State is in the middle of a musical storm. The moment before we arrive to meet the current darlings of the UK dance music scene Disclosure, they post a brand new track featuring Nile Rodgers and Sam Smith on their website. Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, both of whom are under 25 years old, have had a year of marked success after marked success and they show no signs of slowing down their remarkable rise as they finish off 2013. Just as the results of the duo’s most recent collaboration, ‘Together‘, are pumped into the public sphere, the reaction is inevitably an undulating swarm of plaudits and congratulatory messages coming via their phones. “It’s mad, people are literally bombarding us with messages” says Howard, the younger of the siblings”. Well, it is Nile Rodgers you’re working with here, do you expect the reaction to be anything else? “Ha, well no, he is s a legend at the end of the day”.
“When we first entered the studio with him”, offers Guy, “we were fairly awestruck. I mean, he was name dropping all over the place – explaining how he came to work with him (Guy points to a framed picture of David Bowie taking pride of place backstage in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre), or Daft Punk, there were just so many.” It has been that kind of year for you both, clearly. “Yeah, it’s been pretty mental to say the least. Obviously we released quite a lot of music, performed at a lot of shows and festivals, it really isn’t showing signs of slowing down either!”
When asked about the pressures of such a prolific output, Howard is quick to address the other side of the coin, the smooth that goes along with the rough. “Right now we are just both enjoying the pressure release that comes from not having to write songs to a particular schedule. We can just dip in and out of anything really, we just started a techno track last week and this week we’re trying out a slow jam. And the importance of that is that we’re not putting ourselves into any one bracket either.” So does that mean you recorded your album in one block of writing? “Yeah, effectively we did” explains Guy, “we just started trying out a few things and kept writing and writing and before you know it we had a full album out of tracks.” Was that the turning point for Disclosure or had you been aware of a growing level of success all the while? “When you release an album everything changes”, continues Guy, as Howard is obliged to acknowledge the near-constant amount of buzzing from his phone. “All of a sudden you are invited to play at bigger shows, bigger festivals and to bigger crowds and in return it really ups the reaction from the crowd.” It all seems so sudden, did this all stem from the album release or were there other signifiers? “Yeah it kind of did all happen after the album. Maybe this is because a lot of dance acts, when starting out anyway, just release EPs and individual tracks and that doesn’t seem to have the same impact as when an album lands.”
Maybe some of that comes from the push a record label will give if they’ve invested in an album. “I definitely think so”, says Howard. “Labels seem to take you more seriously when there’s an album involved, plus it’s a statement from the band. This is our sound, this is what we do and this [the lack of ambiguity] in turn means they have an idea what to do to support you.”
“Plus”, concludes Guy, “it helps being able to offer an idea as to where you want to take the music. Just look at albums released by the Artful Dodger and SBTRKT, obviously both had different sounds and are from different times but both were incredible in what they did. Both albums had very different sounds and styles of singing but they both created statements for the acts involved.” How do you think they managed it? “It was the production on both for me, two albums full of different song styles and the production was so good it made them both into cohesive packages. It held both albums together so well.” Is this what Settle was setting out to do? “Absolutely, I mean we worked with people like Ed McFarlane and London Grammar, two completely different musical approaches, but hopefully the production is what held the album together.”
This must make things difficult when you’re on the road, how do you manage to work with collaborators when you are hopping between cities, countries even? Or does it in fact make it easier? “It’s actually alright, we can write and do whatever on the road, on laptops, on the tour bus, in the hotel, wherever. And what helps it along is that when we get to each venue we can try it out through the P.A. and not have to rely on laptop speakers or headphones all the time. And even though we don’t really like writing on the road, ideas are there and we can maybe put down a general structure for a song and then forget about it. Even if we start something new, by the time we get home we’ve got bags of ideas.” That’s the creative process, really. When ability meets inspiration it can happen anywhere. “For sure, just look at Skrillex, he has written, recorded and produced entire albums from his tour bus and they sound so good. So loud, and crisp and clear, his sound is mental! I don’t know how he does it, and he is a really top guy too. We’ve met him loads of times when touring and he is amazing to hang out with.” “And he has an amazing team around him too”, concludes Howard. “They are so tight and supportive and always good to be around”.
So how do you find America’s reaction to your music? Is it much the same as back home? “It has been great so far, yeah. And we had been aware that we were performing in some legendary Chicago house venues, almost as if we were playing our interpretation of their music back to them. We both really love the music that came out of these places and all of a sudden to be performing there, to people like Todd Edwards, who tell us they love our version of house music, is amazing. These people were integral to the creation of house music as we know it now.”
Disclosure’s rise has been both rapid and steady, from playing clubs at home to selling 7,500 tickets for a three-night run of shows in New York’s Terminal 5 is remarkable for any act, especially after just one album. When asked how they dealt with such a change, the Lawrence brothers display maturity and composure beyond their years. “We’ve done our time, you know?” says Guy, who goes on to explain that putting in the pipe-work so early and so intensively has given them room to avoid burn-out. “We have no problem saying no, we’ve served our time doing what needs to be done so now we can say no and move on when it suits us.” Does this go for offers to collaborate with other people, and production offers? “Yeah”, laughs Howard, “plus we have very clever management who never even tell us when the offers come in.”
“To be fair, though, we only say no when it’s something that we physically can’t do due to time or distance or whatever. And sometimes it sucks not being able to do it but it’s not as if we actually made a name for ourselves producing or remixing for other people, at this stage anyway. The last remix we did was for Jessie Ware and the only reason we did that was because after hearing the original we instantly knew what we could do with it.”
Guy is more open to production further down the line, however. “Maybe when I have my own studio and can have stuff sent to me and that will work but right now we have our own things to take care of. I have done some stuff with Luxury, a friend of mine, recently and that turned out great. And we were able to release it on the Method label [a label Disclosure are involved in with our management team] which was an incredible experience.”
Settle is out now on PMR.