Are there any twins in Cocteau Twins?
No. The name comes from a song by fellow Scotsmen Simple Minds entitled "Cocteau Twins." The song later appeared on the Simple Minds LP Life In A Day under the title "No Cure." You can hear the actual song at cocteautwins.org.
Where are they from?
The founding members—Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie—were all from Grangemouth, Scotland, or thereabouts (the Falkirk area). Simon Raymonde, an Englishman from Twickenham, joined Robin and Liz in 1984. The three made their homes in the London area since 1983. Liz now resides in Bristol, England with her partner and one of her two children; Robin lives with his wife and three children in France; and Simon lives in Twickenham, England with his wife and two children.
How many women are there in the band?
Just one. Some people assume that "Robin" is a woman's name or suppose that there must be more than one woman singing. Robin is most definitely a man, and Elizabeth happens to be very talented at singing overdubs with herself. She typically records several different vocal tracks per song and, when the song is mixed and mastered, it sounds like there is more than one person singing, when it's actually all Liz. Her dynamic vocal range and style can easily fool the first-time listener.
How do they make all those sounds?
Believe it or not, most of the Cocteau Twins' music is guitars (a few of them, all layered on top of each other), bass, piano or keyboards and drums (usually a drum machine or series of drum machines). It's always been that way, with Robin, Will (on Garlands, Lullabies and Peppermint Pig) and Simon playing all the instruments (until later years, when they found musicians talented enough to handle it!) Most of the sounds are created by playing the guitars through effects processors, pedals, and, in the words of The Durutti Column, "other machines." In later years, sampling and sequencing were used more frequently than before. Exactly how it is all done is something known only by them. Although many other musicians have struggled to copy their sound or deconstruct their instrumentations, there's nothing like the real thing.
What is Elizabeth singing?
One of the true "holy grails" of alternative music for many years, and probably the question Liz would most like journalists and fans to stop asking. She's had a lot to say about it over the years, but has stopped short of actually revealing any lyrics, with few exceptions. Some of the lyrics on the earlier work—and definitely songs on Heaven or Las Vegas, Four-Calendar Café, Twinlights and Milk & Kisses—contained a lot of clearly understandable lyrics (and the song "Violaine" is actually English words sung backwards). Most of it is simply the by-product of the way Liz pronounces words or chooses to distort them and her grammar to suit to sound of the song or the melody. She has often used foreign words from other languages just for the way they sound or even look on paper, and has even resorted to singing the scientific names of butterflies (on the song "Melonella," from Echoes In A Shallow Bay). Ultimately, it doesn't much matter. It's better to simply enjoy the music.
Are the Cocteau Twins still together?
Sadly, no. They parted ways in 1998, while recording what was to have been their final album. Liz is pursuing a solo recording career, while Robin and Simon continue to work on their own musical projects, manage their Bella Union record label and the September Sound recording studio. No word on whether we can expect a reunion any time soon, or if the unfinished album will ever see the light of day.
What other musical projects are Robin and Simon working on?
Robin is in a new band—a duo, actually—with Siobhan de Maré (formerly of Mono). They call themselves Violet Indiana, and they are quite excellent. Their first LP, released in 2001, was entitled Roulette. The follow-up to that record was released in 2004 and is called Russian Doll. For more information, visit the Violet Indiana page at the Bella Union Web site.
Simon has released a critically-acclaimed solo record under his own name, entitled Blame Someone Else. It was released in 1997, and was the first release from Bella Union. In addition to his own songwriting, Simon spends a great deal of time running Bella Union, collaborating with and developing new artists. Learn all about Simon and his solo career at his Web site, SimonRaymonde.com.
Has Elizabeth recorded a solo album?
Apparently so. Liz has made several guest appearances and contributions to film soundtracks since Cocteau Twins officially disbanded, and it was reported that she had signed a recording contract with Blanco y Negro Records in the UK to record a solo album. However, the only recordings to surface since then have been a series of remixes for a song entitled "Underwater," which are available only as bootlegs since it was never formally released. However, in a 2004 interview with The Independent about her contribution to a multimedia exhibit at The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, she was quoted as saying, "This project for the V&A has really changed me. It was a chance for me to do something on my own, rather than a collaboration. Often the other projects I do are started off for me by other people and are half finished—like my new solo album."
How can I contact the band?
You can e-mail them, or write to:
Is there a Cocteau Twins Fan Club?
Not officially. Most of the fans communicate online via the Cocteau Twins Forums, CocteauTwins.org, or via the 4AD Message Boards at 4AD.com. The first ever fan gathering was on Saturday September 20, 2003 in Boston, MA, USA. Visit the official CocteauFest Web site for full details. CocteauFest will be an annual event, with the 2004 fest planned for Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Are This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins the same band?
No. This Mortal Coil was a collaborative project organized by Ivo Watts-Russell, the founder of 4AD Records. The idea was to have artists from various bands on 4AD work together on a blend of original projects and cover versions of older songs. One of the early recordings in the project was a cover of the Tim Buckley ballad, "Song to the Siren," which was performed by Robin and Liz. The song became a huge sensation in the UK, and a video was even produced for it, featuring the two Cocteaus. All of this led to quite a bit of confusion about just who This Mortal Coil was, and, unfortunately, not a lot of effort was made to clear things up. But, for the record, Cocteau Twins may have been a part of This Mortal Coil, but This Mortal Coil is not a part of the Cocteau Twins. Robin and Liz contributed only to the first This Mortal Coil LP. Simon was involved in the first LP as well as the second.
What is "The Moon and The Melodies"?
The Moon and The Melodies was a collaboration with Harold Budd, which was originally intended to be the soundtrack to a documentary film. The funding for the film fell through, but the band and 4AD (their record label) liked the music, so they released it as an album under the names "Budd Fraser Guthrie Raymonde," in an attempt to clarify that it was not a Cocteau Twins record. Most fans consider it to be a Cocteau Twins record anyway.
Have the Cocteau Twins ever performed in concert?
Of course! They have been touring and performing live since the beginning, back in 1982. They took a hiatus from live performance during the late 1980s, but performed regularly in concert and on television from 1990 until 1996. A live Cocteau Twins show was always something to behold, with exquisite visuals and beautiful light displays to accompany the music. It's quite something to hear a Cocteau Twins song performed live, with three guitarists, a bassist, a keyboard player, drummer and percussionist—not to mention the singer. You can listen to excerpts from live performances or watch a video clip from a 1996 show in the Media section.
What are 4AD and 23 Envelope?
4AD Records is the UK record label that signed the Cocteau Twins in 1982. They remained with 4AD until 1990 (they were on Mercury Records' Fontana label from 1991 unti 1996). 23 Envelope is a design company, founded by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson, who have created most of the record sleeves for 4AD since the early 1980s. Now known as v23, the company continues to work with 4AD under the direction of Vaughan Oliver and a team of designers and photographers. Their lush compositions for Cocteau Twins record sleeves were a hallmark of their style for many years, and continue to be cited for their intense imagery and vibrant design.
Did the Cocteau Twins really record a version of "Frosty the Snowman"?
Yes. In 1992, they recorded a version of "Frosty..." for the UK compilation CD/magazine Volume 5. It was later released with "Winter Wonderland" around Christmas, 1993, on a very limited edition Cocteau Twins CD entitled Snow. While Snow is nearly impossible to find, the two songs are available on other discs. (And if you hang out at the Gap around the holidays, you'll almost definitely hear them.)
Have the Cocteau Twins ever done any work on movie soundtracks?
Yes. And Elizabeth has gone on to record songs on her own for films: "Take Me With You," featured in the 1998 film "The Winter Guest"; "Dream Baby," from the 1998 film "In Dreams"; and two tracks—"Lothlorien" and "Isengard Unleashed"—for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. You may also have heard the Cocteau Twins in television commercials for fruit juice drink FruitopiaTM.