The Libertines have begun planning a new album, Loaded can reveal – and they hope to return to Thailand to make it.
2015 saw the release of The Libertines’ third album Anthems For Doomed Youth, their first since reuniting the previous year to headline Hyde Park.
Now, drummer Gary Powell says that the band fully intend to make another new record.
Powell told Loaded: “We’ve been talking about the possibility of doing further recordings. Everyone is in a creative space, and we’re all chomping at the bit to get back into the studio.”
Anthems For Doomed Youth was recorded with Ed Sheeran’s producer Jake Gosling in Thailand, where Pete Doherty was completing his most successful course of rehab. Powell says the band would welcome revisiting the country to record again.
“We’d especially like to get back to Thailand,” says Powell. “That was a very, very nice place to record.”
“We’re in the perfect place to mess around with our creativity”
Currently, Doherty is making a new solo album, Powell is running his record label 25 Hour Convenience Store, Carl Barat is making a second album with his other band The Jackals and bassist John Hassall is working with his new group The April Rainers.
But Powell said: “We’re moving forward as a band. Anthems For Doomed Youth moved things along and now we’re in the perfect place to mess around with our creativity.”
The drummer compared their future plans to The Beatles, explaining: “We don’t want to sound like we’re rehashing The Libertines of 2003. We’re all Beatles fans, and The Beatles were the most prolific, forward-thinking band of their era. If we love The Beatles so much, how should we actually be sounding now? We have the opportunity to create something that stands the test of time, but we can only do that if we put ourselves out there creatively.”
The 46-year-old emphasised The Libertines are ready to play next month’s arena tour, having successfully overcome “a blip” when they cancelled two shows after Doherty suffered a panic attack during their tour in September.
“Morale in the band has been fantastic ever since,” Powell insists. “Pete’s meltdown was about the new album coming out and his sense of self-worth. That was understandable for all four of us, as we’re all creative. We all have egos – we wouldn’t make music if we didn’t.
“Pete’s mischief is a facade. He can just be himself with us, and he’s better off for it.”
“So for Pete to go through those doubts, the only thing going through our minds was worry for him.”
Having cancelled shows in London and September, the band met with Doherty at Templehof Airport in Berlin to resume touring.
“Pete was really apologetic and unsure how we’d react,”recalls Powell. “He told us about his state of mind, the doubts he was having, and the only thing we could think about was his wellbeing. It would have been really rubbish on our part if we’d just gone ‘Er, that’s great, do you think you’ll be able to play the show tonight?’”
Barat, Hassall and Powell believe they are only now starting to understand their fragile bandmate, having renewed their friendship shortly before their comeback show at Hyde Park.
Although The Libertines briefly reformed in 2010, the Hyde Park show led to their first full reunion since their self-titled second album was released in 2004. “None of us had really changed in the intervening years,” says Powell. “Carl is just as quick-witted, John just as considered, I’m still making a noise and Pete is just as mischievous and cunning.
“But Pete’s mischief is a façade. Anything he does in the name of mischief is done for dramatic effect, because there’s an audience there to engage with.
“Sometimes Pete can just be himself with us, and he’s better off for it when he can be. We all would have a better understanding of who Pete is if he’s more emotionally attached with who he’d like to be – as opposed to who he prefers to portray.”
Anthems For Doomed Youth was critically acclaimed and reached No 3, three months after The Libertines were a last-minute surprise addition to the main Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury where they played immediately before headliners Florence + The Machine.
It’s given the band the confidence that they can successfully complete next month’s arena shows, which will be their first full tour of enormodomes.
“Until this tour was booked, I thought Arenas was a Newcastle striker,” Powell laughs. “First time round, people told us that The Libertines were, at best, a mid-sized-venue band. It was told to us so often that we all believed it. So we had a lot of trepidation before we accepted the offer to do an arena tour.
“What helped us decide to do the tour was accepting that it’s rare for artists to get the opportunity to play to so many people. I can’t stand listening to bands who say ‘I’d be happy playing to myself in my bedroom.’ That’s so full of shit.
“We went to the local golf course to steal clubs, hit balls everywhere and smash things in parks.”
“We want to play to as many people as possible, so the question then is ‘How does that translate? How can we relate to bigger audiences?’ We’re still trying to figure out how to be an arena/stadium band so that we don’t just look like a bunch of T-shirts in the distance. But the key thing is, we’re the same guys we were before and we’ve been given an opportunity to be that on a larger scale. That’s all it is, no more no less.”
Although Powell is adamant the four members haven’t changed since 2004, he accepts their circumstances have. All four Libertines are now fathers, with all bar Doherty married or in long-term relationships. The drummer jokes: “I have a driveway now and I say hello to my neighbours.”
But past Libertines hits like Can’t Stand Me Now, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and even the recent single Gunga Din have referenced their troubled relationships, and Powell revealed the band’s sense of chaos returned shortly before their Hyde Park comeback.
He recalls: “When we tried to return in 2010, we were so much under the microscope that we didn’t have the chance to say to each other ‘Hi! How are you doing? What have you been up to?’ The last show in 2010 was meant to be the start of us getting back together again, but there didn’t seem any point because we hadn’t reconnected as people.
“So when Hyde Park was offered, we made sure that this time we did have time to get to know each other. We spent a month in Hamburg, supposedly to rehearse but it was more about hanging out. We went to the local golf course to steal clubs, hit balls everywhere, smash things in parks and just be the kids we were when we first met.”
Powell admits he was nervous about recording Anthems For Doomed Youth in Thailand, saying: “When I was told the album had to be recorded in four weeks, I said ‘That is just not long enough.’ We had literally no songs to go on other than demos which had only just started circulating, where the four people involved hadn’t had time to put their creative stamp on. And then to send us to Thailand? With our obvious problems? That just sounded crazy. But, luckily, none of those problems transpired at all.”
Speaking to Loaded from his home in North London, Powell explains that, ultimately, the third album was less important than becoming friends again.
He says: “If Anthems For Doomed Youth had been torn to pieces, at least we had our friendship back to hold us together. We’re going to continue to make music, and we’ll get it out there to as many people as possible. But first and foremost, this comeback was about us. It always has been. And it’s only now that we’re at the stage where we can think about everybody else.”
The Libertines’ new single You’re My Waterloo is out now. They tour in January. Full dates are here
Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn