Carl Barat is laughing out loud -- and it's a strange thing to witness. After all, last time Rolling Stone met up with Barat, he was not looking well.
Back then, backstage at Britain's Leeds festival in the summer of 2004, Barat was the co-frontman for former London buzz band the Libertines, and the job had him looking gaunt and tired. But mostly, he looked down. The Libertines had just ousted his partner in crime, Pete Doherty, from the band for the second -- and final -- time for refusing to kick a spiraling drug addiction. And Barat was stuck discussing his deteriorating relationship with his one-time best friend Doherty with yet another journalist.
But a year and a half later, Barat's in Austin, Texas, happily slumped on a couch beside Anthony Rossamando, the guitarist in his new, post-Libertines outfit Dirty Pretty Things. Rossamando also happens to be the Boston axeman who filled in when Doherty could no longer function. The two are cracking jokes, eager to finally talk about a project they feel has a future: Dirty Pretty Things' debut, Waterloo to Anywhere, due stateside this August.
"It comes from the ethos and way of life as the Libertines -- but it's also completely different," Barat says of the record's twelve cuts. "There's urgency, passion and romance." Rossamando adds, "I think it's kind of love lost, with a silver lining -- or trying to find the silver lining."
Dirty Pretty Things is the name of a night club Barat runs in London. When the Libertines called it quits just months after Leeds, the singer threw his energies into the event and deejaying. But although he was laying low, he couldn't keep himself from writing. Obviously, the new songs needed a band, so Barat phoned up Libertines drummer Gary Powell and Rossamando, and invited Didx Hammond to join the fray. "It started off with tunes that I had," says Barat, "but somewhere along the road it became pretty collaborative, and spontaneous."
With half an album's worth of material written, the band's manager packed them off to Los Angeles to work with producer Dave Sardy, who'd recently worked with Oasis. ("I don't know about producers," Barat shrugs.) By the end of a sunny summer in very un-English L.A., Barat was able to shake off the London ties that defined the Libertines and lay down a slew of tracks, including the songs "Gin and Milk," "The Gentry Cove," "Wondering," Bang Bang You're Dead," "Deadwood" and "You Fucking Love It."
Following a break for Christmas, the crew headed to snowy Glasgow, Scotland, to team with Tony Doogan (Belle and Sebastian) for Waterloo's other six cuts: "Doctors and Dealers," "The Enemy," "If You Love a Woman," "Last of the Small Town Playboys," "B.U.R.M.A." and "Blood Thirsty Bastards."
With the U.K. release of the album slated for May 8th, Barat says he finally feels ready to return to touring. Before heading to the U.S. for dates this August, he'll embark on a trek of his native England next month. Aside from a recent, unannounced gig in a London club last week, he explains, "We haven't played there for three years because of all the shit going on. We've been respectfully avoiding it -- and now it's time to come back as ourselves, without any baggage."
And while he can now get by without constant questioning about his former life -- and Doherty -- Barat is still living with the Libertines. "I'm a bit less sad," he says. "I'm not sure how close to happy that is."