Howard and Guy Lawrence, the Disclosure brothers, show up for their promotional appearances the way you would for a job interview: professional and prepared.Â Fresh-faced and wellÂ groomed, at 21 and 24, respectively, the twoâs experienced demeanor is similar to a career musician of their combined ages.Â
HowardÂ isÂ articulateÂ and conciseÂ with his responses;Â his large, round blue eyes directly focused, calmness exuding from his person. Guy is just as eloquent;Â his responses a bit more elaborate, his frame slightly more delicate than his younger brotherâs, his hair blonder,Â and hisÂ energy friskier.Â
Howardâs almost uniform-like black t-shirt and jeans are representative of his composed attitude. Guyâs grey shorts and black t-shirt adorned with white outline sketches of topless women in various positions is likewise representative of his disposition.Â Â
âThe most annoying thing Howard does is not share foodâever,â says Guy heatedly. âIt just happened. He got some spaghetti bolognese and I know itâs good because Iâve had it here before. I said, âCan I have a bite?â And heâs like, âNo.â So Iâm eating this chocolate mousse and he puts his spoon in it andÂ has a big mouthful.
Iâm like, âMate, you didnât give me any of yours.â I guarantee you when I go back, it will all be gone. Thatâs definitely his worst trait, not sharing in general.âÂ
âThe most annoying thing about Guy is that heâs always hungover, and always demands sympathy for being hungover,â says Howard dispassionately. âI donât drink.Â I donât give him any sympathy at all.Â But the most admirable thing about Guy is his attention to detail. Heâs got so much of that.
Heâll sit and EQ a hi-hat literally allÂ day, nine hours, just one hi-hat. You leave the room for five hours, come back, and it sounds exactly the same.Â And heâs like, âBetter or worseâ?âÂ
âHowardâs whole way of life is admirable,â says GuyÂ reverentially. âHis view on life is so mature for someone his age. He doesnât drink. He doesnât go out. He doesnât party. Heâs a DJ, he goes to clubs, but he doesnât go into all that. He will sit at home and read and look after his dog. Everyone gets us mixed up as me being the younger one and I can see why.âÂ
Ensconced in Los AngelesâÂ gracious Chateau Marmont hotel for the weekÂ to speak aboutÂ their second album,Â âCaracalâ, and to shoot the third video in their four-partÂ Ryan Hope-directedÂ video series, the Lawrence brothers are at ease. They have the polite detachedness that comes with great success.Â
Their idea for a video series is realized by HopeâsÂ vision of a futuristic worldÂ where a girl with aÂ caracal tattooÂ embedded with aÂ mysterious giftÂ is chasedÂ across the globe.Â The seriesÂ startsÂ with the Gregory Porter-vocalizedÂ âHolding OnâÂ and continuesÂ with the Sam Smith-vocalizedÂ âOmenâ.Â
âI see Disclosure as carrying the beacon of UK dance music history,â says Hope.Â âMy aim is forÂ âCaracalâÂ to be remembered, revered and talked about for its videos as much asÂ itsÂ music.âÂ
In the two years since their debutÂ LP,Â âSettleâ, the meteoric rise of Disclosure has been as unexpected as it has been astounding.Â At a time when brashness and repeated climaxes were/areÂ de rigueurÂ in dance music, these guys tapped into the groovy house sounds of the mid-â90s, wrote actual songs, and struckÂ an international chord with dance, pop, R&BÂ and soul fans alike.Â
They made a superstar out of the previously unknown Sam Smith with his feature on their global smash,Â âLatchâ.Â And superstars came knocking on their doorÂ wanting to collaborate, Mary J. Blige, who reimagined their song, âF For Youâ,Â Nile RodgersÂ withÂ âTogetherâ; andÂ everyoneÂ wantedÂ the Disclosure remix touch likeÂ UsherÂ on âGood Kisserâ andÂ EmeliÂ SandeÂ onÂ âDaddyâ.Â Â
âWe only discovered house six years ago, before that, we grew up on pop, R&B, funkÂ soul,â says HowardÂ who was still in high school when Disclosure took off. âWeâre fromÂ a town called Reigate, which is in Surrey, England, quite near Croyden where dubstep and grime started. Dubstep was the first dance music we ever heard.
We liked it a lot but we never wanted to make it. It was only when we startedÂ looking into where it came from --Â UK garage, which came from American house, which came from disco --Â that led us back toÂ the music we were already into:Â funk and soul.âÂ Â
Born toÂ musician parents, both brothers were raisedÂ with formal music lessons.Â Guy has been playing the drums since the age of three, Howard is an accomplished piano and bass player, both playÂ guitar.Â They thought they would get really good at their instruments, become session musicians and make a living that way.
Since their parents hadnât been able to makeÂ enough of a go of it as musicians,Â they assumed they wouldnât either.Â The discovery of dance music and music making software changed all that.Â Still, the brothers would say they are musicians first. Songwriting falls into the second position for Howard,Â production third.
Production is Guyâs second strongest suit and songwritingÂ isÂ his third. DJing is aÂ welcomeÂ side effect of their career.Â
These roles became more defined forÂ âCaracalâ,Â smoothingÂ the transition into the second album after the highly regardedÂ âSettleâ.Â âThe last album we both shared every single role,â says Guy. âThis one we stuck to our strengthsÂ with me doing the production side and Howard doing the lyrics and melody.Â
The easiest thing was starting. People getÂ scared of their second record.Â We purposely took two months off and planned to do nothing. A week went by and we wanted to write music. WeÂ used toÂ write music as a hobbyÂ in our spare timeÂ and now itâs our job, but itâs for the love.âÂ
âTheÂ fast pace of how the guys workÂ wasÂ most inspiring,â says Miguel of working with Disclosure on their collaboration,Â âGood Intentionsâ.Â âThe creative process was quick and light, not too serious, but focused.âÂ
âSettleâÂ was primarily written in the Lawrence brothersâ parentsâ home in their bedroom studio. Now, the two have a tiny room at RAK Studios in Londonâs affluent St. Johnâs Wood, halfway between Guyâs home in Stoke Newington and Howardâs home in Acton.Â
There they have an out-of-tune piano, a Neumann U-67 microphone,Â and a Neve mixing desk on which only three channels are being used.Â This is where the majority ofÂ âCaracalâÂ was written, alongside James Napier aka Jimmy Napes, who co-wroteÂ âLatchâ,Â âWhite Noiseâ,Â andÂ âHelp Me Lose My MindâÂ onÂ âSettleâ.Â
This is where all the superstars onÂ âCaracalâ, namely, Sam Smith, Lorde,Â the aforementionedÂ Miguel, Gregory Porter, Lion Babe, Kwabsâall except the WeekndâcameÂ for songwriting sessions.Â Itâs also where Mary J. Blige came forÂ âF For Youâ,Â shedding her superstar cloak at the door and working hard to make the song the best it could be.
And itâsÂ whereÂ DisclosureÂ brought virtual unknowns Jordan RakeiÂ for âMasterpieceâÂ and Brendan ReillyÂ for âMoving Mountains.âÂ
âWe only work with nice people. Most of them we met touring, but we didnât know all of them before, weÂ were just big fans. Them coming to us showed they actually want to do it,â says Howard of the collaborators.
âWe would never work withÂ someone whoÂ doesnât write their own songs. We need them to write with us and we want them to, more than anything, because then they feel what theyâre singing about.âÂ
âWe donât do that whole thing of sending a beat to someone and get them to write something. We always get in a roomÂ around a piano,â says Guy. âThatâs missing in a lot of music.Â Itâs the reason we have a lot of soulless, monotonous, formulaic music at the moment. Itâs all sounding the same: make a beat, send it off, someone writes the topline, someone else sings it.
The magic gets lost. Thereâs nothing like sitting in a room with all those brains together and actually playing the music. We want the singer to sing about something they believe in. Thereâs no point telling someone what to sing. They can, but itâs not coming from the heart.âÂ
âI love hanging out with the boys. We tell dumb stories and laugh a lot.Â They remind me ofÂ the boys I went to school with,â says Lorde of her time writingÂ âMagnetsâÂ with Disclosure.
âWe wrote the song over two days. We would go back and forth to this diner. Iâd be ordering lunch and humming a new part into my phone and hitting drumbeats on tables and chairs.Â I kept telling them to make the chords simpler, make the parts simpler,Â but it's such a lush record with its complex moments.âÂ
The production techniques and sonics used onÂ âCaracalâÂ donât differ from those onÂ âSettleâ. But the style has shifted from overtly house toÂ a slower, R&B groove with a generous dose of jazz influence.Â The Weeknd sets the tone with the warm album opener, âNocturnalâ,Â on which he gives an infectious,Â slick sheen.Â
Smith slips back into his spot, for theÂ fastest written song on the album, theÂ syrupyÂ smoothÂ âOmenâ.Â Lion Babeâs turn onÂ âHourglassâÂ gives it a saucy twist.Â Aussie Rakei drips soulful overÂ âMasterpieceâ.Â And Gregory Porterâs honeyed tones makeÂ âHolding OnâÂ a house classic.Â
âAlthough Iâm a jazz vocalist, in many ways I crave simplicity and honesty,â says Porter.Â âWe essentially wrote a soul song, a ballad with the idea that it would change with rhythms and beats.Making that conversion from what I do as a soul/jazz/gospel-influenced artist and bringing that into a genre and ears that mayÂ not be aware of meÂ makes the artificial lines drawn between genres unnecessary.âÂ
âThe hardest thing aboutÂ âCaracalâÂ is the same as it was withÂ âSettleâ,â says Howard. âBecause weâre using so many different singers, itâs difficultÂ to maintain a sound throughout the record.Â If youâre a singer, your voice does that for you.
We have to do it with our production, which is difficult, but at the same time quite natural because we pick all the sounds we like and that leads us to quite similar stuff every time. To an extent, the writing side of it does have some coherence because [Napier] and I are very involved in the actual writing of the melodies and the lyrics.
We do it with the singers but thereâs two of us and one of them so it sounds more like something we would writeÂ ratherÂ than them,Â but withÂ a hint of their influence.Â Itâs importantÂ that as soon as you hear any song, you knowÂ who it isÂ within 30 seconds. I feel like weâve managed to doÂ that withÂ âCaracalâ.âÂ
When Disclosure unleashed their antithesis to EDM sounds three years ago, they made it okay forÂ house-based sounds to come through. They made space forÂ Gorgon City,Â Duke Dumont,Â Tensnake,Â Eats Everything, Hot Since 82, and other, groove-oriented, 4/4 beat artists.Â
And they gave renewed life to those who influenced them: Todd Terry, Basement Jaxx,Â and Etienne de Crecy, to name a fewâwho all released full-lengths, withÂ de CrecyÂ stating, âHouse music became interesting again in the last two years.Â There was a new energy and freshness. I wanted to do it again because the music was close to the music I used to make 20 years ago.âÂ
One of the godfathers of house on the West Coast, Marques Wyatt observes, âThe influence of â90s house music is definitely there, but sonically, Disclosureâs sound is now.Â When I play older songs alongsideÂ theirs, I haveÂ to do a ton of EQing for it to match. Itâs very evident there is substance there.
It was pretty amazing to see them at Coachella at the Outdoor Theatre. After going to Coachella for so many years, hereâs someone doingÂ deep house on an outdoor stage;Â itâs packed front to back, and everyoneâs singing.âÂ Â Â
DisclosureÂ alsoÂ headlinesÂ a like-minded stage at EDC and at the same time, hasÂ its own shows at the 15,000+ capacity Los Angeles SportsÂ Arena and New Yorkâs 18,000+ Madison Square Garden.Â âWe were skeptical about EDC.Â AviciiÂ wasÂ onÂ theÂ main stageÂ as we played,â says Guy.
âWeÂ never compromise, we play straight up house music, no EDM at all. We had such a great crowd, huge tent, packed. I have no doubt if we were on the main stage at EDC that it wouldnât work, not yet anyway. Times havenât changed enough yet for it to work. Itâs happened in the UK. Two years later it will happen here.Â You havenât got to deleteÂ oneÂ sound to have another one happening.Â
He continues,Â âEDM is such an all-encompassing term in the US. If you take any DJ, you become EDM if you play music around that speed. Sonically, weâre miles away in term of the music we make.âÂ
In its native UK, Disclosure is a house-pop act, placing farÂ from what that country considers EDM, such as TiÃ«sto, Calvin Harris, Dillon Francis.Â
They have been hosting their Wildlife events at clubs,Â curating nights,Â hosting stages at festivals, and earlier this year, joining up with Rudimental for their ownÂ Wildlife Festival where Nas and Wu-Tang Clan immediately answeredÂ âyesâÂ when asked to perform, which was a âwhoaâÂ moment for all involved.Â
âGuy never becomes used to the success,â saysÂ Howard ofÂ his brotherâs most endearing characteristic. âWhen weâre meeting famous people, heâs always like, âwow,â whereas Iâm over that part. Except when I met Sting,Â I was pretty excited because I grew up learning the bass toÂ himÂ so that was a big deal for meâandÂ he said I was a good bass player.âÂ
While heÂ may be âoverâ the ideaÂ of flirting with celebrities,Â itâs his brother who is in a serious relationshipÂ far away from their high profile, sometimes plastic appeal.Â âHowardâs girlfriend is his first love,â saysÂ GuyÂ (who is single after the demise of a long-term relationship)Â affectionately about his younger brotherâs most endearing trait.
âThey live together. Theyâre definitely going to stay together forever. Heâs settled down withÂ the attitude of a 40-year-old man, which is cool.â
words: LILY MOAYERIÂ portraits: SIMON EMMETT live shot: ANDREW RAUNER