Carl Barât Puts the Word Out

Published July 1, 2014

ABOVE: CARL BARÂT

To say 2014 has been a busy year for Carl Barât would be an understatement. Best known as a founding member of the massively influential English garage-indie band The Libertines (with the drug-loving and controversy-seeking Pete Doherty, as well as John Hassall and Gary Powell, in tow), as well as the shorter-lived Dirty Pretty Things, Barât is currently embarking on new, thrilling projects for both music and film. Earlier this year he established a new band after an exhaustive auditioning process, The Jackals, in which he chose members solely through postings on social media despite his vast industry connections—the winning band members and him will soon be recording their full-length album. He is also lending his acting chops to his first film in a leading role, For This Is My Body, an upcoming French indie-drama.

This Saturday, though, he’ll be reuniting with The Libertines at Hyde Park’s British Summer Time festival series after a four-year hiatus, fresh from two mini warm-up shows this past weekend at the Glasgow Barrowlands. Fans of the “Libs” know this is a momentously celebratory occasion, as the band has been plagued with its share of drama and controversy ever since its conception in 1997 and break-up in 2004. Some quick tidbits from the group’s industry include Doherty’s spiraling cocaine and heroin use, the band’s frequently publicized public quarreling, and Doherty being arrested for breaking into and burgling Barât’s flat. The band was still able to produce two commercially and critically successful albums (2002’s Up the Bracket and 2004’s The Libertines), but not without profoundly straining their relationship in the process. But everything in Libertines HQ seems peachy for now—at least if Barât’s Instagram is to be believed. The lads will be doing a short European festival tour in the coming months.

Interview had the chance to catch up with the busy Renaissance man earlier this week, while he was in Paris shooting For This Is My Body and simultaneously preparing for Saturday’s gig.

DEVON IVIE: How did you get involved with For This Is My Body?

CARL BARÂT: The director had been looking for somebody for years to fit the part for the film. She went through quite a lot of casting, and I was cast as the lead. It was quite a journey.

IVIE: Can you tell me a little about the plot and what the character you’re playing is like? Not too much has been divulged to the public.

BARÂT: I’m playing a rock star, which doesn’t say much about my acting range. Not too distant from myself. It’s really beautifully shot, about a real-time acquaintance between a groupie and a rock star. It’s about a day and a night they spend together. Their conceptions about how we see pop stars and groupies, and what is the truth if there are any truths. It’s more interesting than that! It’s quite a tragedy, actually, how this rock star is nearing the end of his whips, really, with disastrous consequences.

IVIE: Do you know when it’s slated for release?

BARÂT: I can ask the producer, hold on! [asks the producer] May 2015.

IVIE: Have you always wanted to be in film? Did you have childhood aspirations, or is it a recent interest?

BARÂT: I’ve always loved it, always loved the idea of it. I use to study drama for about five minutes back in the day [at Brunel University]. But yeah, it’s always been an interest. I wanted to try it; it’s another form of expression and artistry.

IVIE: What are your favorite films?

BARÂT: Well, I love films. That and music are my favorite pastime. Everything from Charlie Chaplin to Steven Spielberg to the Coen Brothers, I love them.

IVIE: What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

BARÂT: The Lego Movie. [laughs] I saw it with my son.

IVIE: I have to see that! All of my friends have been telling me to watch it, and they’re all in their early 20s. So it must be good.

BARÂT: It’s good fun, especially if you’ve got a child.

IVIE: Turning away from your film, this past weekend you had two gigs with the Libertines at the Glasgow Barrowlands. How was it like being back on stage after so long? How did you feel?

BARÂT: Inexplicable. It’s great to just go back with the Libertines, a band that’s bigger than some of its perch. When it all comes together, it’s just like nothing else.

IVIE: Are you excited for the coming weekend at Hyde Park?

BARÂT: I’m terrified. [laughs] But it’s how it goes.

IVIE: What made you decide to choose Hyde Park as your Libertines reunion gig? I’ve sure you had a lot of great offers in the past, and will have a lot of equally lucrative offers in the future.

BARÂT: The words “Hyde Park” and “summer” go together rather well. I think it sort of felt right when it came up. I think we thought collectively as a band that after years of agony, that maybe it’s about time we had it. Before it disappears or the wheels come off, before we really dissolve in the sun. It’s Hyde Park, you know? One of the good ones. And then ever since we got back together it wasn’t as pressured since our last reunion. We actually all, you know, changed since we first started. It’s a great thing.

IVIE: How have the rehearsals been? Has it been casual or are you all rehearsing hard?

BARÂT: Not really hard rehearsals, if I’m honest. But there’s been immense improvement from the second night at Glasgow. The first one was still great as well, but I’d say the audience helped a bit in the first one. The second one I really think we reached our stride.

IVIE: And you guys are doing festivals for a bit afterwards.

BARÂT: Yeah, we got a few bits coming up. The festival scenery. Pulling back into the groove, which is great. It’s looking that way!

IVIE: Will we be hearing any new Libertines songs at all?

BARÂT: Possibly. I don’t think Hyde Park would be the right place for new songs, because we’ll be under such scrutiny. I think we’ll play some old ones that were never released. That sounds more likely.

IVIE: Do you think sometime soon a third album will come out, or are you all kind of keeping it more on the casual side, having some fun touring, regrouping?

BARÂT: We’ll have to get it right, we would need to get some mileage under our belts. See how we get on together, listen to some music together, watch some films together, have some adventures, and then see where we’re at. We’re not going to do something right now for the sake of it, but I’m sure we’ll be writing anyway. I don’t like to make plans for the Libertines because they invariably go awry.

IVIE: So you also have a new band, The Jackals. First of all, how did you settle on the name?

BARÂT: I think it’s rather a noble-ish, funky animal. You get hyenas, which have funk, but I tell you, jackals have something. I think we considered everything in the language. Every word in the language on paper. And we spent hours cutting it down from hundreds of names. [laughs] Just a great name, really.

IVIE: You chose to employ social-media and Facebook to recruit your band members. What prompted you to do this, especially being a musician of your stature? That’s pretty unconventional.

BARÂT: If I put the word out that I’m looking to put a band together, what I’m really going to get are friend’s boyfriends or people I half know that want to be in a band. I wanted to try something new and start absolutely anew—it’ll all be about the band and not about previous relationships. I wanted to start fresh. It made sense, really. It’s so odd what you get sometimes—you just type something into your phone and it gets seen by tens of thousands of people. But the response has been quite overwhelming. And quite a lot of work. I got over a thousand applicants and then I picked out 50 feasible ones. And then from that down to 30 after auditions. It was quite hard as well, it was like The X Factor. [laughs] I found the correct people through earnest, hard work, and the fact they are very passionate, which was the main criteria.

IVIE: Did you get any just crazy, bonkers people that applied that made you laugh?

BARÂT: Oh yeah, there were a lot of nutters. Some nice people messaged me about how they couldn’t really play anything but they still wanted to participate. But a lot of nutters.

IVIE: Would you recommend well-known solo artists or bands trying to form a band to use this social media method?

BARÂT: Yeah, it’s got the reach. If you got a lot of people, then it’s going to work. If you only have 30 friends you’re going to have nothing, really. I think I was in a lucky position to make that work.

IVIE: When is your album with the Jackals scheduled to come out?

BARÂT: It’s going to be next year. It’s been pushed back with the Libertines back into my life without really any warning. But it is a great thing as well; I’m going to be a busy boy, that’s for sure.

IVIE: The music you’ll be making with the Jackals, how would you describe the sound?

BARÂT: I say it’s different, a bit more funky. It’s hard to say too much as our identity as a band becomes more apparent with time, but we do have a bit more recording to do. The boys have got say in it, as well. It is looking different.

IVIE: You have served as a big influence to a countless number of musicians. I’m curious as to whom you’re listening to right now?

BARÂT: I still listen to the classics. I just got a Zombies record actually; a fan at the Libertines gig gave me it. I do love Nick Cave— I just got into Nick Cave, I love his stuff. He’s consistently excellent. Just old bands, really.

IVIE: Nick Cave is great. Well, thank you so much, Carl, it was a real pleasure talking to you. Good luck with the rest of shooting today and kick some major ass this weekend.

BARÂT: I’ll do my very best, thank you so much. Lovely talking to you.

THE LIBERTINES WILL PLAY HYDE PARK THIS SATURDAY, JULY 5.