After all the noise Franz Ferdinand have made promoting their second album — the in-studio updates posted on their Web site, the sold-out concerts in Russia, the rumors of collaborations with Snoop Dogg — it turns out the guys from Glasgow just wanted to get subliminal this whole time.
Taking a cue from acts like the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden, Franz are embedding subliminal messages deep within their sophomore LP. And if this sounds strangely familiar, it might be that you were listening a little too closely to the band's first album.
"On the last record, we had messages in the music," frontman Alex Kapranos explained. "There was that trend in the '70s and '80s of back-masking, where you'd put the most terrible satanic messages on songs, and we wanted to do the exact opposite, put the most positive thing we could think of as a backwards message. There's one on the first record, at the beginning of the second verse in 'Michael.' And we're going to do that on this album, too."
There are actually a lot of things Franz Ferdinand — rounded out by guitarist Nick McCarthy, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson — plan on doing with their second album, which they're currently mastering in New York. And it's a testament to Kapranos' boundless energy that, as he chatted with MTV News from the studio, he didn't seemed crushed by the tremendous workload. If anything, he seemed positively buoyed by it all.
"On one song, Nick had this fantastically exciting chord progression — something like 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.' And he was playing it to me on the guitar, and it had me really excited," he enthused. "You have to pounce on something when you get those feelings, so I ran upstairs, wrote a bunch of words, got Bob and Paul down into the room and bashed it out in a couple of hours. And now we have a song called 'You Can Have It So Much Better.' "
"You Can Have It" is just one of about 20 tunes Franz are finishing up with producer Rich Costey. Some of them were written in the four-plus months they spent isolated in the Scottish countryside (see "Bowie, Dylan, Scottish Countryside Influence New Franz Ferdinand LP"), while others, like "I'm Your Villain" and "This Boy," have been around for much longer.
"We're always writing songs," Kapranos said. "It's a continuous and nebulous process. A song like 'I'm Your Villain' we started writing eight months ago. 'This Boy' started off like four years ago. We've reworked it, but I'm fairly sure it'll end up on the album. And there are others we were writing until two days before we left Scotland. If we all don't get to sit around and write with each other, we tend to get very upset."
According to Kapranos, Franz hope to have the album mixed within 15 days — a self-imposed deadline the band hopes will keep the songs "urgent" — and in stores in late September. He also helped clear up some confusion about just what songs will make the final cut. For months, Franz fan sites have been abuzz with tentative track listings and titles, and Kapranos felt it was time for some good old-fashioned myth-busting.
"We were totally going to keep these songs secret, but we wrote out a set list when we played [London's Royal] Albert Hall [in April], and somebody took a photo of the bloody set list, so everybody knew what the song titles are," he laughed. "Some of the titles are correct: 'Robert Anderson Is Christ' is about a friend of mine in Glasgow, 'Evil and a Heathen' is correct and 'Your Diary' has been a song forever.
"But a song like 'Radio,' that was a joke working title. It's still a song, but the title has changed," he continued. "And as for this song 'Wee Andy,' well, I have no comment on that one!"
He stopped short of revealing a full track list for the new album, and while he does know what the title of the album will be, Kapranos isn't about to divulge that, either.
"There is a title," he said. "I can't tell you what it is. I can't make any comment about the title whatsoever. I've got to keep some secrets!"