Here's What Disclosure Geeked Out On While Making 'Energy'

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Disclosure onstage in 2016.

While writing and recording the third Disclosure album, Energy, out Aug. 28 on Capitol, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence (29 and 26, respectively) made over 200 tracks during sessions split between London and Los Angeles. The duo ultimately pared down the list to the 11 on the album, which features vocals from Kelis, Common and Kehlani, among others.

The pair selected collaborators who not only can rap and sing but also write, with friendliness being a strong consideration given the amount of in-person studio time spent together. “You can’t just email stuff back and forth,” says Guy of the pre-pandemic luxury. “You don’t get the magic in the room.”

Howard calls Energy Disclosure’s first concept album, selecting only the tracks that “came out really quickly and easily.” Adds Guy: “The more you mess with and tweak them, you ruin the idea.”

The brothers have always purchased a new laptop for each album, starting with the old-school white plastic MacBook for 2013’s Settle then graduating to a pair of MacBook Pros for 2015’s Caracal and this year's Energy. “We couldn’t do anything we do without tech,” says Guy. “It’s how we were born as a band. All of the music goes through the laptop to the internet — first to Myspace, then to Facebook and so on.” This time around, they say essentials included Logic Pro X and Ableton Live, along with plug-ins like Universal Audio and Valhalla for reverb.

An interest in physics, sacred geometry and the patterns of nature – explored through books including Ian Stewart’s The Beauty of Numbers in Nature and David Byrne’s How Music Works, and films like Fantastic Fungi — along with listening to music while consuming mushrooms, made the brothers consider the visual representation of their work, even reconfiguring their own process. “All of that stuff really changed the way I produce and place instruments in the mix,” says Guy, who gave a particularly breezy, lightly trippy sound to the album track “Fractal.”

Disclosure’s first two albums were made largely with artists from their native United Kingdom. But for Energy, the duo composed a list of dream collaborators only to discover that many of them — including Compton, Calif.-raised Channel Tres and former Odd Future member Syd — were based in Los Angeles. The brothers posted up in a Capitol Records Building studio where The Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra all recorded. “Being in L.A. was a new one for us,” says Guy, who also owns a house in the city. “We’re very London.”

While on the road, Guy's oversized black Tumi backpack becomes, he says, "a mobile studio, basically," carrying his laptop, cables, audio interfaces, hard drives and backup hard drives. The "pockets within pockets" safeguarded his passport and other most precious valuables as he and Howard dashed from studios to festivals to airports while making and playing music. "Every song we made," Guy says, "went in that bag."

A version of this article originally appeared in the August 15, 2020, issue of Billboard.