An Interview with Disclosure

Finding a comfortable nook between UK garage, soulful house and melodic pop, English sibling duo Disclosure have cracked a musical formula that has won the hearts of both the mainstream and dance fans alike, recently scooping both the number two spot in the UK single chart and topping its dance equivalent simultaneously. Now two years deep into their careers at just 18 and 20, Howard and Guy Lawrence have experienced a level of success that far exceeds the majority of their senior contemporaries, and they’ve taken to the attention like fish to water. Their enthusiastic response to their ever-growing fanbase has seen the recent launch of their “Disclosure Face” Facebook app, and the circulation of specially made masks at their gigs, spreading their sonic and visual identity far and wide beyond cyberspace. Their current world tour—featuring live bass, drums, keys and much banter from more outspoken elder brother Guy—was largely sold-out, further amplifying anticipation for their upcoming debut LP Settle, due to drop this June.

Amidst the hype, they cut a reassuringly well-mannered and down to earth pair when met up with prior to their Berlin show, arriving a few minutes behind schedule following a catch-up with their dad on the phone.

Am I right in thinking you’ve had a very musical upbringing?

Guy: Yeah definitely, our whole family is musical, they used to listen to music and play instruments all the time. Our mum used to make radio jingles and work in piano bars, and before that our dad was in a band with his friends, he used to play clubs and toured Canada for a bit, so they both made money from music for the first 20 years of their lives.

Does that mean you started making music together when you were very young?

Guy: No, we used to just jam and play instruments and stuff, but just because our parents used to get us playing music. I got my first drum kit when I was three.

Howard: We didn’t have similar interests in music, I was listening to really different stuff to Guy.

Guy: I just used to listen to hip hop constantly, from like the age of 12 or 13 up until now, and Howard wasn’t really into that at all. But we didn’t really meet musically until that kind of James Blake, Joy Orbison, Burial era.

Guy were you smuggling Howard into clubs underage?

G: No Howard’s never been clubbing. (To Howard) How many times have you been to a club for fun?

H: Two times, but for three years before I was allowed into clubs I was working in them. I don’t drink anyway so it’s alright.

G: There was no scene where we grew up in Surrey, I always used to go to Brighton. This was in 2008 and 2009, so I was watching Loefa, Mala DMZ, Scream, and Benga. Then I started going out and watch people like Joy Orbison, Floating Points and James Blake. I knew Howard wouldn’t like dubstep—I didn’t really, it was just fun to go out to and get mashed to—but when I heard those guys I was like, “Howard this is dubsteb but it’s actually quite good”, so we started thinking we should just make it for fun, and that’s how it started.

“White Noise” recently hit number two in the UK singles chart and number one in the dance chart, how has it felt to achieve that success so early in your careers?

G: Just weird man, because when we started out we just wanted to be an artist that someone like Oneman and Jackmaster would play in their DJ sets, we didn’t think we would ever change the charts or anything like that. But I guess not many people like us have fully vocalised songs, I think because we’re so into music on the songwriting side of things it made sense for us to write verse-chorus songs. I think as soon as you do that and you can do it relatively well, you just hit a much wider variety of people.

Your artwork of the hand-drawn face laid over photographs of yourselves and others has become instantly recognisable now, how did it come about?

G: Everything that’s happened with that face has been a complete accident. Our manager’s friend drew it for fun I think, and we needed something for artwork for our first single and we just liked it. I started pasting the face onto other people’s photos and girls I thought were hot, and now it’s become a thing. Then people Tweeted us saying we should make an app where they can use their own faces, so we did it. It’s been awesome, there are thousands of them, I think were gonna try do something with them for album artwork in the inlay of the CD. We’re trying to get an iPhone one as well.

How did you go about translating your music into a live show?

G: We’ve seen a lot of live shows, and there are a lot of people that are definitely live and using loads of really insane equipment, but all it really is is a man twiddling knobs and no one can connect with that. We wanted to try and let the backing track take care of the boring bits and then play the bits that people can relate to.

H: We want to get away from people doing that whole thing of saying they’re going to do a live show and then just having a laptop. I don’t really mind it but I wish they wouldn’t call it a live show, I wish they would just call it a laptop set. I think its more skillful to watch a DJ.

G: I don’t like it when people say they’re live and then turn up with nothing. We put a lot of effort into our shows. It’s people like us, SBTRKT, TEED, James Bake, that are all actually playing live, and that’s just one little thing that impresses us, if you put that effort into your live show it makes a lot of difference. I’d rather go watch an old school garage DJ with a bag of dubplates than a man using a laptop. That’s the other thing, we don’t claim to be good DJs at all, the live show is our thing, and then when we DJ that’s just for after-parties and fun. People would book us for shows and we were like “what are we going to play? How do you play dance music live to people?” So it was a weird process.

With UK Garage witnessing something of a comeback in the UK in past few years, how has it been for newcomers such as yourselves to play alongside the original forerunners?

H: Yeah definitely, we’ve become friend with people like Zed Bias, Todd Edwards, Kerri Chandler, and Artwork.

G: It’s really cool, they’re all fans of what we’re doing, which means a lot to us you know. Makes you feel like you’re doing something right.