Brotherly British duo Disclosure have fast become the most crucial yet coherent mistake to surpass underground club culture, and they aren’t afraid to admit it. A bohemian outfit bred on the cogent structure of ’80s pop and UK garage, Howard and Guy Lawrence’s unorthodox leaps and bounds have spelled a nostalgic yet wholeheartedly relevant spiral of creative energy in modern dance music. From early offerings “Tenderly” and “Control” right through to outspoken chart-climbers “Latch” and “White Noise,” the duo has pushed on through their late arrival to the ranks of electronic music, forging a creative power in which indiscriminate club influences and a well-oiled topline can coexist with all-embracing stamina. Armed with razor-sharp programming and an ear for the coherent structure of vocal pop music, Disclosure’s signature hybrid sound is as refreshing as it is essential to pushing club music forward in 2013. With “White Noise” already scaling the charts, Beatport News sat down with the Lawrence brothers to talk British pride, global explosion, and surpassing all expectations in the name of quality music.
Did you find the UK to be a particularly fruitful place to cut your teeth as artists?
Guy Lawrence: Here in Surrey there is really no scene at all. People are either into bands or pop artists and you have to move up as far as Croydon and London to get a glimpse of anything good in terms of electronic music. In the wider scheme of things, however, I love living in England and I still believe it is the best place in the world for music. There has always been a trend of people experimenting with things and developing new sounds in this country. To that extent, London, Berlin, and Detroit are almost kindred spirits, and I find something very sacred in what happens over here.
Compared to this time last year, your global presence has positively spiraled. Was the shift in popularity a shock to the system?
GL: The important thing to remember is that this was an absolute accident on our part. We have maintained the same frame of mind from our first tune onwards—always create for the love of music and make it as good as it could possibly ever be. That can roll out as a pop song or a seven-minute house tune, and I think that is why our sound has remained so cohesive; we can roll with a pop tune and then come back with a club offering totally unlike the last.
Howard Lawrence: It wasn’t like one day we got a call to say, “hey guys, you are now big in Australia,” either. It was gradual build-up that took almost three years. What really hit us was when we finally toured out there and saw crowds singing along to these songs.
GL: This made us realize just how much of a difference radio play makes to an artist. To be honest, until more recently I didn’t realize the relevance. You can really see the difference in crowd recognition at shows after a high-profile spot on Radio One—the crowds become so familiar with our music and to that extent I think it is one of the most powerful elements of modern music.
There have been some interesting attempts at naming your sound over the years. How do you both respond to the need for genre names and musical boxes?
HL: To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what people call it. The stuff we make has definitely remained dance music, but I don’t think artists should set out to make a track or record with a specific genre in mind. People will inevitably define a track to know what they are buying or what they recommend to their friends, but we don’t need to label or focus on branding the music like that.
GL: I hear what you are saying, though; especially in the UK, it seems very important, compared to, say, Australia or the rest of Europe, where they just don’t seem to care. There are no ridiculous coinages like moombathon-step or anything; they just see and hear the influences and appreciate them in their own context. We don’t mind people attempting to coin our sound, but it sometimes gets a little ridiculous. We got called “love-step” once—whatever the fuck that is. Bass music is a favorite people like to throw at us, but I don’t see it as a particularly prevalent element of our sound. In that sense, I think the labels can be very misguiding.
The journey from “Offline Dexterity” to first charted offering “Latch” has been a fascinating musical development. Was there a conscious path on your part to adapt your music in this way?
GL: I am not sure it was conscious journey on our part, but we started making this music before we knew about dance music as a whole. The first tracks we made were essentially to learn how to produce. It was guys like Joy Orbison and Burial—all those future-garage-type artists who really motivated us. Then, when we wanted to find out their influences, it bought us back in time to ’90s house, garage, and techno, so [in that respect] we went the other way around and almost reversed our sound. As a result, we now produce at 110/120 BPM instead of 140, and use much older samples. As our musical understanding has deepened, so has the sound.
HL: Overall, it was just a development thing. We had literally only just started making music back with our first EP. Now that we have some experience and landmarks, I feel like we just got naturally better at producing and writing songs. It’s a case of crafting your skill towards perfection and through this you get better with practice and experimentation.
Now that radio play and chart success is on the cards, has your approach or mindset towards the music had to cater for these previously unthinkable new mediums?
HL: All the chart success and radio play has been more of a welcome byproduct of making the music than a stimulating factor of it. We make it without thinking of that sort of potential; it is very much made within our own little world, and when it gets to those heights, it is very exciting.
GL: It is really funny, because “White Noise” was supposed to be the cool underground track for us to follow up “Latch” with. AlunaGeorge is really trendy and underground, so the thought was that this nice outspoken club offering would tide us over to the next single, which is a lot more commercial. Again, the track completely surpassed our expectations. I want to stress that we just make tunes to the extent that we think they are the best they can be; whether that be a pop tune or a club anthem, it just needs to work the way we want to hear it.
Vocalists are said to be a mixed and sometimes muddling element to work with. Has your own experience of working with vocalists echoed this?
GL: With vocalists it’s a total different approach to instrumental offerings. One thing we have learned very quickly is to never go into the studio with a fully-fledged song concept! It is far better to go in with under-produced ideas because you need to leave room to build from the ground up with vocalists. We always wanted to do this thing with vocalists. We were very late to the party where dance music is concerned, so before this it was about full songs and ’80s pop, all of which stuck with us for some reason, and the strong structures that this sort of music takes is very important to our songs.
With all this talk of electronic music’s current heyday, how do you interpret the state of the modern industry and your own standing within it?
GL: From our own perspective, we aren’t trying to change the music industry, but we have received comments from people saying how nice it is to hear good electronic music in the charts and on the radio. We never look to slight other people’s approach, but people seem to like what we have brought to the table and so we continue building upon that in our own way.
Your debut album is already on the cards for a 2013 release. Given the hit-or-miss nature of electronic albums over the years, was approaching the full-length format a little intimidating?
GL: The album medium is very different to us because we are the guys already well adept with using full vocal tracks. The most successful vocal dance albums to my mind were the ones that could embrace full vocal tracks, with guys like Daft Punk and Artful Dodger proving there was room for this. There are plenty of instrumental albums that have been great in their own terms, but never reach as many people due to that lack of vocal flair. For this record we needed to keep a nice balance.
Talk us through your future aspirations for Disclosure and what else we can expect for 2013.
HL: For now we are just concentrating on getting the album right. It is set to be such a huge landmark for us, so it has to be perfect, otherwise there won’t be much of a future. In that sense, we are taking it one thing at a time.
GL: Every time we think of the future we surpass our own expectations, so to my mind things could go anywhere.
HL: Past the album we will be touring a hell of a lot. We have a fully sold-out UK tour on the cards, as well as a big American tour and a few offshoots throughout Europe. From there we will be into the festivals. The live show is taking a big step up for us; there are some huge production developments and I am confident it is going to look incredible.
Is the evolution of live dance music one that has stimulated you guys over the years?
GL: Live dance music just keeps getting better and better. There are so many impressive live acts out there right now. There is something very powerful in what is happening to the live element. Designing a live show is by far the hardest part, as to go from vinyl decks to live is hard in terms of maintaining the sound, but with time people are getting better and better at it.
photo via Embrace Presents