An Interview with Pete Doherty & Carl Barât from The Libertines

An Interview with Pete Doherty & Carl Barât from The Libertines

The Libertines release their fourth studio album entitled, All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade on 29th March 2024. The release marks the band’s first new album in nine years.

On All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade, the quartet of unlikely lads have gathered from their new-found homes in France, Denmark, Margate and London to solder a strongest-ever internal bond, and scale new creative heights resulting in the best music of their extraordinary career so far. The album – named as a nod to their hotel’s street address and their enduring love of Erich Maria Remarque’s landmark anti-war novel – is an unequivocal triumph.

The Libertines are Peter Doherty, Carl Barât, John Hassall and Gary Powell. The band have released three albums: Up The Bracket (2002); The Libertines (2004); and Anthems For Doomed Youth (2015).

Here, Pete Doherty and Carl Barât talk to Carl Marsh…

Opening the album, ‘Run Run Run’ is quite a statement track. At what point in the writing process did it appear?
Pete Doherty: I can remember that moment, we were in the studio at Margate and we realised pretty quickly that we didn’t have enough stuff that we’d written together. So then we had to start pulling out songs that we’d written for our side projects as Carl had asked me if I had any, I said, “Yeah, I’ve got a couple”, I asked him the same thing, and he said he’d also got a couple. So he played me his, and I played him mine, and ‘Run Run Run’ was either one of the ones that “he” was saving or “I” was saving. And he added a couple of lines to it! [Laughter]
Carl Barât: Oiiiii, you cheeky sod! But yeah, I was playing that on the road with my other solo band, but we changed it all up.
Pete: As soon as I heard it, I thought I wasn’t so sure about this as he’d played it to me acoustically, and I feel the lyrics are some of the best that he’s ever written. Yet, he didn’t get it over as he mumbled it. And then… I heard a demo of it and I could listen to all the lyrics, and it was a bit more upbeat, and I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why didn’t you play it to me like this? Why did you mumble it?” It was as if he didn’t want me to use it.
Carl: No, it wasn’t like that. It was literally like, “Go on. Turn out your pockets. What have you got? I know you’ve got songs.

So, the album is a combination of songs already in hand, amongst new ones added once you’ve all got to the recording studio?
I think we were writing for the album long before we were officially writing for the album. As we gravitated together more in our day-to-day lives, the album became a possibility and a reality. At that point, everything we were writing started to be geared subconsciously towards the record. We went to Jamaica and did a bit of writing and we got some beauties out there. I mean, if you were to tot up the value for writing for those particular lines in the songs, you might have struggled to get them through management, but as it happened, it was necessary, spiritually, for us to go out there and do our thing.
Pete: It’s very important. It [the new album] wouldn’t have happened if we’d done anything less. I think these songs are better than anything anyone else is writing at the moment. The ‘Mars To Liverpool’ song by Liam [Gallagher] & John Squire sounds all right. Would you say the same thing, Carl?
Carl: You can’t say it’s better than what anyone is writing unless you know what everyone’s writing. Nobody says that anymore.
Pete: So, I’m not allowed to say what I believe? It’s what I believe.
Carl: I love that you believe that, but that becomes a headline really quickly, and then it just becomes very crass, and people get pissed off.
Pete: There could be an argument in the papers where they’d say: “Pete’s got a big head; he thinks the songs are the best in the world. And Carl pleads modesty or something. The juries out!”
Carl: – You can say that if you like.

An Interview with Pete Doherty & Carl Barât from The Libertines

“We needed to go and be together again”

By going to Jamaica, it sounds like it was more about focusing on re-gelling that songwriting creativity as a pair?
Pete: I don’t think so. I feel we’re both pretty creative anyway. We could just sit around and be creative all day, every day, really quickly, making soundscapes, you know, even comedy scripts. Still, when it comes to actually writing and crafting songs that are going to creep into people’s ears, brains, hearts, and souls, and get right down to the f**king toenails, then yeah, we did have to focus on that. It’s this endless quest to see if we could write the perfect pop song. We’ve never been stationary, we know that some people love our songs but still feel like we have yet to get the recognition we deserve.
Carl: We needed to go and be together again without any distractions, be it the people we work with or people just hanging around.
Pete: We went to the ‘Fountain of Youth’.
Carl: We did. It didn’t work, did it? I came back looking older!

Was there any pressure from the label to get this album out on time?
Pete: There was no pressure from the label, but there was a little bit of pressure from ourselves.
Carl: I think we all want this album to be the best it can be. I want it to be great. And you’ll do everything you can to give it the birth into this world it deserves.

“I feel prouder of this record than I have done with anything we’ve done yet”

Is this new album the one you’re most proud of seeing as you’re all – as Carl told the NME “You’re facing in the same direction”
Carl: Right now, I feel as proud as I did… I think I was too insecure to be proud of the first record [Up the Bracket – 2002], but personally, I feel prouder of this record than I have done with anything we’ve done yet.

Pete, would you say you’re most proud of this new one?
Pete: First of all, I think these new songs have got a hell of a lot of competition. They’ve got to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with ‘Death On The Stairs’ and ‘Time for Heroes’ and all these songs, even though they are decades old, they still give the old “frissons” [French for chills], do you know what I mean? We wrote them all in a studio, recorded them live and then went away for months. Now we’ve come back playing them, and the fact that they are each standing their ground and we’re able to do them justice would suggest that, yeah, I am really proud of it. I think this is the first time we actually sat and listened to the recording together in a car. We did it the other day, and I was thinking how long it would take for one of us to go: “Oh, I didn’t like that bit. I don’t like this bit.” But it didn’t happen, which is unusual. We listened to it all the way through and then wanted to hear it all again. I think that speaks louder than the question itself.


All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade will be available on CD, deluxe CD, 12” vinyl in limited edition coloured variants, deluxe double vinyl cassette and digital download
Images: Ed Cooke

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