It’s been the year of Disclosure. Battles over authenticity to a war on drugs, though, can’t disguise an act that has captured the zeitgeist.
Cycles of backlash come hand-in-hand with high degrees of success, this we know. Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers behind the hit machine that is Disclosure, have had a war on their hands since songs like Latch and White Noise not only destroyed the charts (no longer really a measure of mainstream impact) but became ubiquitous through all the channels that really count: Channel 4 youth programming soundtracks, River Island and Topshop in-store playlists, YouTube suggested videos sidebars and noise bleed from teenagers on the LUAS.
This is the band that headlined Electric Picnic’s main stage ahead of Björk in their first year of having become a going concern. A product of the UK hype cycle that makes stars overnight of bands like Klaxons, the brothers, 21 and 18, have had a wealth of antagonisms from cynics that have become part of the initiation into the mainstream. Hazings from the media, dubstepforum.com, Twitter commentators and fellow musicians started with accusations that the pair weren’t even writing their own songs and, worse still, were faking it live – age-old attacks on the authenticity of an interloper. Azealia Banks scrapped a collaboration with the pair, calling them “really rude”, and on the evening before I spoke to them down a Skype line to West Coast America their new video for Help Me Lose My Mind had been unceremoniously ripped down from YouTube after their label flipped out over comments that it glamourised drug use for teens (or, per the pessimist, to stoke some more conversation around the band in the last leg of its album cycle with two more tours coming up).
All the furore can’t smokescreen the real reason Disclosure have infiltrated the pop world’s everyday, though. Unlike their progenitors of UK Garage’s first wave, the pair has succeeded in releasing pop song after pop song without really deviating from their core sound. Artful Dodger imploded, Ms. Dynamite and Craig David got caught up in stargazing and a plethora of one-hit wonders got consigned to Ministry of Sound cheese compilations – Disclosure’s most successful release this year was their full-length, Settle.
Put it down to the pair’s puritanical devotion to the craft and the history of the music they make. Strip away the guest vocals that mar some of Settle‘s bum notes and there is still a core of quality club production – it’s no wonder that purists still find something to love in the understated numbers, When A Fire Starts To Burn, Stimulation, Grab Her. They are the logical endpoint of the underground’s contemporary focus on the producer (which explains why Nile Rodgers found common ground enough to hang out with them on his whistle-stop tour of the pop mainstream this year). Their artwork says it all: hand-drawn facial distortions that only hint at the personality beneath. Disclosure is more machine than human, and all that robotic armour has made them bullet-proof.
You guys are in San Diego now, right? What’s the reaction in America been like? It seems like the crowds might be a bit more Pitchfork-y than teen-y.
Guy: We’ve been on the road for about a month now – Japan, Australia, now here. Then straight back into a European tour and finishing off with a UK tour. We’ve been doing really little towns along the West Coast, places we’d never go if we weren’t doing Disclosure. It’s been fun actually getting to do a soundcheck rather than the usual thing with festivals where you roll up and have to play straightaway.
So, Nile Rodgers: How did that go?
It was really cool. We weren’t recording, we just met up for a day to talk about music and stuff. We did some messing around, some jamming. We made some music together, it was really good fun getting to pick his brains for ideas and hearing about his life. He’s such an interesting guy. I was all ears.
Musically, you’re in different parts of the spectrum, but your path to success has been kind of similar to James Blake. I thought it was sound that he continued to release more club-conscious tracks after his first album came out, are you two thinking about cutting any small run or non-album track stuff?
I agree about James Blake, but to be honest we haven’t had a second to think about new stuff. When we’ve finished touring in December we’ll be able to sift through all the ideas we’ve come up with on tour. It’d be nice to get an EP out or something at the start of next year. But at the minute we’ve just been messing around.
You haven’t stuck any remixes out recently, presumably because you’ve been up to your tits. Have you had to turn down any remixes you’d have liked to do?
I was saying this just the other day. Remixing is really fun. For us, it’s much more rewarding making your own music, that’s why we’re in this. We’re not here to reinterpret and regurgitate other people’s ideas, we started making music because *we* love making music, and that’s why remixes aren’t very high up on our list of things to do. But when the right song comes around, when we hear something we know we can improve or give a new life to, we do it. We just haven’t had the appetite or come across the right song recently – we won’t ever do remixes just because it’s for a big name. The song comes first.
I was going to ask you about this anyway, but given the stuff with the label pulling your new video on Friday, I guess it’s more prescient. During your set at Electric Picnic, there was a warning from the festival put out for anybody who had taken Blue Ghosts, a dodgy batch of pills.
I remember that. There’s been a lot of that going on recently, at the Warehouse Project and stuff too. It’s bad times. People need to be careful.
You make club music, or music that works in a club context, and drugs are a cornerstone of that culture – do you think that there needs to be a sense of reality about what people get up to when they’re out?
I think the music that we make… well, drugs are not a necessity when you go out clubbing, they’re a choice. The music doesn’t come with a label saying “you need to take drugs when you listen to this music”. I got into dubstep in 2006/7 and I would go out and listen to it every weekend, without even getting drunk, because I wanted to remember everything I was hearing. I wanted to go home afterwards and learn about this music, learn how to make it. Getting mashed up was not on my agenda, I was out purely for the love of the music. I have met loads of producers who, when you ask them how they got into music, say it was through taking a load of drugs when they were out clubbing – each to their own. If you’re going to do it, be careful and know what you’re taking. When people say it’s a cornerstone of clubbing, though, it’s not.
Disclosure – Latch on MUZU.TV.
Do you have any comment on the Help Me Lose My Mind video? It seems weird that the label would pull it *after* it went up? Surely PMR would’ve seen it before it went live?
Just to say, there are no people taking drugs in the video. What we wanted to do was create a sense of euphoria and show people having a great time. There’s a scene where a few people go out clubbing, and some commenters perceived that scene as meaning something else. And there’s no reason for us to keep that out, because we don’t want to encourage that at all. We don’t want to people to think the song is about taking drugs. The euphoria is about the connectivity between people, people socialising and having a great time. It doesn’t matter too much, it’s just a video and we’d rather not send out a bad message.
Who else is out that isn’t shit right now?
My friend Andy has a project called Luxury, which has an awesome song out called J.A.W.S. at the minute on a label we A&R on, it was fun to get to produce on that. Horizons is great. I think Skream’s had an incredible year moving back to house and techno from dubstep, it’s impressive to be in a position of being well-known for what you do to, then commit to doing something completely different.
Does that mean the next Disclosure album is going to be freak folk?
We’ll see about that.
Disclosure play Galway’s Black Box and Dublin’s Olympia Theatre as part of the Heineken Live Project on the 14th and 15th of November. More at heinekenmusic.ie.