Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most commonly-asked questions Cocteau Twins and the fan community have received over the years. If the answer you seek isn’t here, feel free to post your question in one of the Facebook Groups.
Who are/were Cocteau Twins?
Cocteau Twins were a band—a trio—active from 1982 until 1996. They broke up in 1997 while recording their ninth album. The former members are Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde. Simon replaced Will Heggie, who was a founding member. Will appeared on the first LP, Garlands, and the two subsequent EPs, Lullabies and Peppermint Pig.
Are they still making music?
No. They disbanded in 1997, and there are no plans to make more music together as a trio. The former members are pursuing their own solo careers.
Will they be touring or performing live any time soon?
No. They disbanded in 1997. They attempted a reunion in 2005 for the Coachella Festival, but plans fell apart and it never happened. There are no further plans to reunite or play together.
Where does the band name come from?
The name comes from a song by fellow Scotsmen Simple Minds entitled “Cocteau Twins.” The song is reported to have been about two men in Glasgow, Scotland, who had a reputation for being pretentious film snobs with a fondness for the work of Jean Cocteau. The song later appeared on the Simple Minds LP Life In A Day under the title “No Cure.”
Where are they from?
The founding members—Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie—were all from Grangemouth, Scotland. Simon Raymonde, an Englishman from London, joined Robin and Liz in 1983, following Will’s departure. The three subsequently made their homes in the London area for many years. Elizabeth now resides in Bristol, England, with her partner; Robin lives with his wife and one of his two children in the Brittany region of France; and Simon remains in London with his wife (his two sons are now grown).
Was there more than one woman in the band?
Elizabeth Fraser was the only woman-identified person in Cocteau Twins. (There was a second singer in the very beginning, but she left the band after two weeks.) Some people mistakenly assume that “Robin” is a woman’s name or suppose that there must be more than one woman singing because of Elizabeth’s multi-octave vocal range and talent for multi-tracking her voice. She usually recorded several different vocal tracks per song and, when the song was mixed and mastered, it sounded like there was more than one person singing, but it’s actually all Liz. Her dynamic vocal range and style can easily fool the first-time listener. Fans may be intrigued to learn, however, that when the band first formed, there were two women singers—Elizabeth and her friend Carol. Carol soon dropped out.
The only other singers to ever appear on Cocteau Twins’ records were Cinder (credited as ‘Gordon Sharp’) of Cindytalk, on the Peel Session recordings of “Dear Heart” and “Hazel,” and Faye Wong (Wangfei), a Chinese pop star who appeared on the Asian edition of Milk & Kisses singing “Serpentskirt” with Elizabeth’s backing vocals intact. (Wong also recorded cover versions of “Rilkean Heart,” “Bluebeard,” “Know Who You Are At Every Age,” and “Tranquil Eye,” as well as the song, “Amusement Park,” which was written by Robin and Simon.)
Where can I purchase Cocteau Twins merchandise/signed merchandise?
Since they broke up in 1997, any merchandise there was is now in the hands of collectors. Your best option is to either attend a concert or other event where a former member is likely to be, and ask them to sign your CD/album/t-shirt/ticket stub, etc., or—much more practical and easy—to look for merchandise online, signed or otherwise. There are links to some unofficial merchandise resources on the Links page.
If you are interested in purchasing a new copy of a Cocteau Twins release and have it signed by one of the members, you should visit the Lost Horizons website. Their online shop stocks a limited inventory of Cocteau Twins vinyl, and Simon is offering to sign them for you as part of your purchase.
Is there a Cocteau Twins Fan Club?
Not officially. For many years there was a thriving online community on this website and on a (now defunct) fan website. Most online activity now takes place on Facebook, and there are several groups dedicated to Cocteau Twins and the former members. We invite you to join any or all of them if you’re interested.
What is CocteauFest?
Since 2003, the fan community has organized CocteauFest, an unofficial, open-source celebration of Cocteau Twins music. CocteauFests have been held in Boston, Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, London, Manchester, Berlin, and elsewhere. CocteauFest events usually attract a few dozen fans who take over a venue (a bar or nightclub) for a night and listen to Cocteau Twins music and watch Cocteau Twins videos. Prior events have included live performances by local artists, t-shirts, giveaways, and more. There is a CocteauFest Facebook Group with a large following.
If you would like to organize a CocteauFest in your city—or anywhere—the only request is that you engage with the Cocteau Twins community online to collaborate in making arrangements and ensuring you can find an audience, as most fans live in or near major cities. There are no real rules—only that your event is curated with love in the spirit of friendship and a shared passion for the group’s musical legacy, and that it is open to everyone.
How can I book Cocteau Twins to perform live at my club/festival?
You can’t. Sorry. They broke up years ago. We are all sad about it, but there it is. A reunion was attempted, but didn’t work out, and it’s unlikely there will ever be one.
Are Cocteau Twins still making music?
Sadly, no—not together, anyway. They parted ways in 1997, while recording what was to have been their final album. All three former members are now pursuing their own fruitful solo careers independent of one another.
Will they ever reunite and record or tour again?
Most likely no, but one can’t predict the future. The one attempt at a reunion, in 2005 for the Coachella Festival, never happened. Since then, the former members have shown no interest in reuniting or working together. While the rich body of work created by them between 1982 and 1996 continue to enchant listeners young and old, their individual careers have moved beyond the work they did together as Cocteau Twins. With each passing year, it becomes increasingly less likely they would choose to revisit that work or try to recapture the alchemy that made Cocteau Twins special.
How did they create their sound?
Cocteau Twins’ music was mostly guitar (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), and then of course voice. 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 were created by playing the guitars through effects processors, pedals, and other machines. In later years, sampling and sequencing were used more frequently than before. Exactly how it is all done is something known only to them, and most often only Robin—when he could remember, which was quite often. Although many other musicians have struggled to copy their sound or deconstruct their instrumentations, there’s nothing like the original.
What is Elizabeth singing? Are there real words?
This is perhaps one of the “holy grails” of alternative music, 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 many lyrics, with few exceptions. Some of the lyrics on the earlier work—and definitely songs on Heaven or Las Vegas, Four-Calendar Café, and Milk & Kisses—contained a lot of clearly understandable words (and the song “Violaine,” for example, contains English words sung backwards). Most of it was simply the byproduct of the way Liz pronounced words or chose to distort them and her grammar to suit the sound of the song or the melody. She often used words from other languages just for the way they sounded or looked on paper, and once even resorted to singing the scientific names of moths and butterflies (such as on the song “Melonella,” from Echoes In A Shallow Bay). Inspiration came from many sources.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter—it’s better to simply enjoy the music. Whereas most traditional rock and pop bands have a singer whose songs tell a story, and whose voice is more or less supported by the other musicians, this was not always the case with Cocteau Twins. The “words,” as such, were often a way to convey sound, as Liz’s voice was treated as another instrument in the mix. Remember, however, that it was never made-up, improvised, or pointless “gibberish.” They are words, or things similar to words. The lyrics were written down and the vocal melodies were all meticulously crafted and carefully recorded in the studio, even on Blue Bell Knoll, which sounds like anything but actual language.
Is there a “lost album”? Can I get a bootleg of it?
Cocteau Twins were in the process of composing another album at the time of their breakup in 1997. Robin and Simon have both said emphatically that it was incomplete, and what they have will never be released. There were a number of instrumentals recorded—including music composed and performed by Elizabeth—and Liz had done some vocal work, but it’s important to remember two things: (1) It’s incomplete, so no artist should be expected to release it just because fans are curious; and (2) It wouldn’t be a true Cocteau Twins record, anyway. It would be a curiosity and a fetish item for fans.
Here is what Robin Guthrie had to say about it in an interview with Record Collector:
“I’d like to debunk the myth about this ‘lost album.’ First, it’s not lost, it’s upstairs on my computer. Second, it’s not an album, it’s just a couple of sketched things. There were three or four tracks pretty much finished musically, which I released: one on my album Imperial, three on the first Violet Indiana record, two tracks have a little bit of Liz singing, and that’s about it. So when I read that it was ‘almost completed’—no, it wasn’t! It’s wishful thinking on people’s part.”
Some have speculated that the Faye Wong song, “Amusement Park,” which was written and performed by Robin and Simon and released by Wong in 1997, is one of the tracks from the unfinished LP. Though tempting to imagine, they have denied this, explaining that it was written specifically for Ms. Wong.
Are there any unreleased songs?
The simplest answer is ‘no.’ Cocteau Twins worked very efficiently, writing in the studio and developing songs that had potential; anything else was scrapped. Since Elizabeth usually began adding vocal parts when the songs were quite far along in the process, the only scraps that would have remained would have been bits of guitar or basslines with some simple drums in most cases. The only Cocteau Twins song that was never properly recorded and released was “Objects D’Art,” which was on their original demo tape sent to 4AD and John Peel. (Elizabeth deliberately misspelt it. The French expression is “Objets d’Art.”) Whether a primitive recording of that song survives somewhere is anyone’s guess.
What are their most popular songs?
Cocteau Twins may be one of the few successful bands to never have released a “greatest hits” album. There were two LPs that were “highlights”—The Pink Opaque and Stars and Topsoil—but these collections didn’t necessarily reflect sales or popularity. However, if a platform like Spotify is any way of measuring such a thing, then the top 10 Cocteau Twins songs on Spotify as of November 2022 are as follows:
- Sea, Swallow Me
- Cherry-Coloured Funk
- Heaven or Las Vegas
- Pitch the Baby
- Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires
- Iceblink Luck
- Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops
- Fifty-Fifty Clown
Most of these songs are from the album Heaven or Las Vegas (by far the most popular and best-selling Cocteau Twins LP).
Also, for what it’s worth, Spotify claims there are approximately 2.23 million people on their platform who listen to Cocteau Twins at least once per month.
Have Cocteau Twins ever performed in concert?
Though widely thought of as a “studio band,” Cocteau Twins toured and performed live quite a lot, even before their first album was released 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. In earlier years, a reel-to-reel tape player was often the band’s “fourth member” on stage, providing drums and other sounds. On the 1990/91 Heaven or Las Vegas world tour, concert-goers were treated to exquisite visuals and beautiful light displays accompanying the music, as well as a few extra musicians (but still no drummer, and lots of machinery on stage). On 1993/94’s Four-Calendar Café tour, as well as the 1996 Milk & Kisses tour, the three core members were joined by two more guitarists, a keyboard player, a live drummer and a percussionist. Each tour was more dynamic than the last. But, as with all such things, one should never expect the live performance to be the same as the studio recording. Numerous live recordings and videos exist online, of varying quality. They should give you some idea of what it was like, though nothing is better than having been there in the moment.
Where can I find live recordings of their performances?
There are some “official” live recordings, available on BBC Sessions. Aside from that, there is a fan-built online live music library, called “The Great Spangled Library of Bootlegs.” We cannot attest to consistent quality, but it is a thorough collection with recordings of live performances spanning the group’s career. There is also an associated Facebook Group. Of course, you can always listen to what we have curated for you here.
What’s the difference between This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins?
This Mortal Coil was a collaborative project organized by Ivo Watts-Russell, the co-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 ballad (made famous by Tim Buckley), “Song to the Siren,” which was performed by Robin and Liz and released as a single. It was eventually included on the first This Mortal Coil LP, It’ll End in Tears (1984). The song became a huge sensation in the UK, and a video was even produced for it, featuring the two Cocteau Twins members. 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. For the record, Cocteau Twins may have been a part of This Mortal Coil, but This Mortal Coil was not a part of Cocteau Twins. Robin, Simon, and Elizabeth all contributed to the first This Mortal Coil LP. Simon was also involved in the second LP, Filigree and Shadow (1986).
What is The Moon and the Melodies?
The Moon and the Melodies (4AD, 1986) was the result of a collaboration with the late minimalist ambient composer and musician Harold Budd. It was originally intended to be the soundtrack to a documentary film produced by the BBC. The funding for the film fell through, but the musicians and 4AD liked the music, so they released it as an album under the names “Budd | Guthrie | Raymonde | Fraser,” in an attempt to clarify that it was not a proper Cocteau Twins record. Most fans consider it to be a Cocteau Twins record anyway, with Harold Budd as more of a “guest performer,” but this is not how it was intended or how it was recorded. Both Simon and Robin have collaborated with Budd on different projects in the years since The Moon and the Melodies was released.
Did Cocteau Twins record Christmas songs?
Yes. In 1992, they recorded a version of “Frosty the Snowman” for a record label compilation, which was also released on 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 in shops, the two songs are available on other discs, including Lullabies to Violaine and Treasure Hiding: The Fontana Years, and as digital downloads. (If you hang around Sainsbury’s, TESCO, M&S, Target, or WAL Mart around the holidays, you’ll almost definitely hear them.)
Have Cocteau Twins ever done any work on film soundtracks?
Cocteau Twins as a band contributed songs to a number of film and television soundtracks, and since their breakup the former members have all had film-related musical projects. Elizabeth Fraser has gone on to record music for a number of films as a solo artist: “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. More recently she collaborated on the film score for the UK television series “The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells” and “The Living and the Dead.”
Robin Guthrie has scored films for director Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin” and “White Bird in a Blizzard” with old friend Harold Budd); and director Dany Saadia (“3:19”).
You may also have heard the Cocteau Twins in television commercials for Coca-Cola® fruit juice drink Fruitopia™ in the mid-1990s.
Are there other bands that sound like Cocteau Twins?
Many artists (including Prince and Madonna) have been inspired by Cocteau Twins’ music in one way or another. Sometimes the influence is obvious, and other times it’s more subtle (and some of the bands most commonly associated with Cocteau Twins were making music at the same time). Generally speaking, the genres of “dream pop” and “shoegaze” are the ones most likely to include artists whose music is reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Slowdive, Ride, Curve, Swallow, Medicine, Pale Saints, Chapterhouse, The Veldt, The Durutti Column, The Sundays, Shelleyan Orphan, Mazzy Star, Mandalay, Sigur Rós, Ulrich Schnauss, Hammock, Asobi Seksu, M83, Beach House, Cigarettes After Sex, I Break Horses, Hatchie—and many others—have all created music that is evocative of Cocteau Twins, even when they weren’t directly inspired by them. And don’t overlook the post-Cocteau Twins work of Robin, Simon, and Liz, all of which have that certain element to them. This includes Robin’s numerous solo albums and his band Violet Indiana, plus collaborations with artists like John Foxx, Annie Barker, or Ride front-man Mark Gardener; Simon’s solo LP, Blame Someone Else, and his work with Snowbird and Lost Horizons; and Liz’s solo efforts, including the 2022 EP, Sun’s Signature, as well as her many guest appearances.
How can I use a Cocteau Twins song in my personal film/project/performance art, etc.?
If you would like to use a Cocteau Twins song—or an excerpt from one—in your original student or personal project, whether it is film, theatre, a fashion show, or something else, contemporary copyright laws in most countries allow for what is known as “fair use,” which may be applicable if you are (a) not earning money from the project and (b) not broadcasting it. Other restrictions and conditions apply, and interpretations of “fair use” are often quite subjective. You are responsible for researching laws in your country or jurisdiction and you are responsible for the legal or financial consequences of your actions. You can obtain further information about this online (USA, UK), but our advice is to contact the copyright holder or speak with a knowledgeable attorney/solicitor.
The former members of Cocteau Twins are not authorised to grant permission to use their work. Only the copyright holder can do that. In this case, the copyright holder is either Beggars Music Group (BMG) for 4AD, Universal Music Group for Mercury/Fontana, Bella Union, or Soleil Après Minuit. These copyright holders collect royalties and compensate the artists when and where applicable. If you are unsure, contact a lawyer/solicitor or the copyright holders for further guidance.
We thank you for your thoughtful consideration in using Cocteau Twins music ethically, legally, and responsibly.
How do I license a Cocteau Twins song for use in a film, television programme, commercial advertisement, online presentation, etc.?
The former members of Cocteau Twins cannot authorise or license the use of their songs to third parties. This is done on their behalf by either the direct license holders or through a royalty service, with whom you would negotiate a licensing fee based on your intended use of the music. The most widely used licensing services are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. The license holders for Cocteau Twins music are Beggars Music Group (BMG) for 4AD, Universal Music Group for Mercury/Fontana, and Bella Union.
We thank you for your thoughtful consideration in choosing to license Cocteau Twins music ethically, legally, and responsibly.
What do I do if I want to record and release a cover version of a Cocteau Twins song?
If you plan to formally release the song in a commercial capacity (as opposed to giving it away for free), you should make sure you understand all legal and licensing implications (and this includes uploading an amateur video to sites like YouTube). Here is a useful online guide. This article from LegalZoom is also helpful.
How can I license photographs and album sleeve artwork to make merchandise like t-shirts and posters?
Artwork and photographs are copyrighted by their creator(s) or owners, unless otherwise specified. Permissible derivative uses are narrowly—and sometimes ambiguously—defined. If you are making a t-shirt, poster, or other item for personal use only, then it’s probably OK, but that should not be taken as permission or legal advice. If you intend to mass-produce or otherwise sell these items, in any way, in any country or jurisdiction, you should be careful to familiarise yourself with local copyright laws. You may be infringing upon others’ intellectual rights, and subject to penalties, fines, and other punishments.
If you wish to contact photographers or artists who created the sleeve artwork directly, you might have a better chance of success. Bear in mind, however, that they have licensed their work to the record labels indefinitely, and the record labels may have just as much reason to take action against you.
Your best course of action is to obtain the proper rights to use the artwork before investing in any such enterprise, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide how you want to go about it. The former band members cannot grant you permission either way.
What other musical projects are the former members working on?
All three former members have gone on to prolific careers post-Cocteau Twins, including solo records, new bands (e.g. Robin’s Violet Indiana project with singer Siobhan de Maré, Simon’s band Lost Horizons with former members of Dif Juz, and Elizabeth’s Sun’s Signature project), as well as film and TV soundtracks, and guest appearances with other artists. You can learn more about their individual endeavours in the Biography section, or via their individual websites: ElizabethFraser.com, RobinGuthrie.com, and LostHorizonsMusic.com (for Simon’s work).
How can I contact the former band members for an interview?
Press and other enquiries are best directed to the individual former members’ websites, ElizabethFraser.com, RobinGuthrie.com, and BellaUnion.com, or via social media (Simon is active on Facebook). This includes all requests for interviews and professional collaborations. Please see the contact information page for more details. The manager of this website is unable to facilitate contact with the former members except in the event of an emergency.
How can I get regular news about Cocteau Twins and the former members’ current work?
Easy! You can sign up for our mailing list. You’ll receive semi-regular emails rounding up the latest news and other tidbits.
Who maintains this website?
This site is maintained by a few dedicated members of the fan community on behalf of the former band members. CocteauTwins.com was originally set up by Jack Huynh in 1994—before modern web browsers really existed. Michael Borum joined Jack in his endeavour shortly thereafter, and they collaborated on maintaining the site. Robin Guthrie reached out to them in 1994/95 and asked if they wanted to make it “official.” Since then, they have occasionally enlisted the support and assistance of other fan community members. For the past several years, the site has been hosted and maintained primarily by Michael Borum. Robin, Liz, and Simon have the final word on what content is included on this website, though it is mostly Robin and Simon who are engaged with it.
Why is this website dedicated to “Leesa, in memoriam”?
This website is dedicated to the memory of Leesa Beales, aka mmmender, who was a beautiful and beloved fan of Cocteau Twins and friend to Simon, Robin, and hundreds of fellow fans online and in real life. We lost her to cancer in 2010 at far too young an age. She was the website manager for massive fan sites CocteauTwins.org and CocteauTwinsForums.com (both now shut down), and an original co-organizer of CocteauFest. Leesa also provided the lyrics to the song “Muscle and Want” on Simon Raymonde’s solo LP, Blame Someone Else, on which Robin plays guitar. She collaborated with Robin on a 2005 independent documentary entitled Echoes of Forgotten Places: Urban Exploration, Industrial Archaeology and the Aesthetics of Decay.
How can I submit a correction, addition, or make some other contribution to this site?
If you’ve discovered an error or omission, or wish to make some other type of contribution, please send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!
How do I engage with the Cocteau Twins fan community and former members on social media?
Easy! There are a number of Facebook Groups that are quite active. We invite you to join in the conversation.
- Is there a way to get regular updates besides social media?
Can I purchase advertising space on your website or Facebook Pages?
No, thank you. (Really. No.)