Disclosure: The Brothers Broadcast
By Chloe Nguyen; photos by James Moreno on June 10, 2013
With electronic dance music booming in the mainstream, the majority of songs filed under the ever-growing genre are fist-pumping, womp-womp-laced beats on loop as opposed to artfully crafted, thoughtful tunes. The musicality that once defined the genre, it seems, is in short supply. Recasting garage and two-step—house music offshoots that dominated the UK dance scene in the ’90s—with some pop sensibility, English duo Disclosure are a breath of fresh air. At only 22 and 19 years old, Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers behind Disclosure, just released their debut opus Settle, on which they deftly stitch together exciting elements of garage and two-step to pop vocal hooks for a sleek, supple sound.
But just because the vocal hooks are pop doesn’t mean their songs are similarly intended. “I feel like a lot of dance music isn’t necessarily designed. It’s evolved into being made for the charts, whereas with our music we’re aiming for the underground,” Howard explains, slouching back in his chair in a conference room at Los Angeles’ mammoth Interscope Records building. “It’s almost an accident that it’s getting so much attention.”
What isn’t an accident is how Disclosure came to be. The brothers boast an impressive musical pedigree: their father is a rock guitarist; their mother is a vocalist; their grandfather performs clarinet; their grandmother plays classical piano and directs choirs. (Guy jests that if all the musicians in the family joined Disclosure, “it would be a cross between house, choir, Christmas jazz and prog rock.”)
With a musical heritage as rich as theirs, it’s no surprise that Guy began banging on pots and pans as a toddler. “I made a mess in the kitchen,” Guy says, a mischievous smile curling on his lips, “so my mom eventually bought me a drum kit.” Howard picked up bass and piano around the same age, and though the two were always encouraged to play music, their parents never urged them to write their own. “We’d listen to songs purely so we could learn them on our instruments,” Howard remarks, alluding to the basslines that drew him towards ’70s and ’80s funk and soul and ’90s R & B.
It wasn’t until Guy got a fake ID and started going to see DJs that he and Howard started producing music together. “I was heading out to clubs and showing what I heard to Howard. We would just copy it on our laptops and try to make something like it…basically just trying to be like James Blake, Joy Orbison or other underground DJs that we liked. From that, we got to the point where we wanted to write full songs. Our goal was to write pop songs but in the production style of all that underground stuff because: A, no one was doing it and B, it just felt normal to us because we grew up listening to songs with verses and choruses.”
The first song the two made, the synth-led, woozy “Offline Dexterity,” circulated through MySpace in 2010, and was almost immediately released via Moshi Moshi, with the shimmering “Street Light Chronicle” on the flipside. A couple years, an EP and a closing slot at Coachella’s Gobi Tent later, Disclosure have followed a remarkable trajectory, from pots and pans percussionists to purveyors of bright, soulful dance music that is unlike anything in the mainstream.
Inspired by the classically structured songs that they grew up with, Guy and Howard aim to craft lush, vocals-centered tracks that seamlessly weave two-step garage rhythms with deep house basslines. Since Disclosure’s inception, the siblings have gotten closer to making the music they’ve envisioned for themselves as artists. The result is Settle, a beguiling, sophisticated collection of songs that sounds like the dance-pop lovechild of their biggest influences: Chicago and Detroit house from the ’80s and ’90s, instrumental hip-hop (think J Dilla’s Donuts) and neo-soul. Featuring loops of fervent, uplifting lyrics (“When a Fire Starts to Burn”), Aluna Francis’ bubblegum voice superimposed on capricious beats (“White Noise”) and a sample of Kelis’ “Get Along With You” (“Second Chance”), Settle focuses heavily on vocals, with Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires, Eliza Doolittle, Jessie Ware and even the younger half of Disclosure lending their pipes. A brilliant concoction of everything that Guy and Howard love about music, Settle drips with the happiness the brothers believe should compose the core of dance music.
“We want to bring a bit of musicality back to dance music,” says Guy, “because we always wanted to write proper music, and we’re just really lucky that it’s connecting to so many people.” F