From my angle, Franz Ferdinand’s lead singer Alex Kapranos had crooked teeth. They jutted asymmetrically, fighting in tiny overlapped spaces. But then he turned slightly, and his choppers were revealed perfectly polished – just like the rest of him.
“You know, when we play our own shows, we don’t usually have a circus tent,” he observed, squinting up at the pinstriped ceiling of the inexplicably large press quarters. “I should be doing stunts.”
With no unicycle in sight, Kapranos still performed tricks that afternoon in August at the Rock En Seine music festival in Paris. Orbited by his bandmates and a slurring mass of French reporters (and one Mustang), he answered questions with a somersaulting dexterity. Kapranos may be, as modern rock critics salute, the nicest guy with the most ragged revivalist snarl – who knows? He seems it. But he won’t say anything that can be bent out of tune.
“We didn’t think about our success too much – we just did it,” he said, waving his hands in punctuation as his bandmates (drummer Paul Thomson, bassist Bob Hardy, Nick McCarthy) nodded subtly. “It doesn’t mean you have to change your personality. I think fame exaggerates the personality you have already. So if you’re a tosser to start off with, then you become a bigger tosser.”
Stylish words from a pin-up band.
Since their success with 2004’s ubiquitous single “Take Me Out,” the Scottish quartet has enjoyed fanatical success from both scenesters and their younger siblings (the ones finally disenfranchised with Avril) – and it’s deserved. The song is a perfectly concocted bubble of tempo-shifting shredding and near-monotone, shouted chorus. No ballads needed on their self-titled album; each track popped with upbeat, two-stepping hooks.
But unlike their fellow hip bands of equally immaculate hair (Interpol, the Strokes, those guys who sang the still-infuriating “Stacy’s Mom” song), there seemed no pretension in their tunes; screw art, they wanted to dance.
With their new album “You Could Have It So Much Better,” the party rages on.
“We’ve been playing together longer and it’s all more intuitive. No explaining; things just happen,” Kapranos said. “The album has a lot more range to it than the previous. Some songs are more delicate. There probably is a little more confidence, and that comes from having played on a stage together for so many months.”
But to dispel the pop press cliche, McCarthy gently proclaimed, “We’re not the next Beatles.”
“There will never be another Beatles,” he said. “But they did things on their own terms, and I feel some connection with that.”
“Along that, Mick Jagger still looks pretty fit,” Kapranos interjected cheerfully. “What is he now, 72? And still dancing about!”
It should be stressed that, even in their off hours, Franz Ferdinand still dresses to impress. McCarthy and Thomson sport nautical-style jackets and Hardy’s black blazer layers a Scissor Sisters T-shirt with the kind of pink details only very secure men can wear. Kapranos assuredly pulls off a Beetlejuice-striped purple-and-black sweater and dark slacks.
However, even though they derive their name from the catalyst of World War I, the band is satisfied to leave politics in the gray.
“I don’t want to put that into the songs unless I felt extremely moved by something,” Kapranos said. “I think it’s something you have to take exceptionally seriously, and in life in general. You can’t predict the future.”
That’s Franz Ferdinand – happy to love, not to war. In increasingly contentious climate, this laissez-faire attitude might limit their relevance. But if it takes them out, so be it – that day in Paris, and maybe always, these boys just want to have fun.
Stacey Anderson is a journalism and music senior, KCPR DJ and expert outer of French movie stars (long story). Catch her Sundays from 7-8 p.m. and Tuesdays from 2-4 p.m. on 91.3 FM or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.