlier this year, Scottish art-funk band Franz Ferdinand found itself in strange company: The quartet’s song “Take Me Out” — released on the small Domino label — landed at Number Three on the British singles chart, just behind Kelis and the latest winner of the U.K.’s Pop Idol contest, Michelle McManus. The herky-jerky track is not your typical chart-topper, but the members of Franz Ferdinand see nothing unusual about its success. “The best moments in pop music are when outsiders come into the mainstream,” says singer Alex Kapranos. “We’re playing pop music, the same way that Nirvana was a pop band and the Shangri-Las were a pop band.”
Kapranos started the group in the spring of 2002, after Mick Cooke from Belle and Sebastian gave him a bass guitar and told him to do something useful with it. Kapranos gave his friend Bob Hardy a few lessons on the instrument and recruited drummer Paul Thomson. Shortly thereafter, Kapranos met guitarist Nick McCarthy at a party, fought with him about a bottle of vodka, called a truce and asked him to join the band.
Franz Ferdinand began throwing dance parties at the Chateau, a rehearsal space they set up in an abandoned warehouse in Glasgow. “Instead of paying rent, we upgraded the building,” Kapranos says. After noise complaints, they relocated to an abandoned jail. “It isn’t that bad,” says Hardy. “A lot of the cells are in very good condition.”
Their mission, Kapranos says, is to be a live band that makes crowds dance. “We admired the directness of Joy Division but didn’t want that somber mood,” he says. “We liked the grand drama of Roxy Music but didn’t want to sing falsetto. We were sick of going to gigs and seeing people standing there. We would go to dance clubs, and there would be an exciting mix of rock music with electronic music. It makes you think that there’s really no difference between the two at all. And why should there be?”