"WE have always seen ourselves as a live band which plays dance music,” says Franz Ferdinand bassist Bob Hardy.

Back in 2003, when the Glasgow four-piece released seductive debut single Darts of Pleasure, the dictum was a desire to “make records girls can dance to”, a founding principle which set their debonair art-punk disco against the stodgy “indie landfill” clogging up the charts in the early 2000s. Their next single was the declamatory Take Me Out, a genuine mega-hit from Australia, where it topped 2004’s “Hottest 100” on influential youth radio network Triple J, to the US, where it sold more than 500,000 copies.

If Take Me Out was the calling card of Franz Ferdinand Mark I, Always Ascending, the title track from their fifth album, sees the band rebooted for the late 2010s. Based on the Shepard tone, an auditory illusion creating a seemingly unending feeling of momentum, it rockets the band’s characteristic dance punk into the future. Released, like their previous five albums – including 2015’s FFS, a collaboration with the ever-vital Sparks – on Domino, the 10-song LP includes contributions from new member Julian Corrie aka acclaimed Glasgow electronic musician-producer Miaoux Miaoux.

Add the deft production skills of Philippe Zdar, a giant of the French dance scene through his output as one half of Cassius and production work with the likes of Justice, it’s not a surprise that it’s their most dance-sounding album yet.

That’s not to say the band swapped their guitars for sequencers: as Hardy explains, what you hear on Always Ascending is generally the sound of the band playing live in the studio.

“We set ourselves rules in the studio,” he says. “When you listen back to the record you should only be able to hear what four people are capable of, rather than stacking lots of instruments and guitar parts on top of each other.

“We wanted it to sound – well, like a band. So we limited ourselves to four people playing in the room and one overdub.”

The band didn’t even play along to a click track, he says, referring to the audio cues bands commonly use as a metronome to “lock in” the groove and keep things tight. Neither was there a laborious process of editing afterwards: the record was tracked in just six days. It shows – there’s a fresh insistence here which recalls the tone of their 2004 debut while feeling contemporary.

There’s a mutual admiration between the band and Zdar, whom the band had initially approached to contribute to 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, an album which saw Todd Terje join Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor on production duties. It didn’t work out, Hardy says. Zdar was too busy mixing what was to become the Beastie Boys’ final record, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

“When we were recording this, he was number one on the list really,” says Hardy. “We’ve listened to pretty much everything he’s done and we’re big fans of his mixes. His recordings really pop out the speakers, they’re really beautiful. He’s quite hard to pin down though. We tried going through the record company and his management, but then Alex realised he actually had his number, and he got back to us straight away. He was like ‘this sounds great’ and came up to work with us in Scotland.”

Always Ascending was recorded at Zdar’s studio in Paris and RAK Studios, the legendary London recording complex set up by Mickie Most in 1976.

“He brings a real energy to the room that’s really infectious,” says Hardy of Zdar. “I think that’s the most essential thing really. Working with him felt like a real event.”

That sense of excitement and showmanship has always been a key element of Franz Ferdinand’s appeal, as well as a theatrical, often witty tone that can tip over into eccentricity. It wasn’t too much of a surprise then when, in 2014, they announced they were collaborating with Sparks on what would become FFS the following year. There’s a hint of the Mael brothers on the rubbery, future funk of new single Lazy Boy and Lois Lane, a tragi-comic anthem about awkward middle-age which sets “at the over-30s singles’ night it’s bleak, it’s bleak, it’s bleak” as an unexpected party chant.

Hardy says the influence of Sparks is less about the music on Always Ascending and more about the methodology learned making the FFS record.

“For that, we spent a bit of time going back and forth with Sparks, sending each other demos and doing lots of writing,” he says. “Then we went into RAK Studios and recorded it in two and a half weeks. You knew that, from day one, you had a set period to work there, which makes you focus.”

The band had spent the most part of a year writing, arranging and rehearsing the tracks which would become Always Ascending. Things were similar in 2003, says Hardy.

“We worked that way on the first Franz Ferdinand record, and we hadn’t done it that way since then. We spent quite an intensive period of rehearsing, of playing the songs over and over until they almost became muscle memory. So when we got into the studio it was just about the performance. I think that gives a similar energy to the recordings as what the FFS record has: focused.”

No doubt the band needed to recast their roles following the departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy in July 2016, in order to concentrate on his family and other musical interests including production work at his Sausage Studios in London and Manuela, a band which released their debut album on Pictish Trail’s Lost Map Records last year. Though a Franz member throughout, drummer Paul Thomson has also been spreading his wings a little with AMOR, Richard Youngs’ excellent new project on Night School Records.

“When Nick left, people’s roles that they’d had for many years, they were all up in the air,” says Hardy. “When we started writing this record, it was a case of finding our way again – more Alex and myself, really. So the album has ended up maybe more collaborative than the past.”

When Corrie joined the band in the second half of 2016 he helped finish off the writing and arranging. Dino Bardot, a regular face on the Glasgow music scene, including time with indie band 1990s, later joined as a live member.

“We’d always been a four-piece but it seemed like an opportune moment to fill up the line-up a little bit,” says Hardy. “It allows us to more faithfully recreate what we’d done in the studio. It also brings new possibilities to our old material as well. Having another person on stage really increases the scope of what we’re capable of as a band.”

On last year’s extensive world tour, which included 19 dates in the US, the band were playing tracks rarely performed live before.

“We do feel kind of rejuvanated. We played quite a few shows last year and there was a real energy about it. Dino has toured with bands internationally before, while Julian has played gigs in the UK but not really internationally. So when we were going to places last year, like Russia and America and around Europe, it was their first time there, and in a way it felt like we were doing it for the first time too. It’s been quite nice, quite fresh.”

On album track Huck and Jim, frontman Alex Kapranos sings about “going to America” and talking to them about the NHS, DSS – and Buckfast. Another taste of Scotland on some of those American dates was a new backdrop, an illuminated homage to the Glasgow Barrowlands.

“We have several backdrops we’ve amassed over the years, but I think we’ll use this one a wee bit on these dates,” says Hardy. “We had these festivals booked last summer. Someone came up with stealing the Barrowlands sign. We did ask their permission, however. We played in Los Angeles in December, for the K-Rock radio station, at the Staples Center [a 20,000-capacity arena in downtown LA] and we had it behind us on this massive screen.

“I really like it; it was really fun to be in a foreign country with it – it always made me smile.”

Saturday, O2 Academy, Glasgow, sold out.
Always Ascending is out now via Domino