Known for its high style, keen hooks and playful sexuality, Franz Ferdinand would seem to be just about the last rock band to turn to Buddhism. But guitarist Nick McCarthy acknowledges that the Glasgow quartet’s fourth album, “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,” takes its title from Buddhist principles.
“Alex came up with it,” McCarthy says by phone from London, referring to singer-guitarist Alex Kapranos. “It seemed like a good way to live, somehow. He liked the expression, so he put it into the lyrics.”
More significant, though, may be the first line of the album opener, “Right Action”: “Come home, all is nearly forgiven.” The words came from a postcard Kapranos found at a flea market, McCarthy says. “He just thought it was a really weird sentence, which sort of implies the opposite.”
The line also could refer to the band, which took four years to produce the new album, a follow-up to “Tonight.”
“After the last tour, we took an indefinite amount of time off,” McCarthy says. “It was like, ‘Okay, goodbye.’ We didn’t know if we were going to write another album at all, really.”
In fact, the band got back together by accident. McCarthy had moved to London so his wife could pursue a master’s degree, and then, he says, “Alex got himself a girlfriend in London. He came down, and we met in a pub, just by chance. And we said, ‘Yeah, it could be good to write some more stuff.’ ”
McCarthy says he and Kapranos, the principal lyricist, wrote “kind of campfire songs on acoustic guitar and a bit of piano. We didn’t write them around riffs or anything.” Bassist Bob Hardy contributed to two of the numbers.
“You kind of realize — or I realized, anyway — that we’ve got a pretty good band going, and you don’t get that magic that often,” McCarthy says.
But one more thing had to happen: a dialogue between Kapranos and drummer Paul Thomson.
“They were having a bit of a rough time with each other,” McCarthy says. “They went on holiday together and kind of worked it out.
“After that, the whole band was in a really good mood again. We’ve nearly even friends,” he says with a laugh.
“We are friends,” McCarthy quickly adds. “You know, I spend more time with them than I do with my wife. Which is slightly ridiculous.”
The band’s closeness may have something to do with the way the new album was made. Although Hot Chip and Bjorn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn & John) helped produce a few tracks, most of the album was recorded at Kapranos’s and McCarthy’s private studios.
“You can do what the hell you want in your own studio,” McCarthy says. “It’s more immediate. If you go through someone else, you might not do something crazy. When you’re in your own studio, you just do it. And weird things happen.”
McCarthy says his studio is “right in the middle of London, so I can’t play drums all day everyday, while Alex’s is in rural Scotland, so you can just be as loud as you want all the time. So we recorded all the band stuff at Alex’s, and then at mine we wrote and arranged most of the stuff.”
“Right Thoughts” doesn’t draw as much from electronic dance music as “Tonight” did. But McCarthy, a classically trained pianist, did contribute a lot of keyboard parts.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision,” he says. “I felt like I was playing more guitar, actually. But doing the production toward the end, we just got the keyboards on there.”
Onstage, McCarthy mostly plays guitar. He uses a sampler to add the sounds of vintage keyboards (which don’t travel well), but the group forgoes prerecorded tracks.
“We started the band because we wanted to play dance music as a live band, so it seemed silly to have a sequencer or something running behind it all,” he says. “To play the same [beats per minute] every night just seems very boring to us. We really like the way you can accelerate, or slow down. And play with the excitement of the crowd.”
To McCarthy, the quest to connect with the audience is part of the new album’s appeal — and the musicians’ rapprochement.
“ ‘Right Thoughts’ feels open and, I don’t know, friendly,” he says. “It’s like an invitation to the listener. I think you can have a good time with this one. And to have that, we have to be good with each other, as a band.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Appearing with Frankie Rose on Thursday at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Show starts at 8 p.m. 301-581-5100. www.strathmore.org. Show is sold out.
From “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action”:
“Stand on the Horizon”
From “Franz Ferdinand”:
“Take Me Out”
From “You Could Have It So Much Better”:
“Do You Want To”