History buffs may remember the name Franz Ferdinand as the crown prince of Austria-Hungary whose assassiation led to the start of World War I — but for a new generation, the name belongs to a popular band out of Scotland who found huge success with their self-titled debut CD.
Their punchy, angular sound owes a lot to post-punk bands such as Gang of Four, and lead singer and songwriter Alex Kapranos adds complex, intimate lyrics about everything from getting shot down by girls at nightclubs to Christ-like allegories. It's danceable power-pop with a message.
Even if some listeners don't get that message, Kapranos says that's just fine. "I don't think the artist should ever dicatate to the listener or the person who's ultimately consuming whatever you create," he says before a recent concert in Los Angeles. "It's not up the creator to dictate the terms upon which their creation is appreciated."
Kapranos and his bandmates like the idea of communicating on different levels and different times. Their music is a hodgepodge of sounds that are warmly familiar, but as a whole it's completely unique. That formula for creation extends to everything about the band — their attitude, their style, even how they chose the name Franz Ferdinand, a minor royal whose killing touched off a chain of events that changed the world.
"I think that's a good metaphor for everything that bands should try to strive towards — being one of those moments where everything changes and nothing is sort of the same afterwards," he says. "All the great bands are like that — The Clash or Nirvana or The Smiths in their own way changed events and made music different."