October 21, 2005 06:00 AM

Ages: Above, from left: Paul Thomson, 29 (drums); Robert Hardy, 25 (bass); Nick McCarthy, 30 (guitar); Alex Kapranos, 33 (vocals and guitar)
Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland
Current gig: Touring to support their second album, You Could Have it So Much Better, which debuted at No. 8 on the U.S. charts

They can thank vodka for their lineup
Before forming Franz Ferdinand in Glasgow in 2001, the four members weren’t exactly gunning for rock stardom. Bass player Robert Hardy, a former art student who hadn’t picked up an instrument before, admits, “I’d never had any interest in playing in a band.” But his friend, singer-guitarist Alex Kapranos, roped him in with a grand vision: “For me, the most important thing was to get a group of friends together,” says Kapranos. “It’s at the heart of all the best groups: the relationship between the friends. So it started with teaching Bob a few notes on the bass, even though he didn’t want to be a musician.”

Rounding out the lineup: drummer Paul Thomson, who’d played with Kapranos in a band called Yummy Fur, and guitar player Nick McCarthy, who met Kapranos at a party shortly after moving to Glasgow from Munich. “I took a bottle of vodka and helped myself, and it was Alex’s,” McCarthy recalls. “And he wanted to start a fight with me, because I was stealing his drink. Then we made up, and we started the band.”

They’re on-the-road foodies
On their second world tour in two years (they also trekked out for their self-titled 2004 debut, which sold 3 million copies worldwide), they’ve been furthering their education in global cuisine. One standout meal: dining with a ninja at a clandestine Tokyo restaurant. “You had to go through all these twisty secret tunnels, and then this ninja would do card tricks before each course,” says Kapranos, a former chef who writes a food column for London’s Guardian newspaper.

What really gets them going, however, is something much simpler: bananas. “When we’re performing, there’s usually a point halfway through the set where your energy slumps,” Kapranos says. “I tried all these different energy drinks, and they’d gum up your mouth, or you’d just feel all wrong. And one of my friends who’s quite active told me about bananas. Just have a couple beforehand and it works fantastically.”

They’ve made it to Newport Beach and back
Although their energetic dance pop has drawn comparisons to British rockers such as Gang of Four and the Beatles, Franz Ferdinand (who chose their name because “it alliterates, like all the best band names,” says Thomson) have already gotten the ultimate stamp of approval in the U.S.: “Do You Want To,” the first single off their new album, was featured on an episode of The O.C.

The band recently headed back to Europe after touring the U.S. – highlights included being bitten by lice in a New York City hotel, eating alligator sausage in New Orleans and getting stood up by Smiths singer Morrissey in Los Angeles – but McCarthy, for one, had already traveled the States. “A while back I drove from California to Texas,” picking up a fresh-from-prison hitchhiker en route, he says. “He was a total cliché – we stopped at a petrol station and he was doing press-ups on the car, saying he was ready for sparring. But we got on really well. It was really nice.”

But even though they’ll be on the road through early February, Franz Ferdinand can’t help feeling homesick (McCarthy and Thomson both got married in the past year). One of the things they miss most, besides Scotland’s signature dish, haggis? “Just staying in,” says Hardy, “and having a bath.”

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