Lewis and Suzi Cook have been expanding minds and filling dance floors with their psychedelic disco utopianism since 2014, firstly as Happy Meals, then changing to Free Love in 2018. As they prepared for the launch of their new album, Inside, and a Celtic Connections gig celebrating ten years of Lost Map records, they took some time to chat about music, magic, and the joy of connection.
Your music has always had that kind of spiritual, mystical side to it. I think that seems a lot more to the fore on Inside: there’s a real sense of searching.
Lewis: Definitely. There’s a lot of elements and themes of the records that are very much looking inwards; we wrote it during lockdown and when we were literally inside. But there’s definitely a tip of the cap to this idea and we’ve been talking about it a lot recently as well, about what we want to do as musicians: what we actually want to connect with?
Suzi: Why do we make music?
Lewis: Yeah. And I think that a lot of that is ineffable. Something that’s about the experience of music and art, and I think the only way to really talk about some of those things is through magic and things that we don’t talk about in our general day-to-day, because it’s outside of the cosmogony of our existence. But I feel myself when I make music, you get that opportunity to touch on that. I think that’s probably leaked over into the themes of the record, and the lyrics as well.
Chris: There’s a couple of lyrics that stood out to me: ‘in doing we become’ echoes over the end of the album. That’s a very Alan Watts-y kind of concept.
Suzi: That track [‘I Become’] in particular, it’s almost like a spiral because it spiralled back to the first music that we ever kind of made together. So it was that idea of ‘I become’ in the present tense, but you’re always becoming.
Lewis: The first lyrics in that song are the same as the first lyrics of our first ever piece of music we made together, which is also our first track on our first record, ‘Crystal Salutation’ when we were called Happy Meals.
Suzi: It was quite emotional, looking back as well as trying to look forward and at where you are right now.
Chris: Your last album was recorded on Eigg, with Johnny [Lynch, of Pictish Trail]?
Suzi: It was part of a series that Johnny ran with Lost Map called Visitations. It was a really beautiful experience. It’s that thing of no phone reception, no internet. You’re just kind of existing where you are. So we wrote a concept record about aliens because we were convinced that they were there, because it was so dark. It was like the blackest black you could see outside at night.
I think that experience has really made us realise that you need to get out of your space to find what it is that you need to find, to make music or to be creative. I think it’s a good thing to be able to coorie in and really go inwards and just be yourself, but a big part of the reason that we make music is to connect with people, whether that’s through live shows or collaboration.
Chris: A quick look over your discography and you see almost every name in Scottish music tucked away in there as a collaboration or in the studio. Is that an important part of how you work?
Lewis: A lot of what we do is also based on those interactions. Again, coming back to the idea of something which is real; that sort of ineffable joy, that fucking immediacy that you just want to be inside. And I’m not just talking about our music. I mean when you hear music you love and you just feel this otherness and there’s no real words; you just experience it or you don’t. And if you do, then you get to connect with that and that’s amazing. And then you get absolutely addicted to it and you want more and more and more.
Whether that’s hearing other people’s music, seeing their artwork, hanging out with other people, all the things that you can do with other people. And when you get excited about what other people are doing, it’s like, maybe we could do something together.
Whenever we’ve played live in the past, we’ve always had energy vessels, people who join us on stage. That’s been such a cool thing to do, because you get people that you know but also people we’ve never met before. It’s really nice to have that conversation through music with somebody in that moment and really channel that energy through them. It comes back to that question of why are we making music? This is why.
Suzi: It’s that connection.
Lewis: Yeah, community is a funny word because it almost implies there’s a beginning and an end to it, like a closed group. And the way that I’m most excited about things are these opportunities to invite somebody in who’s never done anything like this before. And that to me is as important as playing shows. Because again, you’re having that special connection.
Suzi: Maybe the spark gets bigger.
Free Love played Oran Mor on 5th of February 2023 as part of 10 Years of Lost Map
Inside is released 24th February 2023 on Lost Map Records
Main Image Credit: Marilena Vlachopoulou