The Disclosure brothers discuss the origins of the beyond-their-years sounds of debut album.
A few days before the release of their debut “Settle” – an album which is already being hailed as the EDM generation’s conversion experience to “real” house music, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure are sitting in their Universal label’s Santa Monica office for an obligatory day of promotion. In between answering many questions from a few journalists, their new video for “When A Fire Starts To Burn” releases online, and Guy quickly sends the appropriate tweets announcing its arrival.
The video was commissioned and financed by the Vice media network and directed by Spike Jonze disciple Bo Mirosseni. It took 10 days to conceive, film and release – riding the intense and sudden wave of interest around the brothers. But Disclosure themselves aren’t featured in the clip. They didn’t have time. In fact, Guy, 21 and Howard, 18, have been so busy in the last year that they haven’t had time to move out of their parents’ house yet. But that’s the least of their personal problems.
“We’ve both got girlfriends,” says Guy. “[Though] it’s not going very well at the moment.” “We’re never there,” Howard adds. “They’re pretty pissed off.”
While their songs have pop sensibilities that have rocketed them to the top of the U.K. singles charts (“White Noise,” included on “Settle,” hit No. 2 last year), Disclosure’s production is rooted in the deepest of American house music, giving them a sturdy base of club credibility. The crowd, industry folks and veteran clubbers mingled with kids too young to have ever been inside a nightclub at all (as evidenced in some cases by a lack of dance floor etiquette), at their DJ set last Thursday in L.A. demonstrated this.
Just how these mild-mannered brothers from London are able to bring newly minted house heads into their fold, steering them away from the harsher world of EDM raves, is a bit of a mystery. So is how they figured out the sonic blueprint to do so. Both brothers are too young to have participated in a nightclub culture based around the type of music they’re making, prompting some to ask if they are too good to be true.
But the beauty of Disclosure is that it’s all Disclosure. Sitting in the office that day, surrounded by the unavoidable effects of their own hype, they tell a genuine tale of impassioned musical archaeology, inspired by a lifetime of curiosity about sound.
“It all goes back to when we started actually getting into producing music,” Guy explains of when he was 18 and Howard was 15. “I was going out, listening to dubstep, but it didn’t really interest me at all to make it. I was like, this is fun to go out to at a rave, but then I started going out to more house nights. I showed Howard those things and that’s when we started making music. That’s when it all started.”
The Lawrences cite artists like Joy Orbison, James Blake, Burial and Mount Kimbie as primary influences, describing their own early musical efforts as an attempt to imitate those artists’ sounds.
“Over time we just basically wanted to know how those guys arrived at where they did,” Guy continues. “Like, why is James Blake making that sound and why is this guy making this sound? Where do they get their influences from? That just led us to listening to loads of mixes and DJs, which eventually leads you back to Chicago house and Detroit techno and U.K. garage and two step, that kind of thing. Since then we just bought loads and loads of old records. We just wanted to learn everything about this music, house music.”
Disclosure became the Lawrence’s first foray into songwriting, but it was not the first time they played music. Having grown up in a musical household (“There were just instruments lying around everywhere at home and as a kid we could just pick them up,” says Guy), music was ingrained into their minds from a young age.
“They just played us music all the time,” Howard says of his parents, both professional musicians. “They’d say, ‘Listen to this chord change,’ or whatever, and we’d be like ‘Oh cool!’ We’re music nerds in that sense.”
Guy learned drums and guitar while Howard learned piano and bass. Both became voracious consumers of music, listening to everything from the Beach Boys to Beyoncé.
After uploading some early tracks to MySpace, Disclosure found a manger that soon got them a deal with U.K. indie label PMR Records, which released a series of singles on both sides of the pond beginning in early 2012. By the end of the year, they were headlining a club tour in the U.S. with a live show and getting booked for Coachella. Their remix of their friend Jessie Ware’s “Running” made it on various year-end best-of lists. Major labels soon came calling, with the band landing at Universal, through Cherrytree/Interscope in the U.S.