Franz Ferdinand talk new single ‘Billy Goodbye’, their greatest hits and new line-up

Alex Kapranos talks to NME about their glam new tune from 'Hits To The Head', life with their new drummer and plans for more new music to come

Franz Ferdinand have returned with new single ‘Billy Goodbye’, taken from their upcoming ‘best of’ collection ‘Hits To The Head’. Check out the new single below, and our video interview with frontman Alex Kapranos above.

Having teased their return earlier this week, the Scottish indie veterans have stormed back with ‘Billy Goodbye’ – a raucous glam stomper that the band worked on with Stuart Price (Dua Lipa, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys). Driven by the ultra-Franz hook of “don’t forget the best bits“, the track was inspired by celebrating past friendships.

“I was thinking about the idea of friendship and friendships that I’ve had over my life,” Kapranos told NME. “They all affect all of us in different ways. Most friendships bring wonderful things into our lives, but not all of them stay the same throughout our lives. They evolve, they change and sometimes friendships end. Sometimes they end badly, but usually they don’t. Usually friendships just come to a close.

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“Naturally you move in a different direction and you do something different. I think of who my best friends were when I was eight-years-old or 14-years-old. They’re not necessarily people who I would be best friends with now, but at that age they meant so much to me, they really defined my life and made me who I was. I guess the song is about being able to look at a friendship and say, ‘Ah hey, it’s over – but damn, wasn’t it good? ‘Don’t forget the best bits’. They were pretty incredible’.”

Speaking about how that theme of reflecting on old relationships shaped the sound of the song, Kapranos said: “As you listen to it, there are bits that sound like it’s in 1973 and then immediately jumping to something that could only be made in 2021, and then jumping back and forth between all of them so there’s a feeling of disorientation in time.

“That’s the way we listen to music nowadays anyway. It’s changed from when I was a kid and you’d buy a seven inch record. That’s just what was available at the time, unless you bought second-hand records. Now everything is available to us instantly. We don’t really think of music belonging to a particular time.”

The idea is explicitly reflected in the high-octane video, inspired by the films of legendary Dadaist Hans Richter.

“The original idea of the video was the friendship ending on the terms of a wake,” said Kapranos. “A lot of the imagery you see comes from traditional imagery of Memento mori – reminders of our mortality that you would see in art: flowers disappearing, time passing and candles literally being snuffed out. It’s always good to be reminded of our mortality.

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“When you have a wake, I like the idea of it being more of a celebration of life. The funeral is the time when you mourn, but the wake is the time when you celebrate. You think, ‘Oh, that was a great life and I really appreciate that I shared that life’. The idea was to apply that to a friendship which is over, and to think, ‘Yes, let’s celebrate that friendship and understand what was good about it’ while also acknowledging that it might be over as well.”

Franz Ferdinand return with their new best of, 'Hits To The Head'. Credit: Press
Franz Ferdinand return with their new best of, ‘Hits To The Head’. Credit: Press

‘Billy Goodbye’ is the closing song of the band’s upcoming ‘best of’ compilation ‘Hits To The Head’ – due for release in March – which collects singles and fan favourites from Franz’s five albums and another new one in the form of ‘Curious’.

“‘Curious’ is quite a different-sounding song,” Kapranos revealed. “Sonically, it’s more at the silky dance floor end of what the band is about. That one’s about imagining yourself in a situation at the beginning of a romantic relationship, being part of the magical moments and suddenly being overwhelmed by the sense of what’s to come and wondering how you will be when repetition, routine and the everyday is what your relationship becomes.

“Are you still going to love me when the magic has faded?”

On deciding on the tracklist for ‘Hits To The Head’, Kapranos said that it was like “like how you would choose the setlist at a festival”, mixing “bangers” with other moment to create the feel of a “retrospective where you can see the arc of an artist’s development.”

“There’s quite a lot of snobbery about greatest hits,” the frontman told NME. “People always refer to the Alan Partridge joke, ‘Oh yeah, what’s the best Beatles album? ‘The Red Album’ – but I love greatest hits records! You know, again when I was a kid I grew up with greatest hits records. My folks didn’t have a 4,000 LP record collection. They had best-ofs, they had greatest hits, they had ‘Changes’ by Bowie. They didn’t have ‘Low’, they didn’t have ‘Lodger’ – and that was enough for them. They just wanted to hear the best bits, they just wanted to hear the hits. That’s great.

“If that’s all they wanted to hear, if that’s all these needed to hear from those artists then fuck it – you enjoy that! But also, those records were something else. That’s what it was for them, but for me it was an introduction: it was that doorway that I could step through into the world of those artists.”

Franz Ferdinand return with their new best of, 'Hits To The Head'. Credit: Press
Franz Ferdinand return with their new best of, ‘Hits To The Head’. Credit: Press

The two new singles from the collection also feature new drummer Audrey Tait, following the departure of founding member Paul Thomson. Hailing Tait as “incredible”, Kapranos explained how she was a natural fit for the band following the sad but inevitable exit of his old friend.

“We spoke with Paul when restrictions were lifted and we could get back into a room together in Glasgow,” he said. “Of course we’d been speaking to each other all throughout lockdown, and I could tell that he had things on his mind. Once we were in that room, it was pretty obvious that he didn’t want to continue.

“He was saying that he loves those ‘best bits’! The feeling of walking on stage, playing to all these fans who love what you do and making music – those bits are incredible, but as any bandmember would tell you, there’s a lot of bullshit in between which he’d had enough of. He didn’t want to go through all that stuff again.”

He continued: “Paul’s my best mate. While I was devastated that I wasn’t going to be playing music with him, his life and his happiness is more important than that, so it made sense.”

Knowing Tait’s reputation as a “brilliant” drummer in the Glasgow area, Kapranos said that they hit it off from their very first rehearsal.

“Like with a conversation, if you play with someone for the first time and it just clicks, then it’s just easy,” he admitted. “It’s how it should be. You can express yourself with no self-consciousness. It just feels good and the band sound great. Of course it’s going to sound different to how it did with Paul because she’s a different personality.

“After finding out what a drummer she was, we’ve also found out what she’s like as a person. She’s a great laugh, funny, smart and great to have around.”

Franz Ferdinand at Mad Cool Festival 2018
Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos at Mad Cool 2018. Credit: Derek Bremner for NME

Kapranos also spoke of how the band have been steadily writing more new material with the follow-up to their acclaimed 2018 album ‘Always Ascending‘ on the horizon, after they tour the UK and Europe heavily in 2022.

Asked if ‘Billy Goodbye’ and ‘Curious’ were signposts as to where the band might take their sound next, he replied: “We’ll have to see, won’t we. I listen back to ‘Always Ascending’ and think, ‘That’s not what we’re going to do next’. It’s difficult to say now, but artists don’t really know what their next record is going to be. When it comes out, I’m going to pretend that there was a masterplan all along!”

Franz Ferdinand will release ‘Hits To The Head’ on March 11, 2022, via Domino Records. Check out the tracklist below.

1. ‘Darts Of Pleasure’           
2. ‘Take Me Out’                               
3. ‘The Dark Of The Matinée’      
4. ‘Michael’                                         
5. ‘This Fire’                                        
6. ‘Do You Want To’                         
7. ‘Walk Away’                                  
8. ‘The Fallen’                                    
9. ‘Outsiders’                                    
10. ‘Lucid Dreams’                              
11. ‘Ulysses’                                          
12. ‘No You Girls’                                
13. ‘Right Action’                                
14. ‘Evil Eye’                                          
15. ‘Love Illumination’                       
16. ‘Stand On The Horizon’             
17. ‘Always Ascending’                     
18. ‘Glimpse Of Love’                        
19. ‘Curious’       
20. ‘Billy Goodbye’       

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