How does a pair of veteran outsider musicians collaborate with a band nearly half their age?
Ron and Russell Mael of the American duo Sparks faced that question when they teamed up with Scottish dance-rockers Franz Ferdinand for the new project FFS, which plays the Ogden Theater in Denver on Sunday.
The Mael brothers cite a few reasons that they were able to work with the young Scotsmen. They were big fans of each other, for starts. Ron and Russell were immediately sold on Franz Ferdinand by their 2004 hit single "Take Me Out."
"Whenever a song like that comes along, our ears perk up a bit," singer Russell Mael said.
The members of Franz Ferdinand claimed Sparks as a musical influence. When the two bands met, they recognized overlapping sensibilities and a desire to make "something fresh" together.
The bands began sending music back and forth overseas, but the project didn't reach full fruition until 2013 when they began writing a full FFS album. After two years of writing, FFS hit the studio with songs like "Call Girl" and the self-aware "Collaborations Don't Work."
Ron and Russell have released 24 Sparks albums, so they had to adjust their typical writing approach to work with Franz Ferdinand.
"It's always hard when you expose yourself as an artist to outside opinions and if the opinion isn't what you want to hear you turn off," Russell said. "But both bands were willing to give up a little bit of their security blankets."
It also helped that there wasn't much overlap in the two bands' instrumentation. Sparks features only a full-time vocalist and keyboardist, while Franz Ferdinand are a guitar rock band.
The only overlap was the vocals, but the bands found a way to capitalize on featuring two singers.
"We could see that both the times they were singing in sync together and the times the vocals were crashing against each other, it was all happening in a positive way," Ron said.
The project's current American tour follows a string of European festival dates, which fans received remarkably well, Russell said.
"The show is based mainly on the FFS album. That's something that's also been really satisfying for us. The audiences even in large festivals around the world have embraced the fact that we really put the focus on this album."
The debut album from FFS is out now.
Stream our feature with Ron and Russell Mael of FFS above.
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