Franz Ferdinand Take 'Right' Turn With Album That Almost Didn't Happen

Joseph Llanes

Franz Ferdinand hangs out during 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, weekend 2.

Glasgow, Scotland, dance-rock act Franz Ferdinand is back with its first album in four-and-a-half years. But singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos admits the comeback almost didn't happen.

"I met up with (bassist) Bob (Hardy) before we started this record and had a very forthright conversation," says Kapranos from Scotland. "I said we should either make a record because we want to enjoy making one, or we shouldn't make one at all. It shouldn't be through obligation or financial motivation. It should be because you want to be with those three other guys, making music that makes you feel alive."

After two years promoting 2009's commercial disappointment "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand," the band returned home "sick of touring" and with personal relationships at a low ebb. But after working on other projects, Franz Ferdinand regrouped and, eventually, rediscovered its mojo via the eclectic cast assembled for its fourth album, "Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action," out today on Domino.

Despite the disparate nature of such collaborators as Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard from British electronic act Hot Chip, Björn Yttling from Swedish indie-folkers Peter Bjorn and John, and Norwegian synth wunderkind Todd Terje, Kapranos insists they are all kindred spirits.

"All of their music has a real humanity and quirkiness to it," he says. "We're a freaky bunch, so it was nice to get into the studio with some other freaks... in the best possible way."

In contrast to "Tonight," which was created in lengthy, groove-based jam sessions, "Right Thoughts" was largely recorded live in short, sharp and spontaneous bursts. In the process, everyone is confident the rejuvenated band-guitarist/keyboardist Nick McCarthy and drummer Paul Thomson complete the lineup-has recaptured the form that created huge breakout success for its 2004 self-titled debut. And indeed the new album-- much more guitar-orientated than "Tonight," despite the dance credentials of its collaborators -- crackles with Franz's strongest songs since then. Standout tracks include the swinging (in every sense -- it's about "suburban car key parties") "Brief Encounters" and the Beatles-esque "Fresh Strawberries," featuring Veronica Falls' Roxanne Clifford.

"Franz Ferdinand" sold 1.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and while its follow-up, 2005's "You Could Have It So Much Better," scanned 390,000, "Tonight" only moved 150,000, something manager Cerne Canning attributes to a lack of radio play.

"We did have exposure," says Canning, citing an Apple iPod Touch ad synch for final single "No You Girls." "But the first two records had massive worldwide radio songs. This album sounds fresh and exciting, and we feel very confident about the depth of the record."

Hypnotic lead single "Right Action" debuted on Billboard's July 20 Alternative airplay chart at No. 39, and is also picking up spins at triple A. Its video-which reteams the band with Jonas Odell, director of the video for 2004 No. 3 Alternative hit "Take Me Out," racked up a half-million views in its first week online. The band appeared on "Late Show With David Letterman" on July 22, and visited "Conan" on July 29.

But because it's been a few years since the last album, the band has had to come to grips with new realities, from social networking to streaming, both of which were much less significant in 2009.

"The challenge this time around is that everyone's portal of discovery has changed," Domino U.S. GM Kris Gillespie says. "We're definitely not taking anything for granted. But they're very skilled communicators when it comes to social media."

Franz Ferdinand has released several humorous online videos (including an album trailer showing the band leaping out of bed, as if waking from a four-year slumber), which Canning says have helped boost its social media stats in recent weeks. (It now has more than 1.3 million Facebook likes and 137,000 Twitter followers.)

Back in the real world -- the group, which has been on the road since 2012 and has already premiered every song from the album live -- has extensive touring plans to reflect its global fan base. It kicks off a monthlong North American tour in October, with further dates booked in Japan, Australia and across Europe, including headlining the U.K.'s Bestival festival on Sept. 5. South American shows will follow.

Canning predicts a third consecutive top 10 U.S. album, and while Kapranos professes to be unconcerned about rescaling the commercial heights of Franz Ferdinand's debut, he does hope the new record makes a similar impression.

"All I know is, at the moment I'm particularly enjoying being in a band with those three other guys," he says with a smile. "My favorite thing is when people come up in parts of the world you never thought you'd be in and say, 'Oh man, you have no idea what an impact your record had on me.' You do literally become the soundtrack to somebody's life-and that still blows my mind."