BLOOM: FFS (Part 3 out of 3): FFS

By Jo Phillips

ffs 1

Having studied both Franz Ferdinand and Sparks independently, the question remains:  is one album big enough for the both of them? In this example, it was the right thoughts, right words and right action, partly because for the most part their debut self title release (out June 10th) doesn’t sound like either of their earlier work and reputation. Apart from Russell Mae’s theatrical falsetto (which isn’t always evident), slightly creepy piano butchering from his brother Ron and Franz Ferdinand indie drumming, so many new ideas swim around their multi-coloured spectrum, it sounds like a new band altogether. Re-invention is an attribute that both bands share and they have successful projected this mentality on their latest dual reincarnation.

The Seed Stage:

Even though they collaboration has come as a slight shock to the music world, Franz Ferdinand and Sparks have actually known each other since almost the beginning of Franz Ferdinand’s career. To be more precise, just after the Scottish indie outfit released their unforgettable 2004 hit Take Me Out. Like most of the hipster scene, the Mael brothers were impressed by the track. Having also heard that Franz Ferdinand were fans of Sparks, they organized a meeting at Hollywood coffee shop. The chemistry between them was so compatible that they wrote the track Piss Off that very day. A song that has survived and made it’s way on top their collaborative record 11 years later. Yet the timing of that first meeting was off. Right place wrong time. Franz Ferdinand were trying to focus on their eponymous debut album. They decided to go their separate ways but keep track on their life progressions, like a Facebook stalker.

It’s always inexplicable
It’s inexplicable
But still they’re eager to explain
It’s always inapplicable
It’s inapplicable
But they’ll apply it all the same
It’s always irrefutable
It’s irrefutable
But still their arguments remain

Germination

Franz Ferdinand were embarking on a tour in Uruguay to promote their latest album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action when frontman Alex Kapranos broke a tooth. Fortunately, their band manager knew a celebrity dentist in San Francisco that could fix his dental problem, so they journeyed to the “The City That Knows How”.  In a chance encounter, Kapranos accidentally bumped into Ron and Russell and through some artistic telepathy, they both realized that fate was giving them another opportunity to work together but properly this time. In some kind of creative test, Sparks sent Franz Ferdinand a draft of a song they wrote to celebrate the amalgamation called Collaborations Don’t Work, to see if they both possessed the same dinstinctive sense of humour and self awareness that collaborations often do not work. This decision was pinnacle in ensuring that they didn’t create an album that was “half-arsed” , “rotten” or “so-so-so”, in the words of FF’s Alex Kapranos in an interview with the NME. The project was still top secret because FFS didn’t want there to be any pressurizing hype or counterproductive expectations from the media. They only told the world once they had recorded a solid amount of work  together. A rejection of the tag “supergroup” was also something they were considering, because they wanted it to be a brand new band; which is slightly bizarre due to the fact that their band is unambiguously labelled FFS (Franz Ferdinand Sparks.) In the end this demonstrates both bands’ credible obsession with control and detail.

Collaborations don’t work
You start off deferential
And strangely reverential
You both feel it’s essential
Collaborations don’t work
He’s eyeing your new lover
Then one night you discover
Them underneath your covers

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(This promotion photo is similar in positioning to Franz Ferdinand’s crime scene album cover for Tonight: Franz Ferdinand)

Growth

They didn’t purposely set out to make a complete album, that is something that almost formed conveniently. You can tell that based on the large quantity of tracks, they compiled everything that thought was of merit and released it together just in case a follow-up wasn’t feasible or they had to go their separate ways again. Their debut self titled album was recorded over three weeks at RAK studios, a studio in Regents Street created by record producer Mickie Most and previously guested Muse, Radiohead, Paul McCartney at The Smiths. Production credits go to John Congleton, who has worked with many contemporary indie acts including Wye Oak, Anna Calvi, Chairlift and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. A quote from the usually quiet Ron Mael from the same NME article, sums up their approach to the album: “We share a love of pop music but we’ve never tried to do it in the predictable way other people around us do it. You run the risk of it flying over people’s heads, but when it does connect, my God, it’s great.”. They go further to talk how there are so many possibilities in pop music but the majority of today’s musicians stick with the same tried-and-tested formula.

Spreading Seeds

Released on June 10th through the record label Domino, FFS have no longer kept the project so secretive and are embracing the moment. Before setting off on tour – Glasgow (June 16th), London (June 29th), Netherlands (21st August) and Manchester (25th August) – they have promoted their new songs on TV and the internet. On 9th March, they uploaded a teaser trailer entitled The Domino Effect, which is comical for portraying Ron Mael’s famously stern facial expression. They performed on Jools Holland’s Later with.. in May, which was entertaining and courteous as FFS showcased a medley containing Take Me Out and This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, on request from the presenter. Whilst they recently released a dizzy music video for Johnny Delusional. Playing on the lyrics about falling in love with different women on a bus daily, the band members all dressed up in identically geeky costumes, sit in a circle and find themselves seduced by clones of the same female. If we ever forgot, this reminds us that Sparks and Franz Ferdinand weren’t just unpredictable musically both their whole image followed suit.

Johnny Delusional