The Libertines talk headlining Kendal Calling 2018, their ‘Albion Rooms’ hotel and their next album

With The Libertines leading the names on the line-up for Kendal Calling 2018, we caught up with the band to discuss their summer plans, progress on their new hotel and what to expect from their next album. Check out our interview with drummer Gary Powell below.

Joining The Libertines in headlining Kendal Calling 2018 will be Catfish & The Bottlemen and Run DMC. Also on the bill are the likes of Hacienda Classical, James, Ocean Colour Scene, Shed Seven, The Sherlocks, White Lies, Idris Elba, Fun Lovin’ Criminal, Declan McKenna, Marmozets, Tom Grennan, Pale Waves, Peter Hook & The Light, Yonaka and many more.

“We really want to play these shows,” Powell told NME. “Me and Carl played Kendal Calling with Dirty Pretty Things way back in 2005 or 2006. I remember someone ran through the festival and called me Mark Morrison, which I wasn’t too pleased about because he’s kind of butters, but it would be good to go back to an English homegrown festival. It’s weathered the storm and is going strong. Plus it’s a great line-up this year. Who needs Glastonbury?”

Kendal Calling takes place at Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District from July 26-29. Check out the full line-up and ticket details here.

Hello Gary. What are you up to at the moment?

“I’m writing music for a lingerie campaign. I’m also writing for a Fred Perry campaign too. Other than that, I’m sorting out the studio spec for Albion Rooms and just generally living. It’s been very busy. Just because we aren’t out on the road and playing shows with The Libertines, there’s never really been such a thing as downtime. There’s always something happening. Always something else.

“It’s not all about us being in the public eye. A lot of it it’s just us getting things done musically which people don’t really know about. It furthers the chances of us having a longer career in music. I love being in The Libertines, but I love the fact that it’s afforded me the ability to do other things. That puts me in a better frame of mind to come back to The Libertines, and hopefully that’s the same for the other guys as well.”

Has the dynamic changed from being apart for so long to now working so intensely together?

“To a degree yes, but to a degree no. It was said that the age you are when you get signed is the age you’ll remain throughout your time in the band. We still cut the same jokes we made 20 years ago. We still take the mick out of each other and argue about the same things we would have done 20 years ago. That is our dynamic and level of comfort. Once we look at each other, we know there’s some kind of sanity in the way that we approach each other.

“In terms of life in general, we’re all a little older and all have kids. A lot has happened to us and it would be churlish of me to say we haven’t changed at all. I’ve definitely mellowed, Carl has mellowed, even Peter has mellowed to a degree. I’d go as far to say that John is possibly the most Danish person in the world who doesn’t come from Denmark. He’s the definition of mellow.”

How’s progress on the new album going?

“Peter is constantly writing, that’s what he does. He’s been writing some poetry with a girl in Margate and recording with some other people down there. I’ve been writing some stuff. John sent some stuff over a couple of weeks ago that was great too. Carl is always proactive regarding everything he does. There’s a lot of stuff going on, we just need to finally get back together, so we can actually figure out what direction we’re going in. It shouldn’t be that difficult, because we approach everything from the point of view of The Libertines. We just need to make sure we push everything in that direction.

“The good thing about the hiatus is that we have mellowed and we’re able to listen to each other and take constructive criticism without jumping down each other’s throats. If something is shit, we can say that without it being taken too badly. If your friends can’t tell you that, then who can? It should be an interesting dichotomy to actually put all of this doohickey together.”

So you haven’t jammed anything yet? You can’t tell us what it will sound like?

“Not yet, no. Pete and Carl have got together and they’ve been writing together. But John is in Denmark and I’ve been here writing and trying to run a record label. With us, it’s about the quality. It should be pretty easy for us to have a few drinkies, put it together and Bob’s your uncle.”

Gary Powell with The Libertines

Gary Powell with The Libertines

Have you had any discussions about where you want to take things to make this next album distinctly different from ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’?

“Briefly. I suggested that we make it a little bit more personal, and make it a cross between a romantic and realistic dynamic. So we’d look at it from the here and now and make it slightly more heartfelt and slightly less whimsical. There have been so many things going on. On the last album we had a song called ‘Heart Of The Matter’, and nobody actually got to the heart of the matter of what was actually going on with us at that time. I think now would be a great time for us to be somewhat retrospective and look from through all that we’ve gone through. We should be able to look each other in the eye with honesty and construct something from the heart.

“I also think it would be interesting to strip things down a bit and make them maybe a little less rumbustious than the time before. Maybe have the tempos a little faster than they might have been. That would be one of my major bugbears with the last album. The tempos and the way that things felt was a little predictable. It didn’t actually grab you by the balls and make you go ‘woah’. Everything sounded great and I loved the lyrics but there was nothing that really grabbed me straight by the balls. I wanted to feel that ‘woah, I wasn’t expecting that, you really kicked me in the nuts’. There was nothing that did that and it would be great if we could find a new approach to that: more realistic, more romantic and more dynamic.”

And what role will your Margate hotel and studio The Albion Rooms play in all of this?

“It’s going to be extremely instrumental. It’s going to be like harping back to the good old days of Pete and Carl’s Albion Rooms in Bethnal Green. They’d invite people round, they’d just hang out, it was a central spot and a mecca for their own creative endeavours and the opening up of other people’s ears to what was actually going on with them.

“Obviously we can’t do that now because Pete is more in the public eye than he was so there would be a press interest if he invited people to his own gaff. It would create a fan frenzy. Plus we’ve all got families. There is no way that a bunch of people are coming round my gaff after midnight with beers and cigarettes for a bit of a shindig. That just ain’t happening, those days are gone. But we would like to have a place where we can expose ourselves and be open and honest with the people around us.

“I remember back in the day, laughing when the police turned up and people getting all ancy and scared and wanting to run. It was just hilarious. It would be great to reinvestigate that same communal spirit and put it down into some kind of recording. Who knows?”

The Libertines back in the day

The Libertines back in the day

So it will be a very immersive thing for you and the fans?

“Yes, and everybody else. It’s not just about us and people from the world of The Libertines. It’s about people with an open mind and an inquisitive stance. There will be people coming down who might not have ever been interested in The Libertines coming down and having a quick looksie. They could come and hate everything we do and everything we stand for, but at least they’ve come to get some kind of sense of that for themselves rather than listening to the rhetoric of other people and making their own assumptions. This is an open canvas for people to come and draw their own conclusions.”

What can you tell us about the general set up of the building?

“There will be the studio, a bar, the hotel that everyone can come down to. It will be a creative hub for everyone to come down to, we want to do things for the youth of the area for want to get involved creatively. It will be a residential studio for bands to come down and record. Or, if you just want to come down for a good old shindig for a couple of nights, you can do that too. There’s an open door policy to do what you want to do, as long as we think it’s cool. If it’s not cool, you ain’t coming in.”

And it’s here forever?

“Yes, it’s here to stay. This isn’t like a pop-up restaurant. We’ve been working hard on this, Carl especially. Carl has been working arduously, day in day out, to ensure that surveyors and agents and studio builders have been booked. Carl is the engine. He wanted to do something so we could all go back to the good old days where we could be creative and be together.”

When do you think it will open?

“I think it will be the beginning of next year. We need to record and there’s so much other stuff that needs doing that I’d say early next year for when the actual hotel is up and running. But I’ve been wrong before and I daresay I’ll be wrong again.”

  • Check back soon at NME for more of our chat with The Libertines