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The Libertines Give Reunion Advice: ‘Don’t Get Back Together If It’s Not Very Good’

The reunited slop-pop VIPs advise SPIN on staying sober and remedying long-lost friendships

It’s not always easy to understand the recently reunited — and very scrambled-sounding — Pete Doherty and Carl Barât of the Libertines. But that’s reasonable: Along with their chowder-thick accents, the two men have known each other for so long (they founded the seminal Brit-rock band with bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell in 1997) that they literally complete — and often interrupt — each other’s sentences.

The thirtysomethings’ reconciliation is especially meaningful considering the band’s brief initial run — a seven-year lifespan that yielded only two albums, 2002’s star-making Up the Bracket and its 2004 self-titled sequel — as well as Doherty’s very publicized battle with heroin and crack addictions.

Though the singer-songwriter, who also plays in garage-rock outfit Babyshambles, struggled with substance abuse throughout the Libertines’ glory days in the early ’00s, the foursome’s update on ’70s punk recklessness and pints-in-the-pub affability (see: “Up the Bracket” and “Boys in the Band”) won them instant admirers in across-the-pond music mags like NME — who, along with their fanbase, looked to them as the U.K.’s answer to the Strokes’ brand of retro-rock revival.

After a handful of stints in rehab, Doherty is now officially in recovery and back with the Libertines for the first time since their brief onstage reunion at the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2010; and come September 11, they’ll release their third studio album, Anthems For a Doomed Youth, via Harvest Records.

In preparation for the long-awaited third record, Doherty and Barât offer SPIN some words of wisdom, which cover grappling with drug addiction, how to successfully reconcile with a long-lost friend and colleague, and why you don’t necessarily need school when you have the Internet. 

Communication Is Key
Doherty: We’ve probably spoken to each other more this morning than we did for months at a time when we were living together back in the [old] days. It wasn’t even a question of body language back then, either. You just snarl and you noticed right away. He’s got a great face for radio. Boosh!

Barât: We can have a bit of a pretty serious chat later, I can tell you. [Chuckles.] I think we’ve proven to each other as friends that when all that’s chipped away, all that was good and we really were meant to be.

No Need to Have Pissing Contests.
Doherty: It seems like for so long I was going out of my way to shock Carl and to prove to him that I could handle a certain type of life. And actually all I was doing was destroying the person that Carl liked me for.

Inspiration Needn’t Depend on E’s & Wizz.
Doherty: Your musicianship and your love of music isn’t connected to [drugs]. It’s something else. It’s nothing to do with it. You don’t need it. Your creative journey can be unconnected to that. And don’t let it dictate things to you. If you give it an inch, it will just take over completely. You think you’ve got this cute little puppy and anything can be a benefit to your life, but eventually it’s going to grow up into a f–king monster that’s got it’s claws into you properly and you can’t shake it off. It’s not a toy.

Barât: I don’t know if that’s entirely good advice. But then there’s a school of thought which is that is that addiction is a disease, which is in a person anyway. It’s genetic and it can be a latent trigger that causes it. It doesn’t necessarily need to coincide with any music aspirations. There’s no proof that [addiction] carries on from one generation to another, and you’re damned if you got it, and that’s that. Addiction is a thing that people have or don’t have. And if you do have it, it will manifest itself in all sorts of ways and be destructive.

College Isn’t for Everyone. 
Doherty: You’ve got to strike out on your own. Don’t be dominated by anyone. There’s public libraries there — you don’t need to f–king disrupt your education, especially now with the Internet and all that. The knowledge is there. You’ve just got to educate yourself.

Zero in on What You Want From Life. 
Doherty: Don’t believe for a moment that what you want in life is going to happen by itself. What is it that you want to do? You’d be amazed. You can achieve it yourself, and you don’t need to rely on that. If it’s not for you, just do whatever is necessary to achieve your path.

Absence Really Does Make the Heart Grow Fonder.
We found that not speaking to each other or seeing each other for seven years was really helpful. It actually became necessary to stay away from each other for our own good. It benefits the music.

Barât: Make a record, and don’t get back together if it’s not very good.