In the Brooklyn offices of Domino Records, Franz Ferdinand’s lead singer Alex Kapranos poses for a few pictures while holding a pink vinyl copy of the band’s recently released fifth album album, Always Ascending. He asks his friend-turned-photographer, “Does it look goofy? Yeah, but does it look too goofy?” I’m watching from the couch and I can’t help but joke to the frontman that he looks super candid posing next to the band’s gold record plaque.
Most known for their hits “Take Me Out” and “No You Girls,” Franz Ferdinand has grown and evolved since the band’s first gig in 2002. Kapranos tells me that when starting the creative process for Always Ascending, it felt as though they had started a new band—literally. Recently, the band has undergone a lineup change with the replacement of long-time guitarist Nick McCarthy by Dino Bardot and the introduction of keyboardist Julian Corrie.
“It was exciting because we didn’t know what the band was. It was quite liberating because we felt like we could try new things,” Kapranos says. After the current Franz Ferdinand lineup officially formed five, the band lived together for nearly a year at Kapranos’s place in Scotland to write and rehearse, before recording the album in just six days. “We were trying not to be retrogressive. We didn’t want to sound like ourselves from the past or any other band and we knew we wanted to keep the live performance at the heart of it,” Kapranos says.
“Most of the songs were done in the first take, I think. Who knew rehearsal makes you better? It only took us five albums to figure that out,” the band’s drummer Paul Thomson jokingly adds.
While the album is mostly upbeat, there are two downbeat tracks that Kapranos says might just be his favorite. As a poetic wordsmith, Kapranos expertly walks the tightrope between philosophy and carefree musicianship. (Case in point: in the middle of a somewhat longwinded but captivating explanation of the album’s title track he quietly interrupts himself to compliment his bandmate’s very cool boots.)
“The idea was for it to never resolve and when it did, it would enter a different world and it would be a total dance floor banger,” Kapranos explains. “That musical theme became the lyrical theme as well, but it was a terrifying process because for the longest time all we had was this introduction and the pressure of creating another universe.” The song’s lyrical inspiration stems from a news clip Kapranos had seen of a group of sailors on the side of an airship, hanging on to a rope for their lives. One by one the sailors dropped off and Kapranos admits that although the footage was horrifying to watch, it was somewhat relatable. “It became a metaphor for facing terror and seeing how you deal with it and how you assimilate. Even though you’re consumed with fear, what you want more than anything is the release. It became the missing section of the song,” he says.
While Always Ascending serves as a complex and abstract interpretation of a situation, Kapranos says the rest of the album should act as a release that listeners can simply enjoy. “I love pieces of work that have a duality to them. While it might be uplifting and musically it will elevate you, there is a depth to the lyrics that indicate there’s more going on. Sometimes it might go into murkier areas emotionally that the music isn’t necessarily suggestions,” Kapranos says.
Franz Ferdinand have welcomed listeners to a new musical universe through Always Ascending and are ready for it to be enjoyed. From a shared communal experience at a concert to a more introspective moment through your headphones, the album will resonate anywhere.