Alex Kapranos is wearing a jacket with Day of the Dead-style skulls embroidered on the chest, and that’s not the only way that Mexico is close to the Franz Ferdinand frontman’s heart.
“I think there’s a certain energy that we have to our music which really clicks with people in Latin America,” he says, leaning forward on a sofa in the band’s dressing room backstage at Monterrey’s Pa’l Norte festival. “There’s a real kind of openness and warmth to people here. It’s our natural environment, I think.”
They might be 5,000 miles from Glasgow, but they’re made to feel right at home by the 105,000 people squeezed into Parque Fundidora for the festival. Rock’n’roll that you can shake your hips to is very much the order of the weekend at Pa’l Norte, with Queens of the Stone Age and Muse also turning in sets that are seductive, rather than headbanging.
After the festival, Franz will be continuing their Mexican love affair with their own headline show in Mexico City – a place they’re returning to for the first time since one of their crowds trashed a venue. “It was a big arena, and the crowds in Mexico are really intense,” says Kapranos. “The first four or five rows of seats in the arena got completely destroyed. Hopefully we’re not playing a seated arena this time!”
The band’s love for this part of the world extends beyond the joy of playing to vast crowds. Drummer Paul Thomson has spent time in Puerto Vallarta, famous for being the town where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor holed up while Burton was shooting ‘The Night of the Iguana’, while Kapranos recently explored the Yucatán Peninsula. “It’s incredible,” he says. “I hired a car and drove all around there. They have these cenotes, these underwater caves where you can swim completely underwater, and they have these strange albino fish that never see sunlight. The food down there is astonishing, things like Sopa de Lima. For me, in Mexico, but also in any city or country around the world, the best thing to do is get yourself lost. To turn the GPS off on your phone and see where you end up. Watch people, talk to people. Those are some of the best surprises you can get. The London perspective is often not to talk to strangers, but when you find yourself in other parts of the world that’s sometimes the best thing you can do.”
Now back at work, they’ve been introducing fans to tracks from new album ‘Always Ascending’, which was released in February. It’s an experimental, playful record – but Kapranos says it’s still been generating the requisite energy when played live. “It’s experimental in the sense that it’s lots of stuff that you haven’t maybe heard on our previous records, but it still sounds like Franz Ferdinand, and there’s still bangers on it,” he says. “It might sound different to our other records but people still want to get up and dance to it.”
The band will spend much of the rest of the year on the road – with key dates including a Glasgow homecoming at TRNSMT Festival at the end of June, a headline show at the Roundhouse in September and their first ever trip to Ukraine. “Nowadays, in the age of social media, you’re very aware of where your fans are,” says Kapranos. “We’ve had a lot of feedback from people from Ukraine for a long time. ‘When are you going to come?’ So finally this year we’re going to get to see it.”
For Franz fans who want to catch the band in an exotic locale without leaving Britain, they headline Festival No. 6 this September in Portmeirion, the curious Welsh tourist village that was designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village and featured in cult TV show The Prisoner. “I’m really excited about,” says Kapranos. “I’m a huge fan of The Prisoner, and I’ve never been to Portmeirion before.”
Thomson, though, has been before. “I went when I was 16 with a bunch of guys, because of The Prisoner,” he reminisces. “I’m not sure you’d call it a lads’ weekend. Maybe a virgin’s weekend? I’ll be returning a man this summer.”