The British neo-garage duo Disclosure – brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence – have experienced another monumental year, unleashing the hotly-anticipated sequel to 2013’s crossover phenomenon Settle. That was the album that revolutionised EDM, (re)introducing deeper sounds. Today even Justin Bieber is airing Disclosure-style pop-house.
Caracal – named for Howard’s favourite animal, an African wild cat – has lived up to the hype, with the Lorde-featuring Magnets Disclosure’s biggest Australian single. There is more artful curating. Disclosure lured back their old Latch singer Sam Smith for Omen – and have collaborated with the equally cred Cali jazz vocalist Gregory Porter (the lead single Holding On), The Weeknd and Miguel. Howard sings Jaded. Overall, Caracal is more cerebral and downtempo – and R&B.
In the meantime, the Surrey boys are producing for others. Along with Smith, they assisted on Mary J Blige’s 2014 album The London Sessions after she resang their F For You. Guy had a hand in the bonus Heal on Ellie Goulding’s Delirium. Alas, scheduling meant that Disclosure couldn’t work on Madonna’s Rebel Heart. But perhaps Disclosure’s greatest triumph has again been with Smith, co-producing his theme, Writing’s On The Wall, a UK chart-topper, for the James Bond flick Spectre.
The pair have decided to spend their New Year’s period in Australia, headlining Field Day and playing Falls, Southbound and headline shows. Guy – the older Lawrence at 24-years-old – had a secret agenda. “I’m really looking forward to getting back and having a second summer,” he says. “It’s the place to be, man – Aussie New Year’s is the best. I wanna have it on the beach, not underneath a blanket.”
Watch: – Omen (Ft. Sam Smith)
Music Feeds: It’s very cool that you’re hitting Australia again after such a big year. What can we look forward to with the show?
Guy Lawrence: Well, we’ve got a brand new live show for everyone – it’s kinda bigger and better than any live show we’ve ever brought to Oz before. I think people are gonna be pleasantly surprised. It’s still based on the same principle as last time – how it’s just me and my brother up on stage, it’s not like a whole band – but we are playing the music like a band. We’re playing loads of instruments – like drums and bass and guitars, keyboards – [and] singing. So it’s a lot more like watching a band than a DJ.
It’s just a lot bigger in production as well. We’ve really stepped it up ’cause we’re headlining festivals and doing big venues now, so we had to accommodate for that. We bought a shitload of lights and loads of video screens and loads of visuals – but they’re there to try to complement what we’re doing. It’s not just there to burn people’s eyes out. It’s supposed to be a classy show and [we] try to show everyone that we’re actually playing something live. We’ve got cameras on everything that we’re doing, we put it up on the screen, and it’s just trying to give everyone the experience that we have being on stage and put that in the crowd. I’m looking forward to taking it to Oz.
Things exploded for Disclosure with Settle. You changed the vibe in dance music – ushering in deeper sounds after that EDM era. Everyone references you, even the Americans. Are you surprised by the impact Settle had on the culture?
Yeah, 100 per cent. We never knew it would have an impact like that – ’cause, even when it came out, it had mixed reviews. It had some good ones, and it also had some bad ones. It’s like now everyone calls [Settle] this kinda turning point – and it’s like, ‘Well, you didn’t at the time, did you?’ (laughs) But it’s quite nice to look back and to know that we were onto something and to know that we were I guess just doing the right thing at the right time.
I feel like, if we’d made Settle maybe two or three years before, it wouldn’t have had that impact ’cause people just weren’t ready for it. So I think we definitely got a bit lucky with the timing as well – plus we just toured the hell out of it, like so hard. We just showed the whole world songs over and over again. I think that definitely also really helped – having the live show and having that ability to play it on such big stages to huge crowds every night. I think that really helped push it. But, yeah, we never could have predicted it – no way.
You got Sam back for the single Omen off Caracal. I imagine just logistically it’s hard to get him in a studio now. How did you ensure that happened?
Well, number one, yeah, he was always committed. We’re really good friends with Sam – we talk all the time. I think we kinda feel like brothers, ’cause [as acts] we both came into this at the same time and we both had huge moments at the same time. We’ve just been able to relate to each other in terms of the whole journey – although his has been a completely crazy one now in the pop world and ours is more in the dance world. I think we’re always gonna make music together in some respect.
We helped on the new Bond song [Writing’s On The Wall], he’s on Omen, Howard wrote a song for his album [In The Lonely Hour] – so we’re always working together. Logistically, he’s a busy man – so are we. But luckily we have the same managers so it’s not that difficult – ’cause they can just look at both our diaries at the same time!
Watch: Sam Smith – Writing’s On The Wall
Sam performed the Bond theme on The Graham Norton Show and he was talking about how high the vocal line is and how he regretted that because he has to hold his balls when he sings.
Yeah, he always says that – he said that about Latch and Omen as well, we make him sing so high… He’s just like, ‘Guys, why do we write it so high?’ We’re like, ‘Bro, it’s your idea – I don’t know why you’re complaining!’ But I think the Bond song was a really good thing for him to do – it’s amazing. It’ll go down in history. It’s one of those timeless things that every singer dreams to do. When they wrote the song, him and [songwriter/producer] Jimmy Napes, they played it to me and Howard and we just loved it. I thought it was probably one of the most beautiful things they’d ever written together.
When they asked us to add a few finishing touches – like a few synthesisers here and there, whatever it was – we were more than happy to oblige. But full respect to Jimmy and Sam – they wrote the bulk of it. I loved it. I know it got mixed reviews but I think, since it obviously went number one around the whole world and [with] that Graham Norton performance, now they’ve seen him do it live, everyone’s kinda shut up a little bit. They’re like, Wow – it’s actually a pretty beautiful song.
I just went to watch the film the other day and I thought it fitted really nicely, to be honest. I’m always gonna be biased – but I think it’s great.
The other song that has really excited people here was Magnets with Lorde. You worked together in the studio – it wasn’t done over the Internet. Is there any prospect of you guys doing further work, even contributing to her mysterious second album?
Yeah, we never work over the Internet – it’s always done that way. If we wanna work with someone, and they wanna work with us, we need to make the effort to get together in a room and write a song. We write in quite an old-fashioned way – and that’s exactly what Lorde does. We sit around a piano, or even just sit around a laptop with a little beat going, and we all come up with ideas. I think she works quite similarly to that. So that really worked for us.
And, yeah, Magnets, it’s been very reactive – especially in America and Oz, it’s feeling quite exciting. I think it’s probably ’cause she killed the video as well. She looks amazing in that video! People love it. It’s one of my favourites, too. She hasn’t asked us yet to contribute towards her album but, if she did, I’d be more than happy to. It’s definitely a busy time for us, and her, but she’s a wicked artist.
People have likened Nocturnal, with The Weeknd, to Frankie Knuckle’s Your Love. There’s a real generation gap in electronic music now. For a lot of fans, house starts with Daft Punk and they don’t necessarily go back. Do you feel that there is a rupture? How important is for people going to a Disclosure set to know about Frankie as the ‘Godfather of House’?
Yeah, I think there is a bit of a gap and a sort of lack of knowledge about the history of where it’s all come from… But I don’t think it’s important that everyone has to know – you can like something just ’cause of how it sounds, you don’t have to care about where it’s come from. Unless you’re a producer, or a musician or a DJ, you might not necessarily care about that stuff. If you’re just into something completely different – like you work at a bank or something, [and] you just like the sound of it, I think it’s fine to just come to a Disclosure gig and like it for what it is. You don’t have to know where it’s all from.
But I think if you’re a person like me, who’s into music and been playing drums or something since they were three and they like DJing, you’re naturally gonna look into that stuff eventually. I did! When I started going out clubbing, I would just go purely to hear the music. Then I’d look at what the DJ was playing – and he’d play some new stuff and then some old stuff and I’d look up where that old stuff was from and buy it and then look what label it was on and then find all the records on that label, [in] the traditional way, which I guess is just for a certain kind of person. You’re right – Daft Punk might be the oldest thing that some kids know.
I’ve got a pretty horrible story where we went to Chicago for the first time – to play in Chicago. We were at the customs gate and the guy was like, ‘Oh, so you guys are in a band, blah, blah, blah’ – doing all the visa stuff. We were like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He’s like, ‘What’s the band name?’ We were like, ‘Disclosure’. He hadn’t heard of us, which wasn’t a surprise – it was our first time there.
He was like, ‘Oh, okay – what type of music is it?’ We were like, ‘Oh, it’s house music.’ He was like, ‘What’s that?’ We were like, ‘Oh my God – you’re in charge of who comes into Chicago and you don’t even know what house music is!’ So, yeah, I think there is a big gap there. He was a young dude…
Back to the Nocturnal thing, that is a Frankie Knuckles reference, 100 per cent, because, when we started making that song, I think it was about a week after Frankie passed away. We wanted to do like a little tribute to him, instead of just like a stupid Facebook post or something. We were like, ‘Why don’t we actually just do a musical tribute instead?’
Watch: Disclosure – Magnets (Ft. Lorde)
You contributed to Mary J Blige’s The London Sessions – an amazing record. But it didn’t find traction. There’s been a lot of discussion about ageism affecting female artists such as Madonna. Why didn’t Mary’s album blow up?
I think we were a bit disappointed with how it did as well. I’m obviously not involved with the label side of things with her but, as far as I could tell, I reckon it’s probably down to that – like more down to marketing and how they rolled it out, rather than anything. I remember when it was all finished they were really in a rush to get it out – like straight away. I was like, Well, that’s a bit weird – surely you need to do a lot of promo around it or something?
But we just write the music – we weren’t involved in that. But I would imagine it’s probably something to do with just how they rolled it out. I think it’s a great record… But, with Mary, I think she’s just gonna be happy with the music she’s made – ’cause she’s really, really just such a musician. When you shut the door of the studio, there’s no drama with her – she’s not a diva or anything. She’s a real, real cool, chilled person. She just becomes one of us when you’re in a room with her. She just really wants to write the music and push herself. I think that’s what she’s in it for, rather than the sales – ’cause she’s sold enough records in her time!
Talking of eternally cool, you also worked with Nile Rodgers on the one-off Together. Is there someone who you’d still love to work with?
Yeah, for sure. Weirdly, it’s all people along those [legendary] lines – people like Nile and Mary. Obviously Michael Jackson was one of them. I think [his was] probably the first music that I can remember hearing, like, ever. I still listen to him almost every day. He’s probably the biggest influence on our songwriting. I’d also love to meet Prince. I think that’d be incredible.
And I think that would work – ’cause there’s some people who you love their music so much and they are wicked artists or whatever, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d work on a Disclosure track. You kinda have to be a bit careful with that – how you pick and choose – but I think Prince would be fucking sick. I think that would really work. So I’d love to do something with him one day. I’ve got absolutely no idea how to get a hold of him so, if you find a way, please let me know. I think he lives in the sky somewhere, in the clouds, so he’s a bit difficult to find. But we’re working on it.
You named Caracal after an elusive wildcat. They’re a threatened species in some parts. Is there any chance of you becoming wildlife warriors for the caracal?
You’ll be happy to know that our booking agent adopted us both caracals as our birthday presents [the brothers both celebrate in May]. So we’ve got two caracals (laughs). We’re gonna definitely try to do some charity stuff for the caracal conservation societies, [the] people taking care of them, ’cause they are wicked animals and no one really knows about them.
On Wikipedia it says that technically you can have caracals as pets – but they’re a little volatile!
Yeah, it’d be like having a wolf or something – you could try but it would just start tearing up the house eventually, I think. We looked into it thoroughly (laughs).
Listen: Disclosure – You & Me (Flume remix)
You worked with an Australian on the record in Queensland soulster Jordan Rakei. How much of our music have you heard? Lorde doesn’t count, even though we do steal New Zealand acts.
My favourite band in the world right now is Tame Impala, 100 per cent. I think Kevin [Parker] is amazing. That’s one of the most amazing albums he’s made – the last one that he’s just put out [Currents]… Tame Impala are definitely one of my favourite bands at the moment. I’ve seen them about four times this year and I’m definitely gonna go and see them again when they play in London. So, yeah, I’m a big, big fan. Other than that, I love Flume. I love Flume’s remix of our song that he did especially – of You & Me [featuring Eliza Doolittle].
I think that’s one of the best remixes I’ve ever heard – of someone just taking something and completely flipping it and doing something even more amazing with it. He really, really brought a new light to the song. I think his music’s amazing as well. And he’s a lovely guy, which is another bonus. His other project he [did] with Chris [Emerson], called What So Not, I’ve seen him DJ a few times. He’s a pretty amazing DJ.
I wouldn’t have expected Tame Impala.
Mmm, yeah, for sure. Me and Howard still listen to a lot of bands. I love Foals. I love a band called Wild Beasts. I’m still really into guitar music. The reason I like Tame Impala is because it’s so experimental in the production. I think [Parker’s] production is just amazing – and the fact that he does it all himself and mixes it is why I like it. It’s almost like the nerdy producer inside of me that likes it a lot.
Would you ever do something a bit rockier?
Um, I mean, I play the drums, so I’d happily play on it, but I don’t think I could produce it. I don’t think I could write it, nah. I’ve tried! I’ve been in a couple of bands before with my friends at school and we didn’t get anywhere. So probably not.
Maybe when you’re 50 you’ll return to it and it’ll just happen?
Yeah – a kinda dad rock revival!
Watch: Disclosure – Holding On