It’s been five years since Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand crossed the Atlantic, sparking a renewed interest in early-’80s-style dance-pop with the irresistible, sexed-up “Take Me Out.” Since then, the quartet has turned out three albums, each of which boast severable memorable hits, and scored five Grammy nominations. But even with all that international success — including heavy exposure for the single “No You Girls” (from the album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand) in an iPod commercial — the novelty of North America still hasn’t worn off for drummer Paul Thomson, who spoke with WE from a hotel room in San Diego.
WE: How’s your day so far?
Thomson: Suffering from a bit of a hangover and still up in the hotel room. But other than that it’s nice, sun’s out — it’s San Diego.
What’s your poison?
Well, last night it was Pabst Blue Ribbon, jumbo cans — only, like, $2. It’s really cheap, blue-collar kind of lager. Oh, and tequila as well.
That’s a brutal combination.
[Laughs] Yeah, well, before that we went out to see the San Diego Padres versus the Chicago Cubs, which was fun. I’ve never been to a ball game before. I spent half the time just trying to figure out what was going on.
Do you have a true sense of the American spirit now?
Yeah. The cast of Cats was singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning. Not in cat makeup, though. That would have been amazing.
Absolutely. On a different note, I read that you’re well-versed in a variety of instruments. What made you decide to go with drums for Franz Ferdinand instead of guitar, as you did originally for the group?
Nick and I swapped because he played guitar better than me, and I played drums better than him, and I just got stuck in that role. But I’m not complaining. It’s the most physical instrument; you get to use all your limbs, and it’s great fun to do live. The physicality of it is what I like the best. Everyone else on stage is just using their fingers or their voices, whereas I’m using my entire body.
Were you taken aback by how quickly Franz Ferdinand became popular?
Crikey, I guess I was taken aback. None of us expected it, but our label must have because they invested a lot of time and money in us. I think they were relieved, certainly, when we got a bit of success, but we certainly weren’t expecting that level of success. When we first started out, we were just doing it for the fun of it. We thought we’d maybe make enough money from gigs to put out a seven-inch; like, press 500 copies in the Czech Republic and sell them at independent record stores. I never thought for a minute it would take us outside of the country.
What’s been your most surreal experience with Franz Ferdinand?
I guess going to the Grammys in 2005. We were still the same people before all this crazy shit started happening, and very much outside of this whole celebrity culture, and you’re there in the middle of it, but you feel like some sort of spy reporting back to normal people. When you’re standing on a red carpet between Hulk Hogan and James Brown, it doesn’t get much more surreal than that.