Carl Barat interview: lightweights and heavy touring

Ahead of extensive touring both with The Libertines and his new project The Jackals, we talked to indie don Carl Barat about what he looks forward to most about touring and his relationship with Pete.

Lorna Gray

Last updated: 21st Jun 2017

Image: Carl Barat

Imagine headlining huge festvials and arena stages one night and playing small, intimate and sweaty venues the next. It could be a difficult transition for most musicians, but for indie legend Carl Barat. He says it's how he's always lived his life, and the constant flickering in between lifestyles keeps him grounded. 

Having co-fronted The Libertines, one of this generation's biggest indie names, Barat's secure spot on the music scene entitled him to create his own, fully curated side project of Carl Barat and The Jackals. After auditioning for members, the outfit was hand selected by Barat himself, allowing a development and unleashing of his own, heavier sound.

With a new record on the way, The Jackals hit the road, performing at a number of festivals including Camden Rocks and Liverpool Sound City. The band are also headlining their own shows, and come to Derby's The Venue to bring their brand of gritty indie rock.

We caught up with Barat, chatting about the differences between The Libertines and The Jackals, touring life, and property conveyance... 

You took applications to source your fellow Jackals' members, which is quite a traditional way of creating a band. As someone who must have a lot of musical peers, why was this?

Well, I don't like working with people I know, to be honest. It's not helpful for the hierarchy in a band let's say. I mean, I'm sounding a bit formal - you'll have to excuse me I've been just been watching a TV show that seems to have affected my manner of speech. People I know always want to bring their own thing into it and want it to be a shared project - which makes it a bit difficult to carry out my own visions as such. 

Is it important to you that this band was curated by picking the members yourself?

Only upon inception, really. I've had a few issues in the past with bands as I've started them out with acquaintances and things. It makes it easier for everyone to sort of be at one with themselves. Initially, I thought it was a bit like a body rejecting a kidney but now it all seemed to work out in time and now it feels as organic as a test tube baby. 

What made Adam, Billy and Jay stand out to you as suitable men for the jobs? 

I was looking for their personalities really, rather than their technical abilities and whatnot. I was looking for people who obviously could play, but also for people I'd be able to stand the test of time with, and go on the road with. Which indeed, we have spent a lot of time doing that in recent years. So, yeah, that was the main thing really.

I also had to make sure they could drink well - I've seen some lightweights in my time. At the end of the day, I had to make sure they had the credentials. 

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You mentioned that you didn't want members to bring their own influences to the Jackals project, but have any of the members brought in elements that have affected your sound?

Like I say, upon inception that's how it was, I just didn't want someone coming into the band and trying to change the sound into something like accordion funk. Having said that, now we write together and that, it's all pretty unanimous as well. It's not a dictatorship - every band has a hierarchy really.

Do you yourself have any influences for the Jackals that didn't necessarily influence your other outfits? 

Do you know what? To be fair, I just found that I needed an outlet for my slightly heavier sensibilities. So there's a lot more of that in this band. 

The Jackals' sound on the first album is a bit heavy, is this something we can expect from your upcoming album also?

Yeah, it's a bit more and a bit less. It's great to have a band I can do anything with as well. We've not got that traditional trajectory of trying to 'make it'. There's something fresh about this album, some of it's gotten harder, some of the songs aren't so hard. It makes no sense to have two bands the same, so I've got to use this output accordingly. 

You seem to have quite a close relationship with your fans, as you ask their opinions on social media, is this something important to you? 

Yeah, definitely. It's terribly important as an artist to feel that you're communicating with somebody and that somebody is understanding and receiving. It's not saying, "Would you like me if I did this" or, "Would you not like me if I did this", it's more about wanting to communicate the music - and my feelings as a writer - as opposed to just sort of spewing out whatever's in there. I want it to be understood. So that's probably why it's a bit heavier. It generally gets a bit deep. 

When you perform with the Libertines you sell out huge stadium shows and this upcoming tour with the Jackals is a lot more intimate, is it a weird transition for you at all? 

I've done this for so many years now, playing some pub's arsehole one minute and the next playing the O2 or something, and getting to sleep in a beautiful cabin on a double decker and then waking up in the smaller band with someone's armpit in my face - not forgetting the obscene farts. It's like a common theme really. I guess it's grounding. 

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Which do you prefer? 

I love them both really, I think without one I'd miss the other. It's how I've always lived my life, between sort of hunger and a banquet - not saying which is which, to be honest. A banquet to keep me sane and the hunger for the pocket, or vice versa. 

Are there any other ways in which performing with the Jackals' differs from performing with the Libertines?

Just there's a different chemistry really. I think with the Jackals to date, it has been more going out. With the Libertines there's a lot more nuance in our chemistry, obviously between Peter and I at the time - whatever we had going on was greatly highlighted. How the gigs play out, with the Jackals it's a bit more likely... I don't know, there's a bit more of a fight at those gigs. 

I guess it was a bit difficult to stay focused on the music when tabloids focused more on Pete? 

That's a bit of a bizarre one to navigate as well. I'd say that, though. If Pete and I had had a falling out people seemed to pick sides - which seemed a bit silly. I don't really know. 

How do the crowds differ? Are the fans as loyal as they are to the Libs? 

You do see a lot of the same faces at all the gigs. They are some fans who say, "I love what you do, I love the Libertines and I love the Jackals". You never know if they're just saying that because they're a novice, though. 

What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming Jackals dates? 

Just getting on the road, getting deep in and getting up North, getting to Glasgow, being with the boys. I love that tour life. Being at bars and meeting people who want it as much as you do, having it up. I love those nights and I'm looking forward to just doing that. Obviously, being a father as well now, it's an entirely different world.

How have you adapted to accommodate for your family life? 

I try not to tour for too long, I make sure I get back in one piece. It's kind of hard but my life is great, but I do get to miss the smell of a crowd.

Do you invite your family along to shows?

Yeah, sometimes! There's always a list of about 70 on the guestlist at the weekend, it can get to be a bit of a pain in the arse. I'd rather people came to support me in the week while I'm at home.

No, it's all good, I don't think that. I am grateful for those who do show up to support me. 

There's been a bit of rumour talk about the Libertines and the Jackals working closer together and even talk of you all living together, could you tell us a bit more about this?

Yeah! We're trying to get a little space together. Hotel by the sea, where we can have a studio and a bar and have everything so we have somewhere for all of our bands and our friends and artistic enterprises can get together and create things. A bit like a sort of Warhol-esque factory but British. That's the dream! Hopefully, step by step it seems to be getting closer.

We're sorting out some council planning permissions and those sort of things that'll help see the job through. It's a bit weird actually, it's all happening a bit fast. But, if you ever need any help with the conveyance of a property, you just let me know.

Carl Barat will be performing both as a part of his band Carl Barat and The Jackals and in The Libertines across a number of dates. 

You can grab Carl Barat tickets from the boxes below.  

Carl Barat and The Jackals - Derby, The Venue, Thursday 6th July

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 The Libertines - Tramlines Festival, Sheffield, Friday 21st - Sunday 23rd July 

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