With four chart topping singles off their debut album “Settle,” it is undisputed that Disclosure is the latest force to be reckoned with in the dance community. Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have been making it happen over the past few years, providing a brand of soulful, yet danceable music at the vanguard of a new UK dance music scene.
Growing up in Surrey, England, the brothers found themselves constantly surrounded by music, as both their parents were traveling musicians. With roots in hip-hop, classical, and most recently dance music, the pair has come together to provide us with an unmatchable sound and a completely polished production talent.
Over the past year, they have released a #1 album, Settle, played three festivals in three countries in 24 hours, started their own label, Method Records, were nominated for a Mercury Award, and most recently teamed up with the legendary Nile Rogers and Jimmy Naples, oh and did we mention we caught them on their 48th festival stop this year on their journey to solidified success. Earmilk sat down with Guy and Howard to pick their brains on everything from their pop structure, their musical background, to their qualms with subgenrizing. Enjoy!
EARMILK: So what stop on the tour is this, you’re doing 39 festivals right?
Guy: No, 47, well not including this one, so 48.
EM: Then you go on the UK tour right?
G: No, that’s in November. We go to Europe first.
EM: Where do you go in Europe?
G: All over.
EM: Anything you’re looking forward to?
G: Yeah yeah, all of it. Just looking forward to being back near home is all. And back to the UK will be nice.
EM: Are you guys staying at home?
G: No no, we play the show and then go back straight away.
EM: Cool, so obviously I know you’re big fans of J Dilla. Can you tell me why?
G: Yeah, I think . . . for me and like Howard he’s like the best producer so that’s probably why we like him. He just managed to capture that Detroit soul Motown side of things and put it in to hip-hop and just through sampling, which is an art form in itself. It’s not something we do too much of but he just did it perfectly and no one has done it since or before. I don’t know how they would really. Often imitated, never duplicated.
EM: Did you use many samples in your last album?
G: No we used . . .
Howard: Like 3 or 4
G: Yeah, we used a man talking and a sample of J Dilla in “Grab Her” and then “Stimulation”. That’s it.
EM: Do you listen to any UK hip-hop or . . .
G: I used to yeah, I used to be really in to UK hip-hop. I used to listen to like Braintax and Jehst and Ta
skforce, that kind of thing. Who else, I wasn’t really a big fan to be honest; it was more like US hip-hop.
EM: What about you?
H: I am now but I wasn’t really growing up, I just didn’t know about it.
EM: So who are you listening to now?
H: I mean modern day stuff like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, there’s been such a big boom of amazing hip-hop coming out of the US at the moment, it’s really good to see. Even Kanye’s new album is amazing. It’s really good.
G: I love Vic Mensa’s mixtape, it’s really good
EM: Is there anybody that you would want to collaborate with particularly?
G: I mean if we were going to it would be like any of those guys I guess. But, yeah I haven’t had any time to make any hip-hop recently. I used to mess around with hip-hop but maybe again in the future. Hopefully.
EM: Can you tell me about the warehouse project? I know that the last one was with Pusha-T.
G: Yeah well, we are all about pushing good music. Over the last few years I feel like hip-hop has taken great strides especially in this [US] part of the world coming towards the UK. I think it’s the kind of hip-hop we like. We like Jay Z, and Kanye and the guys that are always around but it’s nice to see Kendrick and Pusha back doing their thing. It’s [Good Kid M.a.a.d city] Kendrick’s best work for ages, Pusha’s album is really good.
EM: Which album do you like more, Kendrick or Pusha?
G: Kendrick probably but Pusha’s is great too. Pharrell produced some of the tracks on there, it’s great.
H: The one that Pharrell produced is incredible, it’s so good!
EM: I mean he’s doing Daft Punk, he’s doing everything
G: Yeah he’s a very busy guy
H: I think Pharrell has become that guy where if there is a project they aren’t sure about they are like, “Stick Pharrell on there.”
EM: He’s a triple threat. So you said your music is pop structured. What does that mean? Is there like a formula or what?
H: No no, it’s just like the difference between . . . You know how most dance music has a drop and then another buildup where as we have verses and a chorus. So it’s structured in the same way that a pop song is.
G: It’s just more like direct verse. It flows better as an album. There’s no 20-minute intro, it’s straight to the point. Maybe we shouldn’t say “pop structured songs,” but more so conventionally structured songs. If we were going to make an album of just what’s on now. Not necessarily in that style, but it would be like pretty boring. It’s all right to do at a club or a festival, but at home you don’t want to listen to drums for ages and then a drop.
H: Also, we didn’t really get in to dance music until 5 years ago. We were brought up on pop songs and it’s just natural for us to write in that way. We wanted to make, I mean wanted to write the songs in the same way that anyone would write a conventional pop song. We just produce them in the style of house and garage music.
EM: I know your parents play music. What kind of music do they play and did it influence you?
G: Yeah. When we were young and listening to our parent’s music the main purpose of listening to it was to learn to play our instruments. It wasn’t to learn songs or learn about them. I wanted to play drums so I would listen to any songs with great drumming or like I wanted to learn bass so I listened to songs with great bass riffs. Even if it was music that we didn’t really like we still appreciated the fact that it was technically really good. Dad would play us loads of like prog rock and weird stuff that was just crazy.
H: Yeah, I’d say the best way to learn about songwriting is to learn how to play other peoples songs. Just because, we weren’t trying to learn how to write songs but you naturally notice stuff that certain people don’t and you begin to pick up things.
EM: So what was the first song that you ever learned?
H: It was “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. Once I learned it I played it like every day. It’s an amazing bass playing song.
G: I can’t remember the first song I learned. I can’t really remember learning the drums. I started when I was 3. It’s just like always been there. But if I had to go on my junket now it would probably be “Walking On The Moon” by The Police.
EM: Besides drumming in general from your parent’s music do you have any drummers that influenced you like Ginger Baker or anyone?
G: Yeah, my favorite technical drummers that are amazing would be Vinnie Colaiuta. He’s an amazing jazz drummer that’s on loads of records that I love. But yeah, I love like . . . Phil Collins. He’s a great drummer, really great drummer.
H: Yeah you’re right in the sense that we would listen to people purely based on the fact that a certain person was playing on that record. I mean now I will listen to anything that Pino Palladino has played bass on now, really like anything. He’s fucking incredible. Or like Jeff Hope Pastorius and all these jazz weird experimental bass players are like. That’s what we were in to. All we wanted to do was get better. I don’t know if we ever said it but we all kind of thought that we would end up being session musicians. Like we just wanted to get better on our own instruments.
G: We weren’t writing any songs, we just thought that we were never going to be in a band. We always thought that we would be in someone else’s band and we’d play for them. I guess because our parents tried to do it all their lives and they hadn’t made it.
EM: How does it feel to have a happy exit then?
G: It feels great. I mean, it’s so unexpected. The first songs we ever made together were our first singles. We got one single signed to moshi moshi which is the first thing we ever made together. It was literally like thrown in and we’ve just learned as we’ve gone along. Learned how to produce. We like to do everything ourselves so we’ve just learned as we’ve gone along.
EM: So you’re not following a formula really?
G: I don’t know what the formula is. Is there a formula?
EM: Well I mean, do you think that people are labeling things incorrectly by calling EVERYTHING garage? I know you guys take some influences from it but I’m just curious if you think that the term is being thrown around too loosely.
G: Well I think there are too many variants of it. Future garage or whatever. We got called love-step the other day, what the fuck is that?
EM: What is that, like dubstep that’s sexy?
G: I don’t know.
H: What I don’t quite understand is like, say there was some dubstep that was sexy. Why can’t there just be a producer whose music is called dubstep but his thing is sexy? Why do you have to make a whole new genre just for that?
G: Yeah, I definitely have a problem with like subgenreizing. I mean you don’t need to. We just make, like you said, pop music influenced by house and garage. It’s as simple as that. If you want to like put it down to one specific word . . . like if people are listening to our music and they don’t know who it is by then that’s Disclosure. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t sound like house, it doesn’t sound like garage, it sounds like Disclosure. Or at least I hope that’s what people get when they listen to the album.
EM: Last question, what was your best memory from the past 6 months?
H: I think probably getting a number 1 album in the UK.
G: A good American memory would be playing in Central Park in New York. That was an amazing show. It wasn’t even long ago. It’s mad how fast it all goes.
From session music, to hip-hop, to prog rock, to pop structured house and garage it is safe to say that Disclosure’s musical roots are far from singular. With such a unique sound and insatiable groove it is no wonder they have had such a explosive entrance in the dance music world. Disclosure is currently on tour in Europe but will step back in to the states in January for a short tour with Vic Mensa and Samo Soundboy.
- Universal Music