by Ziggy Merritt
Since March of 2015, Franz Ferdinand has recorded, released, and promoted their latest semi-self-titled album as part of the newly formed supergroup, FFS. While it does not take much thought to figure out the first two letters of this newly formed acronym, the surprise of British art rockers, Sparks as a collaborative partners has provoked some confusion but so much more in the way of critical acclaim. Recent singles such as “Johnny Delusional” and “Piss Off” show a band at ease and comfort with this latest merger instead of the discomforting growing pains one might expect, especially considering another one of those singles has the tongue-in-cheek title of “Collaborations Don’t Work”. But that very merger has been a long time coming. The other day I had the opportunity to interview Paul Thomson of Franz Ferdinand and FFS on the origin of this collaboration while also receiving some insight into the current group dynamic as they come off of the recent European leg of their international tour.
Relaxing at his local pub in Glasgow, Thomson recalled the origins of FFS beginning with lead vocalist, Alex Kapranos. “Alex was asked to write a piece on one of his favorite records and chose Propaganda by Sparks. Sparks kind of found out about this and got in touch.” This then prompted an eventual appearance from Russell and Ron Mael of Sparks at one of Franz Ferdinand’s LA shows some years back. “They wound up showing up to our show with a boombox and playing us “Piss Off” and “Too Many Bridges,” says Thomson.
From there the beginnings of FFS formed in secret over the past decade. “We didn’t tell anyone about it,” he admits. “The next time we went to Los Angeles we met up at Russell’s house and we wrote down everything we had and we discovered we had 22 songs. So we got in touch with Domino who puts out our music and that was that.”
Much of the writing and recording process for FFS came about via e-mail with no physical meeting of the minds. Instead both Sparks and Franz Ferdinand collaborated via mimicry as Thomson shares. “A lot of the times they [Sparks] were sort of writing for us and it was noticeable in a lot of the demo stuff how they imagined Franz Ferdinand’s sound. We would do the same as well, this almost bad mimicry of Sparks. It was almost like a sort of exquisite corpse approach to songwriting.”
Touring and performing each other’s songs shared and continues to share a similar sort of ease given the mutual appreciation that lay between both bands from the onset. “Learning, Sparks was kind of easy,” Thomson reveals. But in this he states that any of the Sparks and Franz Ferdinand tracks performed are “faithful covers” by FFS.
“It’s not how it’s supposed to sound on the record, its FFS covering it,” he says. This could be seen as a departure from the respective identities of Sparks and Franz Ferdinand as they commit to a group that shrugs off the idea that their collaboration is merely a novelty. FFS makes their Philly debut this Saturday, October 3rd at the Electric Factory. Meanwhile check out FFS out now via Domino Records and their recent single, “Johnny Delusional” below.