Band of the Day

2015.07.24

Carl Barat and The Jackals

Storming their way through a rock & roll battlefield to glorious victory
Tears choose a path and the drops spell out your name, I declare to you now I am done.
lyrics from Let It Rain

If there's something a little different-sounding about 'Glory Days', the debut single from Carl Barât & The Jackals, then it's all down to situation and circumstance. All magnificence and power, the track is perhaps the most extravagant, full-on rock song that Carl has ever made – equal parts glam, Britpop and late-90s LA punk (the good kind: Rocket From The Crypt, Queens Of The Stone Age).

"What I wanted to do with this album was to throw myself into the unknown," he declares boldly, before describing six-weeks solid of 12-hour sessions in a tiny studio a million miles away from his spiritual home of London. Carl: "I found myself in this place called Van Nuys, which is quite a lawless part of Los Angeles that hasn’t moved on since about 1974. It's all independent shops and old-time bars and is quite a bolthole of old Americana."

Turns out there were three great things about the location: 1) It's near the valley, so there are no noise restrictions. 2) Everybody works around the clock. 3) It's pornography central." I'm not kidding," Carl laughs about that last point. "Opposite our place was this medical facility that was just full of porn stars going in to get their STD results back. So I'd be outside the studio having a quick smoke and they'd all be sat opposite me on the curb, looking really haggard and rancid! We'd be staring each other out. The whole thing was a little weird, really, a bit like a Louis Theroux documentary."

There are several reasons why Carl found himself in such an odd place. Firstly, and most importantly: the guitar. Surprisingly, Carl had fallen out of love with the instrument in a big way since finishing his self-titled solo album in 2010. "If you listen," he says, "there's barely any guitar on that entire record. I'd hung it up, locked it away. It was gone and I didn’t miss it one bit. But this time, I totally rediscovered it and I became completely obsessed with it again, in a way I hadn't done since I was a kid. I think I'd gotten so far away from playing that it made it all seem fresh – it gave me a drive and a desire to make something a little different sounding, which is why I went on this sort of voyage with these people I didn't really know before."

Secondly, there was Joby Ford, the guitarist in LA's favourite hardcore punk sons The Bronx. As a producer, Joby has made a name for himself as the man to go to in the City of Angels if you're into vintage recording equipment and want to hook up with someone who thrives on intense, weird situations (which is probably why his studio is situated where it is). He's previously worked his magic on records by everybody from Willis Earl Beal to Cerebral Ballzy, but working with Carl – one of rock'n'roll's most volatile, intriguing figures for over a decade now - was still something of a gamble.

"I was there in Joby's studio every day for six weeks. I got drunk twice, that was it," says Carl. "And then every other day I worked 12 hours straight, just me and Joby. You've got to put this in context, because it's not how people usually make records – and certainly not me. Basically, I'd not even met Joby before, so I went out to LA, to meet up with a total stranger, in a really beige neighbourhood, who then assembled some other strange guys, and we got really, really lucky, I guess, as we totally hit it off."

Among the motley crew assembled to lend a hand on the record were some of America's finest working musicians - including legendary Beastie Boys percussionist Alfredo Ortiz, whose brooding, cohesive work you can hear on 'Glory Days'.

"He was a perfect addition to the moment. This massive Mexican fella who insisted I call him Fredo all the time. He was really into it, and he just turned up with this big bag of all his percussion stuff and totally nailed it. We got the drummer in from My Chemical Romance too, who was just a demon powerhouse, as I'm sure you can imagine. So it was a real change for me – but it worked. And all I'm saying now is that Jay Bone has got a lot to live up to it! But I know he will."

Ah yes, Jay Bone. There's another aspect to this story we haven't yet come to. The Jackals, you'll have no doubt noticed from the title on this page, are very much a part of this tale. "I actually started making this record solo, but the long and short of it is I just didn’t like my own company," says Carl, adding that he soon realised that he wanted to get a new gang together. "That's where The Jackals came from. This all came about before The Libertines had reformed, but even so it doesn't make the slightest difference to me, because what I'm doing now wouldn't even fit into that world, as you'll hear. It's two very different beasts." Rather than simply call up some old mates to recruit for The Jackals, Carl decided to do things differently, and posted a few ads online asking if there were any likeminded souls out there who wanted to try their luck at playing with him. The response was overwhelming, with thousands of people replying and the news spreading like wildfire around the web.

A few weeks later, Carl found himself sitting through several days of auditions at legendary London watering hole the Amersham Arms, looking for that special glint in the eye of the person on stage in front of him. After a considerable amount of time, he found it - settling on a trio of seasoned musicians who seemed to fit the bill.

"I'm not a narcissistic front person – I'm not someone who goes for all the swinging a microphone around stuff, which is why I did this and got the band I did," he explains. "Again, I was lucky, because I found a bunch of people who are really into it, and we genuinely fit together as a gang, which is what this whole thing is about – unity, and good times."

Alongside the aforementioned Jay Bone, who drums and spends his spare time living on a houseboat floating along London's canals, is guitarist Billy Tessio ("he's a furious player, which is something I've always admired") and Brighton-dwelling bassist Adam Claxton. The newly-formed fourpiece gelled together quickly and have been rehearsing hard in Carl's Wardour Street base for months now, as well as over-dubbing on the album, writing some new music together and – no joke – doing a little bit of acting too.

"Basically, I got the lead in this French art house film about music," Carl says. "So I did the honourable thing and got the boys involved for a few cameos!" Set for release next May, ‘For This Is My Body,’ is just another string to Carl's ever expanding bow (he's also recently become a father for the second time). Most importantly for his fans, he says he's happier with the music he's making in 2014 than he's ever been before, and more confident with it too.

"What I've realised is that this is how I like it. When you look at how I spent the last decade, I was either so consumed with intense depression or just so hung-over that I didn't really feel a lot. But now, there aren't enough hours in the day, really – and the difference is that I'm only doing things that I know are good for me."

With that in mind, perhaps everybody should take a leap into the unknown every once in a while...