Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook reveal how they keep their sound fresh and why the little things in life are important
With a name redolent of patchouli-infused hippy gatherings, it's appropriate that Free Love are such an excellent festival band, injecting good vibes, community spirit, spontaneous performance and electro-pop pulses wherever they go.
So far this summer, the Glasgow duo of Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook have discovered their spiritual home at the Glastonbury Festival – 'five days of paradise,' says Rodden. 'So many people there in a unified spirit,' notes Cook. And, in contrast, they brought a punky taste of Eiggstinction Rebellion to the Howlin' Fling festival on Eigg.
But they are also veterans of their own epic happenings such as the Full Ashram Sleep Garden, a bring-your-own-plant 12-hour son-et-lumière meditation / sleepover featuring a 'continuous and collaborative sonic projection' from a variety of kindred artists, rounded off with a vegan breakfast. 'We asked people not to applaud because we wanted the audience to be able to zone out,' says Rodden. 'People brought things to sleep in; some meditated, some stayed up all night, some slept. It really embodied a lot of the reasons that we do this: being able to connect with people and finding new communities.'
The duo would like to revisit the Sleep Garden concept to mark the autumn release of their latest mini-album, Extreme Dance Anthems, and, while their forthcoming Fringe appearance may not spool out over quite that length of time, there will be fluid festival spirit aplenty when they play Summerhall. And there's a strong possibility that the ever-curious Rodden will roam freely around the room in search of mischief.
'With electronic music, it can be quite tempting to have it all polished on a computer file, and it's ready to press play and you know it's gonna go exactly as you planned it,' says Rodden. 'We deliberately play with instruments that are falling apart, and it's exciting having that risk there while we perform and not just have a polished piece that we act out each night. It's a part of the band that I enjoy more than anything else because I can express myself really freely.'
'It's almost like thrill-seeking,' says Cook. 'Our ambition for this project was always to be free-flowing. It's all too easy for things to get boring so we've always changed things up.' Although Rodden and Cook have been together as a couple for more than a decade, they only started playing music together five years ago as Happy Meals before 'transitioning' to Free Love partly to avoid falling foul of a certain international fast food brand.
Across both incarnations, they've released a number of singles and mini-albums of diverse, irresistible psychedelia-tinged synth pop with lyrics sung silkily in French and English by language teacher Rodden. 'I quite enjoy writing whimsically and I find that works better in French than it does in English,' she says. 'It's whatever feels good when I'm singing it and how it feels coming off my tongue.'
But while Free Love will willingly go with the spontaneous flow, especially in performance, they also pay attention to detail, putting in the hours and effort to make each record release special, whether that be handmade marbled sleeves or individually gold-stamped editions. 'There's a lot of happiness and meaning in life in looking at the small things,' says Cook. 'We're constantly being bombarded with the big things in life. We've not evolved to be dealing with all these mass of issues, and these international crises on our mind all the time. When we try to do that we very quickly forget about the small details, so we try to encompass that a bit in our practice and hopefully it shows through.'