A solo hobo
Former libertines band member and writer carl barat 'has to keep moving' artistically, he tells chris Wasser
Universally recognised alongside Pete Doherty as the co-front man of The Libertines (equally one of the most over-rated yet oddly influential outfits to ever come out of Britain) 32-year-old Carl likes to try out new things: shake matters up a bit; set out on new adventures of his own. "I don't do well in a comfort zone, really," he tells me, "so I've got to keep challenging myself. Sometimes, I'd rather that wasn't the case, but it just seems to be."
After The Libertines (who split in 2004) came Dirty Pretty Things: a somewhat similar outfit yet -- dare I say it -- altogether more fun than any featuring Doherty.
Two albums is all they put out, before Carl and the lads called it quits. Since then he's done a bit of acting, got back together with The Libertines, recorded a solo album, and he's just had his first book published.
Threepenny Memoir: The Lives of a Libertine ("a memoir as opposed to my memoirs") recently hit the shelves, but it's Barat's self-titled debut solo release that we're here to talk about. And whaddaya know, it's a damn fine record, too.
"I was just trying new things --it was quite a sort-of 'tackling the self' kind of record, hence the sort of self-portrait [cover] picture," says Barat of his new album (which, incidentally, also features a track co-written in Dublin with The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon).
"I felt loads of freedom, for the first time ever, really. I mean, it was quite nerve-wracking at the same time 'cause, you know, you're accountable when you do your solo record, aren't you? If it's good or bad. But I'm pleased with it, really."
Carl makes for an odd interviewee; a mannerly yet mumbling musician whose short answers can get a little annoying at times. Maybe he's just tired of talking about himself. Quiz him about his acting career (which, so far, includes some theatre work and a film) and you'll find that, well, it isn't really a career at all. Or, at least, that's what he says. "It seems to come from the same place of expression as doing music for me, really, or writing," he says. "It's just a slightly different outlet for the same thing. Maybe one day I'll do a film, if something cool comes up, but it's not like an ambition."
"It's a whole different discipline," he continues, "it's like, I've learned to play guitar, but I've not really learned to act, so it's relying on a whole different thing. And I think there's a lot of learning there to do."
As for The Libertines, the band recently reformed for a pair of well-received sets at this year's Reading and Leeds Festivals. Apparently, they couldn't have gone any better. "It was like not a day had passed in many ways", says Carl, "I was nervous . . . but it worked."
And what was it, I wonder, that finally sealed the deal this time around?
"Well, I was always getting asked," Barat replies, "and then when I felt stronger as an individual myself, and a bit more grown up -- which I finally did after all these years -- I thought it was possible again, and I felt like everyone else was as well and, you know, just let the past be the past," he continues, chuckling away at the idea that his new book may just bring some old issues to light again.
But is there a future for The Libertines? "It's done for now, and then maybe in 'x amount' of time, we'll decide to do something else . . . never say never."