INTERVIEW

Disclosure talk Sam Walton through their plan to imitate The Artful Dodger.

disclosure

In the early hours of this morning, Disclosure played Ibiza. Tomorrow night they will be in London. The day after is Derry, then New York, and then the west coast of America, before coming back to Manchester, via Belfast. And today? Today, Disclosure are in Barcelona, at the Primavera Sound festival. Another hotel room in another city. In the not-so-early hours of tomorrow morning – at 4:35am, to be precise – they will take to one of Primavera’s stages, underneath a giant solar panel, to perform another edition of their live show, then jump straight on a plane and do it all again 15 hours later at Field Day. Turns out they’re a bit knackered.

“Shit man, that’s not a good question,” laughs 21-year-old Guy Lawrence, the elder of the two brothers who make up the duo, when asked when they last had a day off. In sweatpants and an old t-shirt, sporting post-pubescent facefuzz, a weary smile but still an infectious enthusiasm for talking about his job, he glances at his nodding brother Howard. “Since we delivered the album, we’ve had a couple of days off from playing, just doing promo, sitting in hotel rooms chatting. So that’s not that bad – go to Paris, talk to some French man, come home – but it’s still quite tiring.”

The problem, for Guy and Howard at least, is that right now quite a lot of people want to talk to them – not just in Paris and in Barcelona, but also in America (“these interviewers from New York and Chicago keep on asking what the clubbing scene is like in Reigate!”), Poland (“they sent that person who couldn’t speak English – he showed up and was like, hello… hi… er… how are you er…”), and on Australian national pop radio, where they’ve just been daytime playlisted – something that, when it happened in the UK in February, helped propel the fizzing garage pop of their latest single, ‘White Noise’, to number 2 in the charts. Essentially, having constantly tweaked their sound for three years (their debut single of Burial-lite post-dupstep arrived through Moshi Moshi in August 2010), they’ve suddenly stumbled upon their own iteration of pop’s eternal ‘familiar but new’ elixir, and accordingly, uncompromisingly, their time appears to be now.

disclosure1

But perhaps that fortunate stumble should be less of a surprise than it appears. “It was a natural progression,” insists Guy, when quizzed about how they have mutated from brooding, glitch-laden instrumentals into joyful two-step neo-soul. “It wasn’t an ‘I don’t like that, let’s change’, it was more like, ‘we’ve done that now, let’s move on’.”

Crucially, though, what the Lawrence brothers did was less move on, and more move back. If the first wave of Disclosure’s sound was unapologetically stolen from the fidgety textures of their then-peers James Blake and Joy Orbison (“We wanted to learn how to make their songs, so just tried to copy them,” admits Howard, freely, “so ‘Love That You Know’ is a Mount Kimbie rip – us actually trying to be Mount Kimbie – then ‘Street Light Chronicles’ is a straight copy of ‘Hyph Mngo’”), the current brand recreates club bangers that would’ve been a highlight down Bagley’s in 1998 – all irresistible rolling garage beats, rushing filter sweeps and soulful vocals sped up and clipped to perfection – and which dominated the charts at the tail-end of the nineties in a way that Disclosure themselves are threatening to now.

But although there’s a magpie tendency running through all of Disclosure’s guises thus far, there’s also a pleasingly clear sense of intention to their current music-making: whereas the nascent Disclosure were simply absorbing and mimicking all that was around them, opportunistically lifting from the hip sound of the time, the updated version has had to delve into the history books; after all, when Disclosure’s natural forebears were dominating the national consciousness, the brothers Lawrence were only 3 and 6 years old.

It’s an historical approach that is 100% deliberate, too, insists Guy: “After our first few tunes, we started saying ‘I wonder where James Blake gets his influences from, I wonder where Joy Orbison gets his influences from’,” he explains, “and that led us to garage and house music. So over the last few years we’ve bought hundreds of old house records and listened to loads of mixes to just learn about it all.”

Such a bookish approach – more akin to the young guitar band strategy of listening to the entire discography of the Velvet Underground/MC5/Magazine before producing joyful imitations – feels oddly charming in the context of electronic music, with its almost insatiable desire to face forwards. Indeed, Disclosure’s total lack of desire to experiment and obsession with learning about the past marks them out as curiously unique producers.

Then again, the more you talk to them, the less they seem to think of themselves as electronic producers at all. “A couple of years ago, we really wanted to be in that scene with James Blake and Joy Orbison,” remembers Guy of their early, copyist days, “and then we realised that we could never be, because we wanted to write pop songs, with structure. We didn’t just want to write build-up, drop, build-up, drop. We wanted to write pop music, just in the style of house and garage. I mean, you’ve got an hour of house music on your album? That’s a bit boring, isn’t it? A bit serious for us. People like SBTRKT and TEED though – they write songs. They just produce them in a fucking sick way.”

“I mean, there’s kinda a clear line for us,” continues Howard. “People who make instrumental house music don’t need to have any musicality at all. It’s an amazing craft – the production skill is incredible, and I respect that so much – but let’s take someone like Bodikka: there’s one chord in one of his songs! It’s not a musical masterpiece. It’s more like programming machines to do stuff, which is a skill in itself, but put that production style into pop music and that’s what stuff like ‘Latch’ is.”

Indeed, that’s the sound of most of ‘Settle’, Disclosure’s debut album whose release is perfectly timed for a thousand summer dancefloors: eight of the 13 tracks come with straight-up pop or soul guest vocalists making merry over the kind of addictive retro-futuristic pop that ‘White Noise’ and ‘Latch’ have helped to establish as Disclosure’s trademark. And the others, like the gorgeously squirming ‘Stimulation’ and opener ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’, offer an earthier, club-ready foil to the big vocal numbers. “The only thing we wanted for our album was a balance between club music and pop-structured songs,” says Howard, with pride. “We write pop music in the style of house and garage. That’s the only way to put it.” – in which case, it would seem, job done.

disclosure2

With such a simple manifesto – garage, plus pop songs, plus live vocals – it’s impossible to see beyond ‘Settle’ being anything but the 2013 update of the Artful Dodger’s debut, a record of almost unimpeachably perfect electronic pop unfortunately remembered best for unleashing Craig David all over the UK’s boink. Consequently, and in light of all Disclosure’s high-fashion mixtape appearances and remix commissions, it might not be the most culturally credible reference point, but Guy is having none of it: “Man, that’s an incredible record!” he insists when ‘It’s All About The Stragglers’ crops up. “They were the only people doing garage music as a pop album with singers on it – chat to people like Todd Edwards and Zed Bias, Artwork, all them, they’ll admit, Artful Dodger smashed it.”

It’s super-enthusiastic outbursts like this that reveal Disclosure’s underlying personality. This is not a pair of moody brothers trying to look cool in front of the hipster kids – at least, not any more. Nor is their pilfering from electronic music’s past some sort of knowingly pastiched arch exercise in studio perfection, like another electronic duo one could name who also happen to have a new album out in 2013. Instead, the overwhelming impression is of a pair of mates just revelling in the music they’ve discovered, like the rest of us, and trying to play their versions of it to as many people as possible.

Less producer-pioneers, they’re more like the kids with their Stratocasters playing Hendrix riffs, or football fans recreating classic goals in the park simply because it’s fun. “Our music, it’s more like a homage,” says Guy as we finish up, who also adds that he wants to make an old-skool hip-hop album next, and get Q-Tip on it. “It’s our way of saying that that music was fucking sick – that that’s what we listen to all the time. The main reason our records sound like they do is because that’s the music we’re listening to right now.” And, with pleasingly circularity, because of Disclosure, it’s what we’re listening to, too.

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »