‘Is this… right,’ Barat asks us, unveiling a fresh display of gungy, particularly pungent mucus that’s just been sneezed on to a tissue. We inform him that such a thick consistency and deep yellow colour is, in fact, not ‘right’.
But then, not all is hunky dory in The Libertines’ camp. Typically, the media has had a field-day of late with the London-based foursome, citing co-songwriter Peter Doherty’s current exile from the band down to a variety of issues, but no-one seemingly conclusive. Live-wise, performances have been completed with Barat taking over lead-vox and guitar, band-tech Nick fulfilling second-guitar, and the regular inclusion of bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell has remained in tow. In spite of encouraging remarks, Carl is openly sombre over the situation, frequently addressing his fondness for Doherty, and hopes for the future.
It’s the day after the band’s triumphant performance at Glastonbury. Yet, with Peter – part of the soul, spirit and major-input of the band – out of the equation, it can only be ‘triumphant’ to a lessened scale. After creating one of the most important British debuts of recent times – ‘Up The Bracket’ – and reinstalling energy and enthusiasm in the UK scene for thousands of youthful hopers, his absence comes as a worrying blow. In a random tent seized by rockfeedback and Barat, we spend fifteen very serious minutes contemplating all that’s presently abound.
# How was the set yesterday, from your perspective?
‘I had a miserable time, but I believe that the songs were conveyed with every truthful respect, and given everything that they deserved. So, that was good. And people seemed to connect to it. But, technically, it sounded f**king awful onstage; but c’est la vie, que sera sera…’
# And the sell-out tour leading up to this weekend?
‘It started out as a f**king battle, but we then started to win it. And it then goes up-hill and down-hill, really. People have realised what a lot of bollocks is around at the moment, and don’t seem too concerned in the soap-opera of it all. I haven’t got a clue what the media have been saying.’
# What about yourself performing more vocal-duties; how have you taken to fulfilling additional onstage roles?
‘It’s different in some ways, but it’s also the same in others... Whoever sings the songs, well, the songs are still the same, and the way they’re coming out...’
# How do Gary and John feel about the band’s current position?
‘They’re as fine as they can be; they’re really coming into their own. But it’s been a challenge for all of us. We’ve really had to fight in the face of adversity, and be strong throughout this. We’re all very capable. And we’re still sailing the ship.’
# When did you last speak to Peter?
‘It was about a week or so ago. We chatted for two hours. I was on a boat, near the White Cliffs of Dover, whilst he was in London. I told him he couldn’t come to Paris, and it was a pretty harsh, tough thing to do.’
# Was it left on a bitter note?
‘Not at all. It was left on a note of love and understanding, and that we’re still friends and stuff. For whatever happens in the future, we’ve both got ideas, we need to compromise.’
# Amidst the scenario, sessions were posted online of the so-called ‘Babyshambles’ sessions – that is to say, alleged demo-recordings for your new album…
‘To be honest, I didn’t want them online, but Peter put them up there. They’re shambolic, half-baked cakes from all over the years. It’s not even all new. Some of that stuff was written before I had even met Pete. It’s just stuff from live, and small recordings we had done.’
# And what mindset do you have to be in to feel inspired to write such material?
‘To write a song, you want to be as lucid as possible, where it’s natural and energising, the same way anything else is – via happiness, or drugs. A song could come to me now, for example, but the trouble is I’d, currently, probably forget it.’
# Current troubles aside, and assessing the positive aspects of the past 18 months, what has been most rewarding to you, personally?
‘Just people singing the words back, not much of a credible answer. But also people coming up after gigs and saying, ‘I started playing guitar because of what I heard of yours,’ or ‘I started reading,’ or, ‘I gained belief in something.’ That’s the best thing. And, fortunately, that’s happened a good few times now.’
# Do you wish more bands presently employed more of an open mind towards the likes of literature, poetry, and culture as yourselves?
‘I don’t see that much anymore, to be fair. I get bored watching bands after two minutes, anyway. I’m not really a band-watching type. The most exciting group I last heard, though, were The Bandits here, the other day.’
# One thing that seems to have kept the band tight prior to now were the excesses of secret, low-key shows, which helped the group form a rare intimacy and bond with your fans.
‘And you can’t do too much of anything like that. I don’t think about it – I just like playing music to people, and I want them to come along and have a listen, enjoy it. And if they do come, and they then do enjoy it, well, you’re laughing then, really. Obviously, if you milk that too much, then people may lose interest, but it’s good to do things like that to liven things up.’
# The way things stand, what are you most looking forward to?
(Pause) ‘I’m looking forward to writing, travelling. Maybe learning, discovering a bit… That’s it.’