BDO headliners glad to return

By By Chris Ormond

Franz Ferdinand's rise to the top has been a rapid one - they started out only three-and-a-half years ago.

Their first, self-titled album, with its catchy hit single Take Me Out, has sold about 3.5 million copies, while the recently-released second album You Could Have It So Much Better is already nearing the 2 million mark.

"We're quite chuffed with that really," guitarist Nick McCarthy says from Vienna, Austria before heading to Auckland for their two shows - today's Big Day Out set and a warm-up last night at a sold-out Transmission Room.

"I've never played in a band like this before. I've played this kind of music, but for it to sky-rocket like this is something you really have to get used to. We thought we'd sell about 500 copies of our first album and put it out ourselves," he says.

Instead, the original, high-energy pop tunes gained the band almost overnight success.

The Glasgow foursome have been mostly on the road since September, following up a United States tour with a sold-out European one.

The Vienna show was particularly significant because of the band's name.

Franz Ferdinand was son of the Austro/Hungarian Archduke and inherited the title when his father was killed in 1896.

Ferdinand was not always popular among Vienna's social elite, alienating his peers by marrying below his standing, and lacking some of the grace of his predecessors.

"He was a bit mad I think. He would go hunting with machine guns and things like that," McCarthy says. "He was an odd character, definitely."

McCarthy says Ferdinand was nevertheless an intriguing individual who was part of a romantic era, and the band were thrilled to get in touch with the Archduke's family.

"We met Franz Ferdinand's grandchildren and they invited us to his holiday home ... it was fantastic," he says.

Franz Ferdinand are one of the headline acts of the Big Day Out Australasian tour.

McCarthy seems vaguely aware of the tour's reputation and is keen to return to Auckland. They went down a treat in July 2004 at the St James Theatre.

"We played in this old theatre which was one of the best gigs of [2004] actually. It was mad, there was absolutely no security there, everyone just stormed the stage and our manager didn't even lift a finger ... it was brilliant."

McCarthy says he's heard people in the music industry refer to the Big Day Out as the Big Day Off, and is happy to know the band will be playing to tens of thousands of people in some extreme temperatures.

"It will be a bit of a shock coming from Glasgow where it's minus-degrees at the moment.

"I think we're playing when the sun is still out, so it will be quite hot," he says.

"But maybe it will go down while we're playing and everyone will be relieved."

While the music mix is likely to include a chunk of the first album, McCarthy says You Could Have It So Much Better has a bit more life to it.

"The first album was very disco-orientated somehow, and we thought on this one we'd play a few dance songs as well and get a few more ups and downs in there. It seems a bit more what life is about really."

Fans will get the opportunity to see the band play at more intimate venues too, with gigs lined up in cities between Big Day Out shows, including the one at Auckland's Transmission Room last night.

Apart from that, McCarthy says they're all looking forward to having a look around and mixing with other bands they admire such as Iggy and the Stooges and the White Stripes.

The foursome don't often have time to do much away from music, but don't let Franz Ferdinand entirely consume them.

Bassist Bob Hardy reads a lot of books and singer-guitarist Alex Kapranos writes a food column for the Guardian.

"He always goes for some weird food on a Monday night because he has to hand it in on Tuesday; it's like he's doing his homework every Monday night.

"[Drummer Paul Thomson] has a label that he's started and I've got a little band on the side - like a home-recording thing.

"It keeps the mind clear from Franz Ferdinand. Now and again, you've got to have another little life as well."

McCarthy says the band are keen to get another album out this year and will try doing some recording on the road for the Big Day Out.

"I don't know if we're going to manage; it's quite tiresome doing both - touring and recording - we'll have to see if it works out.

"We like the idea of putting an album out at least once a year. I can't stand bands that take too long on albums. I think it's really boring."

- NZPA

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