Pop album of the year from a duo who don’t settle for less than perfect
Sibling duo Disclosure have made probably the pop album of the year. Older brother Guy Lawrence talks about their eureka moment on the dancefloor, and working with AlunaGeorge, Eliza Doolittle, Jamie Woon and Ed MacFarlane from Friendly Fires
This is the sound of 2013. Massive slabs of playful, fizzy, infectious, charming, energetic house, garage and pop grooves. Smart- as-hell vocals on top from a gallery of rising names. All of the above signed, sealed and delivered to your feet on the dancefloor or radio station of your choice by two whippersnappers.
The sound of 2013 is the sound of Disclosure, aka the Lawrence brothers. Guy is 22 and Howard is 19; they hail from Redhill in Surrey and their debut album, Settle, is unquestionably the best pop album you’ll hear this year.
Today, Guy Lawrence is sitting on the balcony of his hotel in Ibiza and has every right to sound like the cat who’s got the cream. At each point of their odyssey to date, Disclosure have produced cuts which have not merely chimed with the times we’re in, but have taken the zeitgeist to a brand new place. Be it the scintillating remix of Jessie Ware’s Running or their own Latch or White Noise, Disclosure have a happy knack of making pop music that zings.
In the beginning, though, it was the dancefloor that captivated Guy. He’d head off to clubs such as Digital in Brighton, dance all night and tell his younger brother about his adventures the next day.
“When I was going out to clubs like Digital and hearing people like Joy Orbison and Floating Points and James Blake and Mount Kimbie, it was the freshness that impressed me. It was forward-thinking music, like nothing else I’d ever heard. I had listened to hip-hop and bands and songs but I’d never listened to beats or that instrumental club side of things. When I was out in clubs, it was such fun to lose your mind to the bass.”
Yet the would-be producer knew he didn’t want to make music like the Skream and Benga stuff he was hearing. When Joy Orbison released Hyph Mngo in 2009, though, that changed everything. When he played it to Guy, the Lawrence brothers had their eureka moment.
“It was so fresh,” remembers Guy.
“It was 140bpm and it had a huge sub in it so it was like dubstep. But it also had these amazing chords and samples and the
rhythm was offbeat, funky, like a J Dilla hip-hop beat, and it instantly connected with me. It was the bridge between going out to listen to dance music and actually wanting to get up in the morning and make music like that.”
One key difference between the Lawrences and other producers is that they’re not afraid to fill their tracks with pop hooks and melodies. That, says Guy, is largely down to his younger brother’s fondness for sticking vocals into the mix, but he also wonders if their peers are deliberately steering away from pop.
“I don’t know if it’s a case that they can’t write songs or if they won’t do it,” he says. “We noticed that there was a severe lack of songs in dance music, especially in the kind we wanted to make. Most of the fully-formed songs in dance music are quite cheesy and loud and not very tasteful.”
Were the Lawrences’ career as a pop act to end tomorrow, they could always try their hands at A&R. Settle is full of the best new and emerging singers around, with contributions from London Grammar, AlunaGeorge, Irish-Thai talent Sinéad Harnett and Sam Smith, as well as established names such as Ed MacFarlane from Friendly Fires, Jamie Woon and Eliza Doolittle.
“We were lucky with all of them,” says Guy modestly. “They’re all friends of friends. Our managers knew about London Grammar and they know Sinéad’s manager. With Eliza, we occasionally record vocals with a friend of ours, Jimmy, in his studio, and he’s best friends with Eliza, so we got him to bring her along one day.
“With Jamie Woon and Ed McFarlane, we were mutual fans of each other’s music. I love Friendly Fires and Jamie’s stuff so we all met up for a beer and that turned into ‘do you want to come along to the studio?’ It’s a real achievement with Jamie because he’s never featured on anyone else’s songs before.”
Their approach to collaboration varied from singer to singer. “We always try to read the person as best we can when they come in. With Eliza, we wrote all the music on the day and the vocals the next day so we banged that one out. We knew she wrote lyrics and played instruments and that she’d like that spontaneous type thing.
“We sent Ed a few ideas over email and sent a few tracks back and forth before he went ‘yes’ to Defeated No More and recorded the vocals at home because he’s quite self-sufficient.”
What makes Settle so vibrant is Guy’s attention to detail. “I do all the production and mixing and I like clean mixes. That took hours and hours and sleepless nights to get right. Nothing gives me more pleasure. I could happily spend two hours sitting in my studio EQ-ing a hi-hat. I’ll sit there and tweak and tweak until the sun comes up.”
Since Settle, there has been much heated debate about what exactly to call the music the Lawrences make. Is this a new twist on garage? Is it time to drag deep house out again? Are we – horror of horrors – talking about yet another micro genre?
Guy has heard all of this and it bores him. “I kind of ignore that chatter,” he says. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. That’s why the album is called Settle, a statement to all the blogs and all the commentators to settle down, it will be fine, just listen to the music and make your own mind up.
“I do disagree with most names that people come up with for genres, but I can’t come up with anything better, so I’m not in a position to say ‘that name is shit’. I always try to describe what we do in a way that my gran would understand – it’s dance music and it’s influenced by house and garage from the nineties. That’s it, as simple as that.”
‘Settle’ is out now. Disclosure play the Electric Picnic on August 31st