ALEX Kapranos is trying to explain to me what fame feels like. He has chosen to do so through an analogy that involves a popular children’s confectionary brand.

“I’m trying to think of a way of talking about it without mentioning drugs,” he begins, before inspiration strikes. “It’s like eating Haribo. It’s a great rush and really tasty and so much fun, but if you open another family-sized bag and keep eating them … it’s not going to be as much fun.”

He looks around him at the other members of Franz Ferdinand and asks, “Am I losing the metaphor a bit?”

Tuesday afternoon in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal and Franz Ferdinand are in the building. They’ve come here to have their photographs taken and to talk about now and then, past and present, hopes and dreams and why Morrissey might be a “w*****”. Unfortunately, there is no Haribo to hand.

The night before I’d watched them play in front of an intimate audience of a few hundred in PJ Molloys in Dunfermline as part of Independent Venues Week. It was a reminder that nearly 20 years after they became the next big thing, and with a line-up that has changed over the years, the members of Franz Ferdinand still know how to put on a show. Banger (do we still call them that?) followed banger. A reminder of the band’s creative and commercial successes since their first hit Take Me Out in 2004. And, in passing, a post-Covid (here’s hoping) reminder of just how thrilling live music can be.

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“I guess we took it for granted that we could play,” Kapranos admits. “And as I walked back on that stage last night, I really just savoured that moment and that sensation of being there, particularly in a smaller venue like that, being so close to people and having that communal shared experience. I’ve missed it so much.”

After two years of relative inactivity, the band is releasing Hits to the Head next month, a greatest hits compilation of those aforementioned bangers plus a couple of new tunes, Billy Goodbye and Curious. They are also going on a European tour to promote it which will reach the UK towards the end of the year.

All of which gives us a chance to ask who, what and why is Franz Ferdinand in 2022?

The who is easy. It’s now a five-piece, with original members Kapranos and Bob Hardy, joined by Dino Bardot, (not, he points out, the oldest member of the band), who was previously in V-Twin, The 1990s and Yummy Fur, and Julian Corrie, aka Miaoux Miaoux, who can remember watching Franz Ferdinand win the Mercury Prize on the telly (Google claims he's 36).

Both joined the band after Nick McCarthy left in 2016. Last autumn drummer Paul Thomson handed over his drumsticks to newest member Audrey Tait (there’s even a photo of the event). Apart from a fashion show for Balmain in Paris, the Dunfermline gig was her first official appearance with the band.

Tait is the first to arrive today. She’s 34 (“that’s the mystique gone when you publish that”), a Glaswegian and her own favourite greatest hits album, she tells me, is Greatest Hits by The Police. “I love Stewart Copeland’s drumming. I just love the style and the power that he has.”

Since no one else has arrived I say, you can tell us about your initiation ceremony to join Franz Ferdinand? Did you have to shave your head? Or walk over hot coals?

“You’ve seen the pictures?” Tait says, laughing. “I wish I had an exciting story to tell you. I feel like maybe when we go on tour something will happen.”

At which point the rest of the band tumble in the door. They’re all bright-eyed and sharp-dressed. Kapranos (favourite greatest hits album: “Maybe Changes by Bowie”) has arrived in a Soviet-style coat covering double denim. And, yes, he pulls it off.

HeraldScotland: Alex Kapranos Photograph Colin MearnsAlex Kapranos Photograph Colin Mearns

Upstairs, as they all pose enthusiastically for photos, they look exactly how a pop band should look; like a gang. At one point Colin the photographer has Bardot and Corrie (who, by the way, both think ABBA Gold is the greatest of greatest hits albums) stand at the back of the set-up. Then he worries that, because they’re both dressed in black, they look like bouncers.

“That’s the first time anyone has said that about me,” Corrie says, mock-insulted.

“I know I'm getting into that club,” Kapranos says.

The night before Kapranos had told Dunfermline that Franz Ferdinand are a Glasgow band. And it’s mostly true. The singer spends most of his off-duty time down near Dumfries these days and Corrie lives up in the Highlands, but the rest of the band are based in the city and Glasgow is part of their self-image.

If I say the word Glasgow, I ask them as we convene post-photos, what does it mean to you all?

“Home, I suppose even though I don’t live here at the moment,” Kapranos begins.

“I’m from Bradford,” Hardy adds, “but I’ve lived here half my life. It’s definitely home.”

“It’s certainly the band’s home as well,” Kapranos adds. “When we asked Audrey to join the band, we wouldn’t have dreamed of looking anywhere else other than Glasgow to find someone to join the band.”

As you might expect, Kapranos does most of the heavy lifting in conversation, with Hardy adding an entertainingly flinty edge. (He reminds me at one point that Corrie and Bardot have been in the band since 2016 when I start talking about “new members.” He also tells me his favourite greatest hits album is “probably the Blue album.” He doesn’t need to say it’s by The Beatles.)

HeraldScotland: Bob HardyBob Hardy

And if the rest of the band are quieter (rather inevitably given that I spend part of the interview looking back on Franz Ferdinand’s gilded past) they are not quiet. And they’re all quite happy to take a hand out of the band’s time-served members. What did Franz Ferdinand mean to you before you joined, I ask the three of them at one point?

“Nothing,” Tait suggests to raucous laughter from the rest.

“I was telling the guys when I was in first year at uni, Do You Want To was out and it was, in inverted commas, ‘my song’. So, when I was out and it came on everyone was like, ‘Oh, Audrey there’s your song.’ I’d be up doing the pointy fingers dance.”

“See when you’re playing it live,” Kapranos interrupts, “do you have the instinct to …” He starts doing the pointy-finger dance himself.

“I do,” Tait admits. Thinking back to the night before, she says, “I was this close to just standing up and going …”

It’s a reminder that the band now has a history. It was also evident in Dunfermline the night before, Kapranos admits.

“There was a young lad in the audience right down in the middle called Gordon. I was talking to Hamish [support act Hamish Hawk] about him before the gig and Hamish works in a record shop in Edinburgh and he said this young lad Gordon is always in the record shop. He’s a big music fan.

“Gordon knew the words to every single song, even the new ones, every single word. Even Curious, which has only been up for listening to for a few days. And we were talking about him afterwards and he’s 24, which means he was five or six when our first record came out. That’s … a difficult thing to fully comprehend.”

Well, indeed. Kapranos is 49 now, Hardy 41. They have lived several pop lives since they first started doing gigs in flats and derelict warehouses in Glasgow at the start of the century. Their first single Take Me Out was released in January 2004. What followed was the Haribo years, you might say.

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I first met the band in the summer of 2004, backstage at a festival near Leeds, where Kapranos told me that playing Top of the Pops was like losing his virginity (“only more people watched”) and said that he thought Hardy would be the first person to leave Franz Ferdinand (“I got that totally wrong,” he says today).

I’ve brought along a copy of their 2004 magazine cover story, just to ask Kapranos and Hardy if they remember the younger men they were then.

“Do I look any different?” Kapranos asks. “It’s a continuation of the same.” He looks at the cover. “It looks fun. It looks like they’re having a laugh.

“I remember playing Leeds that year because Morrissey was on after us and I remember him getting an S-Class Mercedes from the Portakabin to the stage … Yeah. I was thinking, ‘I like the Smiths, but that’s the behaviour of a w*****.”

Read More: Alex Kapranos talks to The Herald in 2013

That year must have been thrilling and disorientating for the band. The trajectory went stratospheric almost immediately. Suddenly they were in demand all around the world. The curtain was pulled back, and fame beckoned them in.

“It was like stepping backstage and seeing it for all of its glory, or should I say lack of glory, or lack of glamour,” Kapranos suggests. “Because that’s kind of what backstage is. In people’s imagination backstage is this beautiful, glamorous place, this ambrosia where we are all having a hell of a time …”

“That’s the stage,” Hardy suggests.

“Whereas backstage is actually just roadies in leather,” Kapranos continues. “But it was an astonishing time and experience.”

Back to the present day. Sum up Franz Ferdinand in 2022? “Same but different,” Kapranos argues.

And what keeps them all going? “New music, it’s as simple as that really,” Hardy says. “Each time we come off the road we go our separate ways and then at some point Alex will send some demos and there will be a song in there. ‘Oh, that’s a good song. I’d like to be in that band.’”

“You’ve got to be excited by it, otherwise there’s no point, is there?” asks Kapranos.

Bandmates have left. The heady early days are in the past. Have there been points where he thought this mad adventure might be over, I ask the singer? “No. There were points where I thought I need to talk to Bob a bit, work some stuff out. So, we did.

“But I’ve been writing tunes since I was very small. It’s just my thing, it’s what I do, and this band is great, and I really like being in it. It’s not really more complex than that.”

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What does success mean to Franz Ferdinand in the 21st century? “Gordon knowing all the words to all your songs in the front row,” Kapranos says.

“It’s just the freedom to be yourself,” Hardy adds.

That can’t always have been easy in a business where you are only as good as your last chart position. “There are pressures put on you,” Kapranos admits. “I remember when we released our first record. After six months [the band’s label] Domino couldn’t handle it in America anymore. It was too big for them, so we licensed it to a major label.

“In the States we were on Epic, who are part of Sony, and that was a very different experience from working with Domino. They were putting a lot of pressure on us to do things that were … What was the term we came up with?” he asks Hardy. “Unnatural and cruel? Cruel and unusual?”

“I think we learned quite quickly though,” Hardy says.

“I think we’re tough enough to stand up to it,” Kapranos agrees, “but it wasn’t pleasant being in a situation where you have to stand up to it.”

But, as both say, they always did things on their own terms. They didn’t have to conform to succeed.

Imagine being Harry Styles, Kapranos says. “Having to break out of the boyband mould. To do that takes a hell of a strength of character. It must have been a very difficult thing to do. I’m glad we never had to do anything like that.”

We are talking today in the wake of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell withdrawing their music from Spotify in protest of the streaming service hosting Joe Rogan’s podcast which has given a platform to anti-vaxxer Robert Malone.

Kapranos has been vocal on social media about this very thing himself. He spells it out today at greater length and with a flash of anger that is strikingly different from his normal demeanour.

“I was talking about how absurd it is that we have these organisations that have so much power over the artist and it’s because the artist negotiates with them as individuals rather than collectively. It’s maybe a good indicator how f****** useless musicians are at organising themselves, generally. It totally is, because if you look at the dynamics of scale artists absolutely outweigh these c**** who are ripping us off.”

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It's astonishing, Bardot suggests that someone [Joe Rogan in this case] who is just making a podcast ends up having the power in that situation.

“Someone made the point that streaming services don’t see music and podcasts,” Corrie points out, “they just see it as audio. ‘What audio content can we sell?’”

“If you want to reduce it to crude terms,” Kapranos says, picking up the baton again, “the ‘asset’ that is held by musicians ….” He pauses, thinks about what he has just said.

“As an aside, this is another thing I find revolting about the contemporary age is referring to art as ‘assets’ or ‘content’. Revolting. It makes me want to vomit.

“But if you do look at it in terms like that, then the so-called assets are held by musicians. We have the power. In terms of scale, we have way more power. But we’re just so f****** useless at organising ourselves. We can’t put it into action.

“How do you spur people on to realise that there is action that can be taken? I don’t know. You need one person to make the move and for others to follow and that hasn’t happened. And it doesn’t have to be Neil Young, it doesn’t have to be someone at the end of their career. It just has to be someone who can lead and motivate other people. And it’s not happening at the moment and it’s a little exasperating.”

Are you volunteering, Alex?

“No. It has been going through my mind. If you think of other artists, most artists, they have no fear in front of thousands of people on a stage, yet they are intimidated by one organisation.”

Corrie points to Tom Gray, from the band Gomez, who is also the founder of The Broken Record Campaign, currently lobbying the UK government on the piteous financial returns to musicians offered by the streaming services. “He’s making things happen at a parliamentary level,” Corrie suggests.

“For me there are two ways of doing it,” Kapranos says. “There’s Tom Gray’s method, which I have so much respect for, which is very organised and methodical. Or there’s the total anarchists’ revolt. ‘F*** you all, we’re not going to let you have our music,’ which appeals to me more.

“I would love that. In my head it returns to images of the playground and the playground bully and loads of little kids turning on the big kid and giving them a doing.”

One more word to throw at them before they go, I say. Friendship. “We’ve always been a group of friends making music,” Hardy says. “What’s the alternative? It doesn’t sound fun.

“When we tour, we spend so much time with each other. I can’t imagine doing that with a group of people you don’t get on with.”

“We’ve definitely observed bands who are doing that,” Bardot adds, laughing.

“I think the very fact that we can do an interview in a room together …” Kapranos concludes. “I know some bands who can’t.”

He looks around at the rest of the band. “But they are all having their own tour buses.”

How do we define Franz Ferdinand in 2022? How about a band that can still laugh together? That's an achievement in itself.

Hits to the Head by Franz Ferdinand is released on March 11. They play the OVO Hydro in Glasgow on November 10

With thanks to the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, glasgowtheatreroyal.org.uk