It’s a mid-September afternoon, and the feeble rays of sunlight coming through the window don’t quite explain why Carl Barat is wearing shades. Even assuming he’s got a hangover, there’s another reason why Barat’s feeling a little vulnerable. In two days a press release will announce to the world that his band Dirty Pretty Things are no more. For the second time in four years, Carl Barat is on his own.
The split, he says, was “amicable”, a familiar music biz cliché, but in Barat’s case, a believable one. Especially since compared to the protracted break-down of his last band, anything short of a GBH charge could be considered amicable. The lukewarm reception of Dirty Pretty Things’ second album, ‘Romance At Short Notice’, released in June this year, might have hastened their split, though Barat says his reasons were more personal. “I just like the idea of not having to be anywhere. It’s so hard to write organically when there’s so much pressure and so many people involved, including other musicians and... I don’t know... I’m a bit old, to be honest, to be doing that now.”
“It’s so hard to write organically when there’s so much pressure and so many people involved, including other musicians.”
“Old” is only thirty (his birthday was also in June), but if bands are like marriages, twice-divorced Barat has an excuse to feel world-weary. And if bands are like marriages, his recent musical philandering might have been a sign of trouble at home. There were two one-night-only reunions with Doherty, and this year’s fling with Jon “The Reverend” McClure of Reverend And The Makers. Then, of course, there’s The Chavs - an indie supergroup cum drinking club featuring Jamie Klaxon, Tim Burgess, Andy Burrows and others. They’ve performed on and off since 2004, but never with such boyish gusto as they mustered for Channel 4’s Transmission this September - in matching Adam Ant outfits, no less. “The Chavs grew out of just being friends with Tim and wanting to play with your mates,” says Barat. “We’re both raging drinkers, so itinvented itself in a bit of a jokey way, but I think in the
future we’ll do something proper.”
Barat’s even been exploring the thespy ambitions he abandoned after dropping out of a drama course at Brunel University to form The Libertines. He’ll play 1950s star Gene Vincent in Telstar, the upcoming biopic of troubled producer Joe Meek, and a speed-cooking scientist in Function At The Junction, set in the heyday of Northern Soul. With his schedule opening up, the inconceivable is suddenly possible. “I could do anything now,” he says, eyes visibly widening, even behind the shades. “I don’t see why not. I might go to Jersey and do a month of theatre or something.”
Jersey’s resident theatre-lovers needn’t rush out to the box office just yet. Dirty Pretty Things plan to fulfil all their touring commitments and, Barat says, these last few gigs will be among the best they’ve ever played. “I intend to give them absolutely everything. I want us to be the best band touring at the time.” Barat always did have a talent for goodbyes, if the death throes of The Libertines are anything to go by. Doherty and Barat seemed to be poignantly falling apart for much longer than they were happily together. “Since I decided to split the band up, I’ve enjoyed it more,” he admits. “You want to give it everything. You want to sing every song like it’s the last time you’ll ever sing it, and you remember all of a sudden exactly what that song means and why you wrote it.”
There’s a difference though, between that ending and this one. In 2004 Barat was keen to rush into the soothing arms of a new band. This time around he’s ready to go it alone. “It still scares me to death, but I like the idea of being scared... With that safety [of being in a band] the music suffers. And I don’t want the music to suffer.”
“I could do anything now. I don’t see why not. I might go to Jersey and do a month of theatre or something.”
Check out our exclusive behind the scenes video from Carl's photo shoot in Issue 32 of Clash, out now.