Franz Ferdinand

The last thing Franz Ferdinand did before heading across the Atlantic for its latest U.S. tour was pick up the coveted Mercury Prize for U.K. album of the year for its eponymous debut. But when Pollstar caught up with the band two days after its performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, all guitarist Nicolas McCarthy could talk about was Texas.

“It was an amazing festival, really brilliant!” an obviously still-excited McCarthy said. “We had such a great time. I think Texas in general is really amazing.”

No doubt it’s probably quite a bit different from Franz Ferdinand’s native Glasgow, Scotland.

“Oh, I think it’s different from the rest of the States as well!” McCarthy continued. “It’s not like in New York, everybody goes to New York and Los Angeles. It was really refreshing, oddly enough.”

Even though the band (named for an archduke whose assassination triggered World War I) has only been touring for a year, Franz Ferdinand has quickly learned the concert landscape. In March, the band was just cutting its teeth at 500-seaters like L.A.’s Troubadour and Chicago’s Empty Bottle.

But within just a couple of months, Franz was the rage of the summer European festival season and, back in the States, selling out such high-profile venues as the L.A.’s Wiltern LG, Boston’s Avalon and Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

On its current tour, the band is among the top draws at summer radio festivals and the demand for club tickets has caused some promoters to adjust seating configurations in an attempt to squeeze a few more tickets out of some gigs.

And these aren’t the 300- to 500-seaters, either. Franz Ferdinand is selling out places like the 3,500-seat Roseland Ballroom, where the band launched its third U.S. leg of the year September 9th.

Of the four, only McCarthy has had formal musical training. But even then, that was on the double bass, not the guitar he picked up when he joined eventual singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson in 2002 for what was more an art project than a band.

“I’m playing guitar and I never actually studied guitar,” McCarthy explained. “It didn’t really matter in this band. It was more about the idea. On which instrument you realize the idea is not the question, really.”

And it wasn’t for McCarthy, who also played drums for a time. In fact, he’s played just about everything in the band except the instrument on which he has four years of classical training.

“The beginning of our career, when we first started playing together, none of us was sure which instrument we were going to play. It’s like changing around and trying out what’s best, or who has an idea. I really think that’s a healthy way of doing music together. Our drummer might play the guitar or the keyboards,” McCarthy said.

Franz Ferdinand

“If you can play one instrument, I think you can play anything you want. Anyone can with any instrument, really. It’s not that difficult.”

Of course, the road to musical stardom is littered with the career corpses of those who tried that theory and failed. Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand, has made it look easy.

The band has its roots in the Glasgow urban arts scene, where industrial buildings abandoned since World War II find use as impromptu galleries and party sites. One such building, dubbed The Chateau, was where Franz Ferdinand really came into its own.

“When all the industries broke down after the war, it left all these great old buildings. We just found these amazing buildings and sort of asked people if we could use them. Sometimes they said no.

“The Chateau was the highest building in the old quarter. We threw parties in there and in the end, there were neighbors who called the police who came and broke it up,” McCarthy reminisced.

Eventually, Franz Ferdinand recruited a friend in London to help record some songs and get the word out.

“He gave them to some people in London and suddenly there was this big buzz,” McCarthy said. “Some 40 labels came to see our show in one of these buildings! This time it was not an illegal, indie happening. It was drenched with business!”

Franz Ferdinand settled on a tiny label called Domino. They now have a distribution deal with Epic, and Marty Diamond at Little Big Man handles the band’s booking duties in North America.

“I was turned on to the band by a friend in the U.K. quite some time ago,” Diamond told Pollstar. “There will be one more leg in December, which will be predominantly radio events. Then I think they’re going to go back and make another record, which should be out in the middle or latter part of 2005.

“Each leg grows and adds a few markets. It’s been a methodical and, with management and the label, a well-plotted strategy,” Diamond said of Franz Ferdinand’s rise in the North American market.

“The band makes great music and they’re great live, which makes my job pretty easy.”