Optimo, Night School and Green Door on Free Love

We speak to three people who have helped shape Free Love's career from their formation through their days as Happy Meals to their reinvention as Free Love

Feature by Nadia Younes | 11 Nov 2019
  • Free Love

Samuel Smith, co-founder of The Green Door Studio, Glasgow

“The Green Door Studio was set up as an analogue and digital recording studio in 2008. Our aim was not just to provide conventional recording but an affordable space open to different ways of working and offering music production courses to the wider community.

Lewis and Suzi took part in one of the courses that was funded by Creative Scotland as part of the Youth Music Initiative, though Lewis also had been in recording with other projects, including the Cosmic Dead, and he's taught on our electronic music workshops. Happy Meals (now Free Love) formed during that process.

The courses are designed not necessarily to train sound engineers per se to give young people the confidence and language to communicate their ideas in a recording environment and a chance to try things out, experiment etc without the financial pressures were they just to hire recording time. The courses have seen numerous projects blossom, including former SAY finalists Golden Teacher and other groups such as Pussy Mothers (Optimo Music), Whilst (Optimo Music) and Free Love.”

Michael Kasparis, founder of Night School Records

“In 2014 I was getting reacquainted with a Glasgow that had changed in my 10 years living elsewhere. The most exciting thing I’d heard was the first recordings by Lewis Cook and Suzi Rodden, then called Happy Meals. The first gig I put them on was mesmerising and awkward, rough around the edges but joyful and special.

It snowballed effortlessly. Sometimes you just click with people at the right time and place, and Apéro – their first album – was just fully formed, in my mind a perfect world that invited you in and made you feel good. We released it in November 2014 and when it was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year I felt like we’d won an Oscar. I remember going to the SAY Award with the Cooks and Roddens. It was a big event and I felt as proud of what we’d done as the Cooks and Roddens did of their son and daughter.

Fruit Juice – the second release – was more ad hoc. We hand marble painted 500 plastic sleeves using oil paints, no ventilation and many hours of delirium and generosity from our friends. It felt like a mini movement, a strange cult that we’d started. Actually, they started it and I tagged along.

One of the joys of doing Night School is the fact that I get to rediscover my love of music and people constantly. You meet people who inspire you and you want to help any way you can. Your cynicism erodes for a while and everything seems possible. Lewis and Suzi are the perfect example of that.”

Keith McIvor, founder of Optimo Music

“I was already a Happy Meals fan when I came across a recording they put online of a set they had especially put together when they supported ambient guru Laraaji. I got in touch with them and asked if I could release it and they ended up completely reconstructing it into what became the Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony album.

They then changed their name to Free Love and sent me Extreme Dance Anthems and asked if I would be interested in releasing it. I was smitten by the record and promptly agreed. I love everything about Free Love: their music, their vision, their attitude, them as people and how easy and inspiring they are to work with. I’d also like to add that even if I had zero involvement in this release I’d still think the video for Bones was the best video of 2019.”

Free Love play The Great Western Festival, Glasgow, 23 Nov
Optimo Music Digital Danceforce, Vol​.​1 is out now via Optimo Music

Scroll on to read our November 2019 cover interview with Free Love