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When Sparks formed a band with Franz Ferdinand: The best of FFS live

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Wait a moment. Hold it. Just back up a second. Let me see. Nope, we haven’t as yet covered FFS on Dangerous Minds. So, okay, let me sort this little oversight out right now.

FFS is the group formed by Sparks and Franz Ferdinand circa 2014 when they started recording their scintillating and perfectly formed eponymously titled album together. This glittering 24-carat nugget was released in June 2015 to rave reviews and promoted with a series of sell-out, headline concerts all across Europe and in parts of America.

So far so good.

But let’s hold on a second. For you see, in a way, FFS really all began back in 2004 when Franz Ferdinand, a four piece out of Glasgow Scotland, released their second single. This was a little number called “Take Me Out” which kinda put the band on the international playlist and hit the number three spot in both the UK pop charts and on Billboard’s Alternative Songs listings.

Apart from all the admiring reviews and sudden expectations, Franz Ferdinand’s single was heard by two brothers living out on the west coast of America in Los Angeles. Nothing too unusual about that except these two brothers happened to be pop royalty, Ron and Russell Mael, who for over forty have been producing some of the greatest most original and utterly delicious art pop/alternative music as the legendary band Sparks. Ron and Russell liked what they heard and decided Franz Ferdinand were creating a similar kind of original and utterly gorgeous music to themselves.

Sometime shortly after this, Ron and Russell (or Russell and Ron) read in the music press that Franz Ferdinand were big, big, big, big fans of Sparks. Now, this all happened around the time Franz Ferdinand were gigging in LA. So, word went out from one band to the other and a meeting was arranged “for no particular reason.” Well, probably other than to share a little mutual admiration. They met in a coffee shop and at the end of their little conversation together came the suggestion “We should do something together some time.”
 
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Now, Ron Mael describes this kind of coda as “Usually, that’s an empty kind of expression between bands.” But Sparks really got on with Franz Ferdinand and they liked what they were doing. So Ron and Russell wrote the song “Piss Off” which they sent over to Franz Ferdinand.

But like life, promises tend to drift with the pull of work commitments and personal relationships and well, you know. So, nothing happened until one day, almost a decade later…

Franz Ferdinand were playing in San Francisco at the very same as time as Sparks. The band’s lead singer Alex Kapranos was out wandering the streets looking for a dentist—Huey Lewis’s dentist to be precise—who he sought to fix some broken teeth. Looking for the right address, Kapranos suddenly heard a voice ask, “Alex is that you?” And lo, almost miraculously, there was Ron and Russell (or Russell and Ron) standing right behind him. And then they said, “Whatever happened to that project?”

Franz Ferdinand were about to release their fourth album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action while Sparks had released their epic live album Two Hands, One Mouth: Live in Europe. This time Kapranos decided not to let things slip, “I remember sitting down with the others and saying, ‘It doesn’t matter how busy we are, we have to make this happen.”

Sparks sent Franz Ferdinand another song this one called “Collaborations Don’t Work”—a little jokey comment on the two bands’ working relationship. To which Franz Ferdinand replied by writing and recording a “double dare” or really the middle section for the song: “We ain’t no collaborators, I am a partisan.” Back and forth went the songs. A wee bit here, a wee tweak there. With no thought as to where this was all going to lead. The writing process grew organically. Until it became apparent to both Sparks and Franz Ferdinand that they had formed a separate band together and were producing material “neither band would have done on its own.”

The mighty FFS was born.

In 2014, FFS recorded their “debut” album, a superb and brilliant record. The following year, a series of tours kicked off at the Glasgow School of Art to tie-in with the release of FFS.

If you’ve not heard of FFS or heard their superlative music, then fear not. Here by way of an introduction is a compilation (produced by Benjamin Hernandez) of FFS tour highlights from Bataclan, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza Berlin 2015.

Hopefully a second FFS album will be out sometime soon, but in the meantime both Sparks and Franz Ferdinand have their own latest masterpieces coming out soon, details here and here.

Track listing:

1.  “Johnny Delusional” / Le Bataclan, Paris
2.  “The Man Without A Tan” / Lollapalooza Berlin 2015
3.  “Dictator’s Son” / First Avenue, Minneapolis
4.  “Do You Want To” / First Avenue, Minneapolis
5.  “Collaborations Don’t Work” / Rock en Seine 2015
6.  “Things I Won’t Get” / Le Bataclan, Paris
7.  “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’” / Glastonbury 2015
8.  “Call Girl” / Glastonbury 2015
9.  “So Desu Ne” / Glastonbury 2015
10. “The Number One Song in Heaven” / Le Bataclan, Paris
11. “Michael” / Lollapalooza Berlín 2015
12. “Police Encounters” / First Avenue, Minneapolis
13. “Take Me Out” / Lollapalooza Berlin 2015
14. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” / Lowlands 2015
15. “Piss Off” / Lowlands 2015
 

 

Bonus: FFS live at Bataclan, June 2015.

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.24.2017
10:21 am
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