2004 was undeniably the year of Franz Ferdinand, when the Scottish four-piece along with their self-titled debut ploughed the dancepop- rock competition in record sales all over the world, winning them the UK’s coveted Mercury Music Prize. In September 2005, the band played Kaplakriki in Hafnafjörður, right before releasing their second record, You Could Have It So Much Better, which debuted on the UK charts at Number 1. The Grapevine caught up with bassist Robert Hardy over the phone from Glasgow to discuss the upcoming release of the band’s third effort and their second Icelandic appearance, this time at NASA on September 14, along with support from local teen darlings Jakobínarína.
You played last in Reykjavík two years ago. The Icelandic media’s been reporting that the band asked especially to come back, is that true?
That is true. We’ve written some new songs and we’re gonna go and record them but before we do we wanted to play them live, to get to know them and just to get comfortable with them I guess. So we did a little tour of Scotland, which is where we live so that made sense, and then well, Iceland is not that far away really, and we had such a good time there last time that we thought we’d go back.
To test out your new songs…
Before going onto bigger stages?
Before going into the studio, really.
Are you expecting your third record sometime this year?
No, hopefully it will be recorded by Christmas but it probably won’t be out until April or May next year.
That will make it more than two years since the release of You Could Have it So Much Better, which came out shortly after you played here last. Has this record been an especially long time in the making?
I guess time wise. But we took a lot of time off actually, after we finished touring our record in September last year. We were off on holiday for like six months, and then we sort of got back together and started writing. So I guess the actual writing time is probably just normal, it’s just that we took a bit of a break.
With a premier album that was as hyped and as critically and commercially popular as yours, naturally enough the sophomore release is going to be subject to some high expectations. Was that something that you were aware of in the process of making and releasing the second record?
I don’t know really. The thing was, we didn’t really expect for that to happen on the first album. That was just absolutely crazy, it wasn’t in the plan really. And then we kind of came off tour and went straight into writing the second album. It was like we were in this bubble, and you didn’t feel like it was a big deal, it just felt really normal. And it’s only since we’ve come off tour and we took a few months off, and then you see other bands putting out their second albums, like The Arctic Monkeys or whatever, that you kind of realize what everyone else probably looking in is thinking. But while you’re on the inside you’re just doing it, it doesn’t really matter.
What influence do you think that has on your third release?
I think we have a much more relaxed approach to it, and we have taken a bit longer than we did on the second one and I think that it just feels fresh. We stopped touring and we actually, you know, came home for a few months. It felt like the olden days again, it feels like before we were famous, and it’s got that kind of excitement about it. We’re excited about it in the same way as when we first got the band together.
Your first record seems to be much more conceptual than the second, though certainly not in the traditional sense of a “concept album.” The atmosphere in the first album, to me, seems to be very sexually charged, very youthful in a way, especially when it comes to your subject matter. While in the second, the only clear theme, or clear point of connection, seems to be… high energy, high confidence. How would you respond to the second record being called a “single’s record?”
I thought it was the other way around, if anything. I thought the second record was more of an album, where we were working on kind of like quiet songs and like you know more of a mixture. I think that on the first album all the songs can stand alone without the album, whereas on the second one I think a lot of the songs benefit from being with the other songs on the record, you know, in the same context.
Do you consider your music then, or perhaps the record, as having a particular message?
I guess we want to get a sense of energy and also the sense of the heroic, and the minute details of life which are absolutely fascinating. I think everyone has some amazing story to tell, basically, even like the dullest people you see on the street that you think have nothing to say, absolutely do, everyone’s got their story. That kind of goes along with song’s we’ve done like Jacqueline, which is about our friend, and Michael as well; they’re all people we knew, and songs about real events in our lives. The idea of making these like dull events into these massive rock songs is pretty cool.
Right around the release of your first record, in 2004, when Take Me Out was something that you heard on a daily basis, I kept reading and hearing the band describe its motivation as making music that girls could dance to. Are the girls dancing as much as you hoped?
I think so, yeah. It’s going quite well with the dancing, which is good. But the boys dance as well, which is nice.
And your motivation hasn’t changed since then?
That was kind of like an off-the-cuff statement or comment that became kind of the anthem for the record, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think we still do make music for girls to dance to, but we just make music for people to dance to as well. I kind of like focusing on the heroic side of it, which goes in tandem with the danceable-ness.
What do you mean heroic?
Well you know like when you listen to a Queen song, you put on Don’t Stop Me Now and you just get that massive surge of excitement.
A sense of drama.
Yeah, like the drama. Yeah yeah. Epic kind of thing. Epic, but not being necessarily nasty prog music or anything, but just, energy I guess in the end.