When Franz Ferdinand first appeared on the radar of music fans in 2004, they were a rare success on two fronts: Instantly embraced by the indie rock community and blasted out to the masses on alternative radio for their smash, “Take Me Out.” It wasn’t the slow and steady emergence expected in the rock world, it was a straight rocket launch, and one that signified a new found love affair between commercial outlets and the underground. While The Strokes, Jimmy Eat World, and The White Stripes preceded Franz Ferdinand, their ascendance signified a new era for alternative music, where bands Modest Mouse, The Killers, and Death Cab For Cutie could all find a home next to the particularly aggressive tunes that ruled the day.
Ascendence is the operative word here. With their latest effort, Always Ascending, the Scottish quintet refuses to get bogged down in the past or retread old ground. “Every artist, when you make a new piece of work, you’re always aiming to make the best thing you’ve ever made,” frontman Alex Kapranos says while speaking by phone during a press week in New York City. “Otherwise, what’s the point in starting to make it?”
On the album’s title track, Kapranos repeats the titular phrase until it becomes a sort of mantra or a statement of purpose for a band that’s on their fifth album. With five Grammy nominations, a Mercury Prize, and millions of albums sold, it might seem hard to keep an upward trajectory, but here the band continues to wade into uncomfortable waters and relish what they discover in those depths.
On their previous album, 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, it was working with the like of Todd Terje and Hot Chip to help push the band into new directions in dance sounds. On this latest endeavor, it’s collaborating with producer Philippe Zdar (Phoenix, Cut Copy) that helped create the exciting results of the new album.
Whether its the pulsing groove of the vibrant “Lazy Boy” or the club-ready buzz of “Feel The Love Go,” the band doesn’t forget their storied past when pushing forward. It’s generous music that doesn’t leave their fans behind. Or, as Kapranos puts it: “You want to acknowledge the things you’ve done in the past and surpass it, and take yourself to a place that you’ve never been before.” Recently, we talked briefly by phone about politics, making rock music you can dance to, and how Franz Ferdinand has changed as a band over the last fifteen years.