The Lawrence brothers of Disclosure have had a remarkable couple of years – a platinum album here, a triple platinum single in the US, BRIT, Grammy and Mercury nominations coming out of their ears, and this weekend, their own music festival near Brighton – but you won’t find them on the DJ wealth list that now seems to measure success in a ridiculously lucrative business.
“No, we’re definitely not on any rich lists,” insists older sibling Guy, 24. “We invest as much money as possible straight back into the show. Come and see us this weekend and you’ll understand where all the money’s gone.”
It’s another way in which the pair from unglamorous Redhill set themselves apart from the champagne and confetti world of the EDM jetset. Their debut album, Settle, rejected the crass, air-punching sounds of mainstream dance in 2013 and led a new rise of sophisticated, melodic house music in the UK. “When we were writing it, house music wasn’t in the charts. It was early days,” Guy tells me. “We weren’t trying to change the scene. The plan all along was to make an album of pop songs with a house sound.”
The scene did change around them, and now you can see almost everyone who’s a part of it at this weekend’s Wild Life festival on an airfield near Brighton. Guy and his brother Howard, 21, put together the bill for the inaugural weekender alongside the other big new UK dance act – Rudimental. Acts such as Jess Glynne, Tourist, Gorgon City and Snakehips will all be there showing off a fresh brand of dance music that prefers a catchy chorus to long-winded build-ups and breakdowns.
The biggest moment of the weekend will be Disclosure’s unveiling of multiple songs from album number two, due later this year. After just a couple of months off work, during which they both bought houses in London (Guy in Stoke Newington, Howard in Acton) they’re ready to go again. They’re promising to reveal the title and the release date, perform at least five new songs and bring a number of their new guest vocalists onto the stage. Considering that Settle featured everyone from Sam Smith and Jessie Ware to Lianne La Havas and London Grammar, it’ll be worth paying attention.
“We’ve had the opportunity to work with so many big names in the last couple of years, and we’ve taken a couple, but at the same time we’ve tried to find some people that are more up and coming,” says Howard. “We found one guy when our mate saw him playing piano in a pub.” The comeback single, Holding On, arrived online last week with a cameo from cuddly jazz singer Gregory Porter, speeded up to be almost unrecognisable. They chose him because Howard’s radio station of choice when driving is Jazz FM, where Porter is part of the furniture.
“We got him in to see if he could perform the faster version live, because he hadn’t heard it once we’d finished with it,” Howard says. “He was like, ‘Of course I can sing it! You don’t think I can dance?’ He’s actually a huge house music fan.”
The other new song that’s already out there is Bang That, a relatively simplistic thudder designed for the clubs. These two tunes are a familiar bridge towards less orthodox new material to come, they say. “The Gregory track is the one that sounds most like the last album. What has changed isn’t so much the sound as the speed. I wouldn’t say we’ve calmed down – hopefully matured,” says Howard.
“We’re getting quite sick of the way that in dance music, your genre is pretty much only defined by the speed that you play at – the number of beats per minute,” continues Guy. “I get it, because it helps DJs to choose records, but we don’t want to be pigeonholed as a 120bpm act. This album goes everywhere from 80 to 160bpm and is mostly about 100, so it’s slowed down quite a lot. But with that warm sound we have, with all these nice drumpads, we hope people can still listen to the tunes and tell that it’s Disclosure right away.”
It sounds as if they’re expecting more home listening this time around. Certainly, the way the new songs were constructed, the dance elements were secondary. First Howard, the dominant songwriter of the two, sat at the piano in RAK Studios, St John’s Wood, with unofficial third member Jimmy Napes. He’s the in-demand writer behind both Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and Clean Bandit’s Rather Be, as well as Disclosure’s biggest selling single, Latch. He was involved with almost every song this time. “He’s like our partner in crime. He’s definitely a major part of the team now,” Howard says.
Only later does Guy, the drummer and dominant producer, come in and “turn it into a Disclosure song”. If it doesn’t work around the piano, though, it doesn’t even get that far. “Recently we’ve definitely felt more comfortable writing in that verse-chorus structure, as opposed to build-up, drop,” says Howard. “Personally I really enjoy writing in that pop format now.”
It comes more easily to them because they’re not steeped in dance culture, and didn’t have years of DJing behind them when they made their earliest music. They grew up listening to the Eighties pop and rock loved by their parents – a father who played guitar in various minor Eighties bands and a mother who sang in hotels and on cruise ships. The first two songs they put onto a MySpace page in 2010 were picked up for release by the indie label Moshi Moshi, when Guy was studying Music Technology at sixth form college in Reigate and Howard was still doing his GCSEs. They must have the most boring “How we got our name” story in pop: Guy was filling in his car insurance documents and liked the word.
But things became more glamorous very quickly. They think they performed at 57 festivals in 2013 and 49 last year. They’ve sold over a million singles in the UK alone, and multiple headline tours have included a huge show at Alexandra Palace. Thanks to the appearance of Sam Smith on Latch and his newfound superstar status, America is paying attention now too. You can often find the brothers entertaining the hordes of Las Vegas, while a new Ibiza residency is also under discussion.
This week, though, they’re most excited about having persuaded rap giants Wu-Tang Clan to appear at their own festival. That and giving the world a glimpse of chapter two of one of dance music’s biggest success stories.
Wild Life festival, June 6-7, Brighton City Airport (wildlifefestival.com)