WHO knows what some folk get up to in the dark?

If you’re one of the most exciting bands in Scotland right now, night-time activities may include taking part in what looks like a mystical new age ritual in the woods.

In Free Love’s video for Bones, the lead track from their new EP, Lewis Cook and Suzi Rodden and a gaggle of other seekers wear white robes and floral head wreaths.

They carry fiery branches and flags bearing the band’s emblem, a fusion of a pentagram, the Venus symbol and the taijitu or ying and yang sign.

It’s all very seductive and cool, like Rodden’s voice.

“One day this will be the past,” she sing-chants as the rhythms hit a hypnotic groove, “and neither you nor I will last.”

While 2018’s Luxury Hits, the Glasgow duo’s SAY Award-shortlisted record, comes from the same Italo-disco/acid house gene pool as this new effort, Extreme Dance Anthems exchanges the sophisticated pop of its predecessor for a sound which is wilder, more feral and hallucinatory.

Released on September 20 via Optimo Music, the record has an instruction aside Cook’s artwork of a joyful sun (pictured below).

The National:

It says: “For large sound system use only.”

“Making that video is a great example of how we’re both great believers in just letting things happen,” says Cook.

Like many artists in today’s something-for-nothing music culture, Cook and Rodden have sacks of creativity but “zero resources”. They had ideas for the video but couldn’t pay upfront and would have to ask a pal. But filmmaker friend Harrison Reid was unavailable for the next three months.

“Apart from the very weekend we needed him,” says Cook, smiling.

A location was found through Reid’s colleague Omar Aborida – and it was a woodland adventure park for young people in Perthshire. As they unloaded the car, a man approached.

“He said: ‘That’s really good-quality paraffin you have there,’” says Rodden. “He said he knew because he used to be a fire-breather. So we didn’t just get the burning branches we wanted, we had a fire-breather too.”

Coincidences happen a lot to Free Love, formerly known as Happy Meals.

They sang about it on Synchronicity, a sleek Euro-disco cut from Luxury Hits with a video also by Reid and Aborida. Recently the pair had the opportunity to perform pop heroics themselves when an airline mistakenly kept Free Love’s equipment in Amsterdam. They were due to play a gig that night – up a mountain on the island of Sicily.

They had opted to retain a sampler and a synth in their hand luggage – something they had never done before. With just six hours until they were due to play, the pair came up with a whole new set in their hotel room.

That faith in fate, that all will be well, at least partly rests on the pair’s pure talent. Free Love are a outfit who can play sweaty, intimate clubs, festivals from Bangalore to Texas, and all-day dance extravaganzas such as Terminal V in October and Optimo’s 20th birthday last year.

Their sets are always great fun, memorable and an experience unlike any other band around. Extreme Dance Anthems sees them return to Optimo’s record label, which also released their Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony IV-VI in 2017.

Around that time they staged a fondly-remembered 12-hour overnight mix of music, sleeping and yoga at Glasgow’s Kinning Park Complex.

It was another exceptional city label, Night School Records, which put out previous EPs Fruit Juice and Apero, the 2014 record also shortlisted for the SAY Award. Luxury Hits came out via their own Full Ashram imprint.

Releasing sleek EPs rather than bloated albums on various labels suits them and may be part of the way to thrive – or at least survive – in the choppy waters of the modern music industry.

“The arse has fallen out of the industry,” says Cook. “There are no foundations there for a band like us. We don’t know what the answer is financially but creatively it has its benefits. It makes us more daring. When you know you’re not going to make money either way, you’re like: ‘F*** it, let’s just go for it and make the record we want to make.’”


READ MORE: Free Love, Songhoy Blues and !!! among top talent at new Great Western festival


Extreme Dance Anthems’ hypnotic first track, The Inner Revolution, developed from more meditative sets they played last year supporting electronics guru James Holden and from cranking up the beats towards the end of their live shows.

Coincidences or dualities return in the EP’s tracklisting, with The Inner Revolution being paired with Out Of Body, Bones with the sensual Skin On Skin and bleeping closers Everyone and Everywhere.

The coming months will see Free Love release another record they’ve written in tandem with Extreme Dance Anthems and development of the Easterhouse Conversations project they’ve been working on for Platform in Glasgow’s east end with Eilidh Rodgers, the drumming half of Sacred Paws.

Before then, there’s a run of dates in the UK, Europe and Scotland which will see the pair’s vast table of machines and contraptions joined by “energy vessels” – fans of the band who have elected to join them onstage.

“It’s never just us on stage and the audience standing there with their pints,” says Rodden, a bold performer who regularly wades into the crowd, tethered to her mic wire like an umbilical cord.

“Such a big part of our set is about the interactivity and that visible conversation between the audience and us,” she continues.

“That cross over is so important to us. With me and Lewis, we are used to each other and though we don’t set strict parameters for ourselves, we always have an idea of where we want to go.

“It’s so exciting having people we don’t know being a part of the show and seeing what direction they take it in.”

True North Festival with Self Esteem: September 21, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 10pm, £13.20. Tickets: www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

October 26, Terminal V, Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, noon to 11pm, £78.69. Tickets: terminalv.co.uk

November 23, The Great Western Festival, Glasgow, from 2pm, £31.50. Tickets: www.tgwfest.com

December 7, Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, tbc.


Extreme Dance Anthems is released on September 20 via Optimo Music