Interview – Bob Hardy of Franz Ferdinand
– by Shawn Conner
Winners of the Mercury Prize 2004 for their self-titled debut – who can forget the hit “Take Me Out”? – and with two successful albums since, Franz Ferdinand is one of the biggest non-indie indie-rock bands in the world. Aiming for both the head and the hips, the Scottish quartet is equally deft at scrappy guitar and take-me-on-the-dancefloor rock.
We reached the Yorkshire-born and -raised bassist Bob Hardy in St. Louis, where he and the rest of the group – lead singer Alex Kapranos, guitarist Nick McCarthy, and drummer Paul Thomson – were scheduled to open for Green Day as part of an arena tour. At the end of the month, the Franzers head out on their own. When we talked to Hardy, Franz Ferdinand: Tonight, the group’s most recent album (not counting Blood, a record of dub remixes), was already eight months old and the group had just come off a European tour.
Shawn Conner: I was just on Twitter and asked if anyone had any questions for the band. Lazydancer asked, “How does Alex Kapranos stay so young-looking?”
Bob Hardy: I have no idea. You’d have to ask Alex.
SC: Is it because he’s a foodie?
BH: I dunno, really. He likes food.
SC: He has that book [Soundbites].
BH: It’s a collection of columns, yeah.
SC: Do you think because you have someone who writes about food you are eating better than the average rock band?
BH: No, not really. I think we’re all sort of foodies. He just writes about it. You can eat well on the road if you want to.
SC: You’re touring again eight months after the album’s release, so those songs must be getting a little worn out for you guys? Are you adding any of the dub elements from the Blood album into your set?
BH: In our own set, when we play for a longer period of time, that does come into play a little bit, though not in a way where we’re directly referencing the Blood record. Just in the way we play, and certain songs off the last three albums when you play them live they kind of have a little more, for want of a better word, groove. But with Green Day we’re only playing for half an hour so it’s bam-bam-bam, playing hits really.
At the moment we’re really enjoying this Green Day thing because you go in front of someone else’s audience, which is always a rush because you have to win them over in half an hour, really high energy to capture your songs. Then when we play to our own crowds it’s going to be exciting, it’s your crowd, it’s a different kind of vibe.
SC: Looking out at the front rows at the Green Day shows, what do you notice is different from the people coming out to Franz Ferdinand shows?
BH: A lot more Green Day shirts. I think there’s a crossover. I think we have more girls down front than they do. But their crowds are awesome. The last couple of nights there’ve been little pockets of Franz Ferdinand fans down there, singing along to our songs.
SC: I like a band that’s not afraid to do covers, and you guys have real eclectic tastes when it comes to other people’s songs, from the well-known to the obscure. What’s the band’s philosophy behind choosing cover songs?
BH: Well, we kind of choose songs we like, essentially. We recently did “Womanizer” by Britney Spears, just because it’s an enjoyable song, it’s fun to play. A band of four guys playing a song by a solo female artist is going to be different. Other times, we’ve done a David Bowie song, a song by The Fire Engines, a Scottish sort-of-cult band, basically, just songs we like, with elements we can change and make sound like Franz Ferdinand.
SC: An album of Sparks covers, is that still in the offing?
BH: Ultimately, we want to do that, but it’s finding time. They’re awesome. I went to see them in Glasgow and they did two sets, an hour of the new stuff and a second hour of greatest hits. The new stuff is so amazing, it was better than watching the hits. It’s like they’re keeping their finger on their pulse and they’ve really changed over the years. They’re not scared to change their sound from decade to decade.
SC: So for any Franz Ferdinand fans reading this interview who might not be familiar with Sparks, is there one particular record you’d recommend?
BH: Well I guess, Kimono My House  is the famous one. The last record, Little Beethoven, that was the one I saw them perform. [Note: according to the band’s discography, Little Beethoven was released in 2003; Sparks’ most recent record was 2008’s Exotic Creatures of the Deep.] It was brilliant. The last two records have been fantastic, their names I forget, as we keep talking I’ll look on Wikipedia – yeah, Little Beethoven. And the one from 2006 is Hello Young Lovers which is brilliant as well.
SC: They’re a band that needs to be listened to closely.
BH: Yeah, totally. Lyrically, there’s lots going on, and the music’s just fantastic. There’s something about them that’s very appealing – the arrangements, the sound.