Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish rock band that formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2002. The band is composed of Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar), Bob Hardy (bass guitar), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals) and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion and backing vocals).
The band first experienced chart success when their second single "Take Me Out" reached #3 in the UK Charts, followed by their debut album Franz Ferdinand which debuted on the UK album chart at #3. The band went on to win the 2004 Mercury Music Prize and two BRIT Awards in 2005 for Best British Group and Best British Rock Act. NME named Franz Ferdinand as their Album of the Year. From the album, three top-ten singles were released, "Take Me Out", "The Dark of the Matinée" and "This Fire". The band have also received several Grammy Award nominations.
The band is named after the Austrian Archduke of the same name, whose assassination was a factor in the outbreak of World War I. The band chose the name after watching the racehorse Archduke Ferdinand win the 2001 Northumberland Plate.
Formation and early years: 2002-2003
The members of Franz Ferdinand played in various bands during the 1990s including The Karelia, Yummy Fur, 10p Invaders and Embryo. Alex Kapranos and Paul Thomson played together in Yummy Fur and subsequently teamed up to write songs. Around the same time, Kapranos taught his friend Bob Hardy how to play bass after buying a bass guitar from a friend. Kapranos met co-guitarist Nick McCarthy, who had returned to Scotland after studying jazz bass in Germany, in 2001.
In May 2003, the band signed to Laurence Bell's independent record label Domino Records. The band had recorded an EP which they intended to release themselves; however, it was instead released by Domino as Darts of Pleasure in the latter part of 2003. The cover art was designed by Thomson. It reached #43 in the UK chart. The band won the "Phillip Hall Radar Award" at the NME Awards of 2004, announced in November 2003.
Franz Ferdinand: 2004
The band moved to Gula Studios in Malmö, Sweden with Cardigans producer Tore Johansson to record their debut album. In January 2004 the single "Take Me Out" ( sample ) reached #3 in the UK charts. The album, Franz Ferdinand, was released in early 2004, debuting at #3 in the UK Albums Chart in February 2004 and at #12 in the Australian album charts in April 2004. The album only reached the lowest levels of the Billboard 200 album charts in the US as of early 2004, but reached the top 5 of the indie rock chart and the Heatseeker chart for debut artists. After a couple of North American tours and heavy rotation of the "Take Me Out" video on MTV, the album eventually reached #32 on the Billboard 200 later in 2004 and sold over a million copies in the United States. Franz Ferdinand received a generally strong positive response from critics. NME rated with 9 out of 10 and said that the band was the latest in the line of art school rock bands featuring Duran Duran, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Roxy Music, the Sex Pistols, Wire, Travis and Blur.
On 7 September 2004 the album was awarded the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. "Take Me Out" gained first place in the Australian Triple J Hottest 100 for 2004, winning more than twice the votes of the second-place entry, with This Fire and The Dark of the Matinee entering at #24 and #50 respectively. Franz Ferdinand proceeded to win an Ivor Novello Award in 2004 and two BRIT Awards in 2005. The avant-garde music video for "Take Me Out" earned them a Breakthrough Video MTV Award. NME named Franz Ferdinand the best album of 2004, and also placed it 38th on their 100 Best Albums of All Time list. The band performed at the Grammy Awards of 2005 where they performed "Take Me Out" as a live medley with Los Lonely Boys, Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani. "Take Me Out" was also featured on the video game NHL 05, and the breakthrough game Guitar Hero. The album has sold around 3.6 million copies worldwide.
You Could Have It So Much Better: 2005-2006
The band spent much of 2005 in the studio in Scotland working on their follow-up album, You Could Have It So Much Better, which was released on 3 October 2005. The band initially intended to leave the album self-titled like their debut, but they changed it to You Could Have It So Much Better...With Franz Ferdinand before settling on the final title. The album's cover design was modelled on Alexander Rodchenko's 1924 portrait of Lilya Brik. The band attempted to broaden its musical range on the album; Hardy said, "There's more to life than disco-beat guitar music". After the critical acclaim of their debut, reviews of the new album were more polarised, with some complaints that the recording was rushed. However, it was generally well-received in the press and seen as an album equal to, or better than, their first by most critics. It entered the UK Album Charts at Number 1 and the US charts at Number 8.
On the tour that followed the album release, Franz Ferdinand broke the record for the longest run at the Alexandra Palace, North London, by playing four sold out nights in November–December 2005. To support the album, four singles were released. Included in that set is a double A-side single that contained a video-clip only single as well (both the AA-side "L. Wells" and the video-clip "Jeremy Fraser" are not featured on the album, recorded in early 2006 during the band's tour of Australia in support of the album). Also included is another video-clip-only single called "Wine In the Afternoon" which is the B-side to "Eleanor Put Your Boots On", and was also not featured on the album, but recorded on tour in Michigan. "Do You Want To" made it to number 4 and was declared by Q to be the greatest single of 2005, while "Walk Away" and "The Fallen" / "L. Wells" entered the top 15 of the UK Singles Chart. The fourth and final single from the second album, "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" peaked at number 30.
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand: 2007-present
On 27 January 2009, the band released their third studio album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, which they had been recording in Glasgow since the summer of 2007. Alex Kapranos has stated that "The last record was...like a teenager having sex. This one's a bit more assured and a bit friendlier for the dance floor." Tonight was mixed by Canadian Mix Engineer Mike Fraser The song "Ulysses" was chosen to be the first single and was released on 19 January 2009. It was first played by Zane Lowe on 17 November 2008. Shortly afterwards it hit YouTube. It did not see that much success in the UK Top 40, reaching only #20, but it fared better in Spain and Japan where it reached #2 and #3 respectively. It also entered the Top 20 of the US Modern Rock Chart. The album, Tonight was released 26 January, 2009 and debuted at #2 in the UK Album Chart and #9 in the U.S. Billboard 200. The second single, No You Girls saw success both in the charts and on the radio prior to release, eventually reaching #7 on the US Modern Rock Chart and was performed by Franz Ferdinand on Comic Relief 2009 Top of The Pops special. "Can't Stop Feeling" was released on the 6th July as the 3rd single from the album and on the 28th August, "What She Came For" was released as the 4th single in the form of a remix single. The band performed What She Came For on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on Wednesday, the 26th of August, 2009.
The band appeared on Radio 1's live lounge performing their second single No You Girls, and did a cover of Britney Spears' comeback single Womanizer. In February 2009, Glastonbury Festival announced Franz Ferdinand as the first major band playing at that year's festival. The band also unveiled a 19-date tour of the USA during the spring, in support of the new album. The tour included a set at the Coachella Festival. The band were also one of the main stage acts performing at Radio 1's Big Weekend in Swindon in May. On 6 May 2009, it was announced that Franz Ferdinand would be the 3rd opening act for the Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown World Tour. They played from 8-26 August 2009. They followed Kaiser Chiefs and The Bravery.
Alex Kapranos has spoke about releasing an E.P of covers and collaborations before the end of 2009.
Collaborations and covers
Franz Ferdinand covered the LCD Soundsystem song "All My Friends" which appeared as a B-side on the single, and is also working on an album of Sparks covers, collaborating with the group on the recordings. They have also covered "Sexy Boy" by Air and "It Won't Be Long" by The Beatles, Pulp's popular single "Mis-Shapes", Gwen Stefani's top 5 hit "What You Waiting For?" Recently covered the Britney Spears song "Womanizer" and David Bowie's song "Sound and Vision", featuring Girls Aloud on backing vocals, for a compilation disc marking the 40th anniversary of BBC Radio One along with other leading artists. Additionally, Franz Ferdinand recorded a cover of The Fire Engines' song "Get Up and Use Me". In return, the Fire Engines recorded a cover of "Jacqueline". The band also took a similar approach with Dutch band De Kift, covering the song "Heisa-Ho" whilst De Kift recorded a cover of "Love And Destroy" with Dutch lyrics. The cover by De Kift is named "Liefde En Puin" which is the title "Love And Destroy" translated into Dutch. The band has had remixes by major electronic artists Daft Punk, Hot Chip, Justice, and Erol Alkan.
Kapranos announced that on 22 April 2008 he would begin collaborating with an unknown Canadian artist, as well as implying that the band was working with Xenomania on the new album, as Alex is a fan of their work with Girls Aloud. The band also performed, played, and recorded with Jane Birkin, covering the Serge Gainsbourg song "Sorry Angel" for the 2005 album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. In addition, Franz re-recorded the track "Brown Onions" for David Shrigley's compilation album Worried Noodles. The band kept instrumentation identical but used lyrics written by Shrigley which include the consistent repetition of the word "No" and occasionally "No brains, no teeth, no legs, no eyes...". Hot Chip, a band who are reported to be a favourite of Franz Ferdinand, also performed their own version of "No" on the same album.
When Franz appeared on Radio 1's Live Lounge on April 6 2009 to promote No You Girls they covered Womanizer by Britney Spears. For their version they added in the interlude from 2004 B-Side "Shopping For Blood".
The name of the band was originally inspired by a racehorse called Archduke Ferdinand. After seeing the horse win the Northumberland Plate in 2001, the band began to discuss Archduke Franz Ferdinand and thought it would be a good band name because of the alliteration of the name and the implications of the Archduke's death (his assassination was a significant factor in the lead up to World War I).
"Mainly we just liked the way it sounded," says Bob. "We liked the alliteration." "He was an incredible figure as well," continues Alex. "His life, or at least the ending of it, was the catalyst for the complete transformation of the world ... he was a pivot for history. But I don't want to over-intellectualize the name thing. Basically a name should just sound good ... like music." Paul has a more cynical notion. "I like the idea that, if we become popular, maybe the words Franz Ferdinand will make people think of the band instead of the historical figure."
The song "Take Me Out", on the band's first album, was the second single to be released by the band. The single release of "Take Me Out" came with the B-side, "All for You Sophia", based on the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, whose name was Sophie, not Sophia. The band chose the name Sophia rather than Sophie to give the song a better ring. The song mentions the assassin Gavrilo Princip, the Black Hand, the location of the Apple Quay and "Urban" (Franz Urban), the name often mistakenly given to Leopold Lojka, the driver of the car.
In addition to this, in 2004 the band played a number of "secret" gigs under the pseudonym "The Black Hands", alluding to the secret society that was held responsible for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
The band is notable for its use of Russian avant-garde imagery in album and single covers. Examples include: "You Could Have It So Much Better", which references a 1924 portrait of Lilya Brik by Alexander Rodchenko; "Take Me Out", which references One-Sixth Part of the World, also by Alexander Rodchenko; "This Fire" which references Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky; and "Michael", with single art based on A Proun by Lissitzky. The song "Love and Destroy" was inspired by the scene of disorder made by Margarita, a character of Michael Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita", in the apartment of the literature critic Latunzky.
The avant-garde music video for "Take Me Out", directed by Jonas Odell, was inspired by Dadaism, Busby Berkeley choreographies and Russian constructivist design. Alex Kapranos explained the many and varied influences behind the 1930s-style promo for second single "Take Me Out": "It's kind of two dimensional in a three dimensional style if that makes any sense. It's a montage of images; ourselves, pictures and things taken from other places and put together in a strange, abstract way. That's what gives the video that strange, jerky, style". The video for "This Fire" is similar to "Take Me Out" in style.
The lyrics of "Do You Want To" make reference to parties at the "trendy" Glasgow art gallery Transmission and the video includes a variety of the work of contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft, along with a reference to Pink Floyd in the mix.
Awards and honors
|2004||Mercury Prize||Mercury Prize|
|Ivor Novello Award||Ivor Novello Award|
|NME Awards||Philip Hall Radar Award|
|MTV Awards||Breakthrough Video Award|
|Q Awards||Best Video (Take Me Out)|
|2005||BRIT Awards||Best Group|
|BRIT Awards||Best British Rock Act|
|NME Awards||Best Track (Take Me Out)|
|NME Awards||Best Album (Franz Ferdinand)|
|2006||NME Awards||Best Live Band|
Biography from Wikipedia