Franz Ferdinand on How to Merge a Band
When we were in middle school, somewhere between our All Time Low phase and our Death Cab For Cutie phase, every cool kid belted out the chorus to “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand at least once… a day. The band from Glasgow had the smash hit of 2004, and they were permanently stuck in our collective consciousness before the decade was even half over. But who did the Grammy nominees listen to in their teen years? They loved Sparks, the American dynamic duo whose genre shifting music has kept them at the forefront of art rock for decades.
After meeting in 2004, and a decade of trying, talking, and failing to do a collaboration, the two bands finally created the supergroup FFS, releasing an eponymous joint album. We talked to Franz Ferdinand bassist, Bob Hardy, about how the joint album came together, acronyms, and being in the studio with a band you’ve loved for years.
How did you guys meet Sparks?
Well, we met back in 2004, right after our first album came out. We’ve been fans of their music for a while, quite a long time really, and had mentioned in interviews that we were quite big fans. They had read some of those and were big fans of “Take Me Out” and our first album, when we were in Los Angeles they invited us to lunch and we got on very well. So that was summer 2004 I think.
How did you guys decide to make FFS? Did you talk about it in 2004 or was it more recent?
When you’re hanging out with other musicians you’re sorta like “Oh you know, we should do something together one day!” So back in 2004 that seed was kinda planted, but we were very busy at the time and so were they, so events took hold really. For the next ten years, we were touring and so were they. It wasn’t until like 2013 when we bumped into them by chance in San Francisco that we said we should do a collaboration. From that point on we started quite quickly, via email, sending songs back and forth. And the record took about 18 months to write and then we recorded it.
And it was recorded in just a couple weeks?
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Two weeks in London.
You’re not looking someone in the eyes… It’s quite freeing in its own way.
After ten years of just Franz Ferdinand in the studio, it must have been weird to have new people there. What was it like?
It felt very natural very quickly, I’d have to say. We’d never actually played in a room together until a few weeks before we went into the studio. Before we were 6,000 miles apart, sending songs back and forth, so we never actually sat down in the same room and had everyone play music. But very quickly it seemed to work quite well. It was nice having new people in the studio; it gives it a bit of a fresh take and it was nice to work with them — we were big fans — and they hadn’t worked with a live band in quite a while so I think they enjoyed that. And I think everyone just had a lot of fun. It felt like we were doing it for fun, basically. Because it was such a short period of time, it was quite a novelty being in the studio with new people.
Was it ever intimidating to collaborate with a band like Sparks, who’s been around for 30 years longer than Franz Ferdinand?
You have to remember as well that we were really big fans, but the nerves kinda go away when you hang out with them in real life. You realize that they’re cool, and we got on quite well and have a lot of common ground. The writing process was a bit different because we were doing it via email, so we kinda took that element of it away. I think if we all met up and sat in a room and said “Okay, let’s write songs together,” it could’ve been awkward, but I think because we were doing it via email there was a bit of anonymity. You’re not looking someone in the eyes. You can just send it over and not see the reaction, you just get an email back. It’s quite freeing in its own way. I’m not sure how the record would’ve sounded if we’d actually been writing in the same room at the same time.
Do you think you’re going to keep collaborating?
Well this one was ten years in the making. So you never know really. But we got to this stage where we made a whole album, when we first decided to do a collaboration we weren’t quite sure what it would be. A song, two songs, a four song EP? But to actually have an album and tour it worldwide, it’s quite a feat to get to this stage. We’re not trying to make any predictions of the future.
What can we expect from the American leg of your tour?
We’re really excited about it! We always enjoy playing the States. And obviously Sparks are American, so they’ll be home. We’re just excited to play shows really. We haven’t been over yet this year. We’re excited to just like… hang out in towns we’ve been in before, that’s the best part.
What things that have the acronym FFS could describe the band?
Franz Ferdinand Sparks, I guess.
Any other ones?
You’re putting me on the spot now! Could’ve given me warning!
I’m sorry! No pressure.
I think that’s a nice bit of homework for people coming to the gigs to do. And then maybe they can shout out their ideas from the crowd to the stage. Have you got any ideas?
Oh man, not really. They’re hard letters!
If you want to check out the FFS tour/shout some ideas to Bob Hardy, check out the FFS tour dates here.
Download their album here.
Photos by David Edwards.