Former Cocteau Twins member and Bella Union founder Simon Raymonde tells EDWIN GILSON about his new musical venture

HE MIGHT have been in one of the most influential British guitar bands ever but Simon Raymonde is occasionally plagued by the same self-doubt as the rest of us.

“Music plays with your head,” says the Brighton-based artist. “One half of your mind says ‘that’s absolute genious’ and the other half says it’s rubbish”. It’s no surprise that Raymonde has been contemplating this psychological tug-of-war recently. After all, he’s back in the game.

It’s 20 years since the split of Cocteau Twins, the band he was in with Elizabeth Fraser (she of the non-verbal lyrics and hugely expressive voice) and Robin Guthrie (whose shimmering guitar lines were just as distinctive). The break-up has had a profound emotional impact on Raymonde but more on that later.

Having managed Bella Union – home to songwriting superstar Father John Misty, one of Raymonde’s “best mates” – for all of that time, he has teamed up with old collaborator and friend Richie Thomas to form Lost Horizons. The band’s debut album Ojala, released a few weeks ago, has an impressive emotional sweep, encompassing dreamy ambience, melodic melancholy and slow-building euphoria.

It features guest vocalists such as Marissa Nadler and Midlake’s Tim Smith whose contributions are adapted in LH’s live show by a cast of talented local musicians. One of which, Helen Ganya Brown, is also supporting Lost Horizons’ Brighton gig with her Dog in the Snow project. Ojala all came from Raymonde merely deciding to take a few days off work and head into the studio – “I said I wouldn’t read my mail or pick up the phone”.

He adds: “It felt absolutely amazing because we had both been starved of musical interaction. We didn’t set the bar high, or at all really.” The way in which Raymonde has always written is completely instinctive and ‘in the moment’. “I’ve always loved the uncertainty of not knowing what it’s going to be,” he says, “and you have to accept that it might be total rubbish.”

But Raymonde had faith in the work and, before long, the vague blueprint for Ojala became vivid in his mind. “It was cloudy and muddled to start with but as we went on the clouds parted and we had more clarity.” Brighton was integral to the relighting of Raymonde’s creative fires. He moved to the Brunswick area of Hove after an unhappy spell in an over-expensive flat in Hackney and soon set up a studio underneath the Salvage cafe in Western Road.

“I know this is a Brighton paper and I probably would say nice things about Brighton, but genuinely I’ve never been as content anywhere as I am down here,” says Raymonde, who has since moved to Saltdean with his wife Abbey. Before now, the traumatic dissolution of Cocteau Twins was “buried deep” within him. For a long time, he says, he couldn’t see the point of being in another band because the singer would “never be as good as Liz [Fraser]”.

“When you’ve been in a band like that people always come up and ask, ‘what are you doing now? have you got a new band on the go?’ But I didn’t feel like I would be in any group that I felt as strongly about [as Cocteau Twins].” Raymonde points out that none of the band’s members have been particularly productive in music thereafter. “We’ve all struggled.” Eventually, though, he realised the band did not have to “define” his life.

It seems that Raymonde now has the best of both; the experience and expertise of having played in a seminal band and, finally, the liberation to push forward with his own project.

“This is what I do – I’m not going to stop doing it for anybody,” he says. “This is who I am.”

Lost Horizons, Rialto Theatre, Brighton, tomorrow, 8pm