It’s a three-day weekend in England with a bank holiday on Monday, so pensioners and uni students alike are down for some fun in the town of Nottingham. In the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel, aged couples sit on leather couches, playing cribbage and watching Ronnie O’Sullivan’s masterful snooker performance at the Betfair World Championships on television. The retirees on holiday might be in for the evening, but the night is just beginning for the youth.
Around another set of lobby couches some teens convene, checking their iPhones and sipping lagers and ciders. Through the floor-length glass windows in the hotel they see others already parading down Maid Marian Way towards the clubs. The Everywhere Festival, staged across three venues in the city, is revving up for a party lasting into the wee hours, and everyone is dressed up for a night out. The ladies are in tight minis or shredded cutoffs; the lads look sharp in buttoned-up polos and clean trainers. Soon, the elevator doors open and a half-dozen girls appear with Team Surrey Rowing windbreakers on, strolling out into the night. Another group of teens emerges. And somewhere in this baker’s dozen of newcomers is the dance music duo Disclosure.
Comprised of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, Disclosure hails from the same sleepy town in Southeast England as the rowers, just outside of Greater London. They have their own crew about them: a mix of girlfriends, school chums and managers. Guy, the oldest Lawrence brother by three years, his blond hair short but with a side part, wears a clean white tee and sagging black jeans. Just barely 21, he sips a Kronenberg 1664, and there’s still a touch of acne about his chin. Nearby stands his younger brother Howard, an inch or two shorter than Guy. Moonfaced with broad shoulders, his dark hair buzzed short, he wears a black tee and a similarly roomy pair of jeans. In the childhood photo that graces the cover of their debut album, Settle, the boys—their faces slightly obscured by a white-lined, open-lipped mask—both have tousled ginger hair, not unlike Prince Harry’s.
He’s referring to tonight—to the queues that run outside the club and wrap around the block, to the venue itself, packed full of sweaty bodies—but he could just as easily be commenting on the months ahead and the rest of 2013: beyond Nottingham, beyond England, to the rest of Europe and the States, where Disclosure are set to erupt. To the casual viewer, it might appear to be a quick ascent—what with Guy just being of legal age in the US and Howard spending the early club years of Disclosure too young to drink—but the boys worked hard to get to this place, touring and recording for years, and even forgoing school in the process.
Disclosure’s first 7-inch appeared in 2010, before either brother was even 20. More singles and tour dates soon followed. “Latch”—their third single, featuring vocals from emerging UK singer Sam Smith—entered the UK singles chart at #26 and climbed as high as #11. When the duo teamed up with singer Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge earlier this year for “White Noise,” it entered the UK singles charts at number two and remained in the Top 15 for 10 weeks. Later this week, they’ll visit BBC DJ Zane Lowe and play a live gig in Rome. The boys have collaborated with Jessie Ware, and recently inked a deal with Cherrytree/Interscope, who will release their debut album, Settle, in the weeks ahead. Their fanbase includes the likes of major UK musicians Four Tet, Hot Chip and SBTRKT.
“When my college was threatening to kick me out a month before graduation, my parents were like, just let them kick you out. Don’t let it detract from what you are doing as Disclosure.” —HOWARD LAWERENCE
Not that anyone could possibly hear their selections, with the bass bleeding through the walls and floor. Flipping through, Howard says if he had to pick one album to play, “it would be Amy Winehouse, of course.” But then another title catches his eye. “Well…now it’s a toss-up between that and the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society.” That love for a well-crafted tune manifests in the boys’ own work. “We’re all about musicality,” says Howard, to which Guy adds: “It’s much more impressive to write a very well structured, put-together song than relentless house music.” Take “Latch.” It builds from an icy electro tock with quick percussive swipes, Guy slowly filling in the space around Smith’s vocal about new love as Howard’s early Chicago house-style bassline and synth washes warm it all. Those elements alone would suffice on the dancefloor, but the Lawrences shape it further, elegantly building toward the bridge and massive hook, the staples of big pop. Now I’ve got you in my space/ I won’t let go of you, Sam Smith belts at the chorus. Another Settle track, “F For You,” features Howard’s own vocals and sounds like a deep house track, with massive bass tones that hew closer to the avant-garde inclinations of someone like deep house enigma Maurice Fulton than anything in the EDM canon. Still, it clocks in at a bite-sized four-and-a-half minutes.
“What d’you spin then: drum & bass or garage?” One asks.
“Both!” Guy parries. The crew cracks up.
As Disclosure move to the stage, they pass a corridor full of autographed photos from The Fall, Fatboy Slim (another Surrey native) and Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis act, Beady Eye. The sibling rivalry that both defined and marred the Gallagher brothers’ relationship through the Britpop wars springs to mind, yet in the few days spent around the Lawrences, there doesn’t appear to be a querulous thread between them. Perhaps worldwide success will one day alter their dynamic, but, as of now, they get along readily. Maybe that’s because Disclosure is the first time they’ve really bonded. Growing up, they didn’t hang out much. “Three years is quite a big age gap when you’re that young,” said Howard. He then credits the Lawrence household for encouraging their musical explorations. “Our mum used to do radio jingles and she used to work on cruise ships, singing and playing piano in the dining hall. Dad was in a rock band and they used to tour Canada.” He’s quick to swear that there was never a family band.
In a parallel universe, Disclosure might’ve been a time signature-obsessed jazz-fusion group rather than a proper electronic duo making ecstatic, hook-filled music. There’s a trace of the rhythmic wobble of two-step in the beats—and Guy credits acts like Skream and Floating Points for prodding him toward pads and drum programming—but Disclosure flesh out American-indebted vocal house with fully formed song arrangements. As Howard puts it, “What we make is maybe what we hope pop music will be one day.”
Disclosure stands in the wings at Rock City now, catching friend and warm-up act Eats Everything as he spins a set that veers from house into trap and back. At one point, Guy dashes out and hops on Eats Everything’s shoulders while Howard remains on the side of the stage, his trainers firmly planted as he nods his head methodically to the beat. Squalls of bass and white noise announce the beginning of Disclosure’s DJ set, the frequencies making sinuses shake. When the first kick hits, everyone responds viscerally: girls stop texting, boys—either buttoned-up or now shirtless and glistening—flex their arms, a group of kids waving glow sticks in one corner raise them skyward. Onstage, the brothers’ roles are undefined; each takes his turn on the decks, each gives the other space to operate. They have but one pair of headphones between them, and hand it back and forth as if comparing tracks on a long bus ride. Howard’s body language isn’t that different from when he was offstage, though perhaps he nods a bit deeper as he works the room. Guy waves his hands as if conducting the programmed drums, bunnyhopping with the crowd as “White Noise” kicks in. And when the opening notes of Daft Punk’s “Digital Love” emerge near the end of their 90-minute set, Rock City goes mental.
For the moment, being signed to a major label and playing shows around the world haven’t much altered their personal lives. Guy still lives at his parents’ home in Surrey, while Howard crashes with Fi in a temporary living situation. Is it a difficult arrangement? Howard says no, if for the simple fact that Disclosure has so many gigs lined up that he’s only there two to three days out of the month.
One thing did change for Guy upon getting a record deal however: he bought a car, a BMW 1 Series. “There was a rumor going around with my mates that I literally walked in with a suitcase full of money and just opened it and bought the car right there,” Guy says. “That never happened at all.” One might be forgiven for making that mistake though: when Guy sits down in the booth, he has to extract a billfold from his hip pocket that is George Costanza-like in its thickness. It’s not stuffed with quid though, just receipts he has to tally for all of their expenses. Talk at the table swings to Howard’s 19th birthday, which is next week. Fi mentions that the two plan to get a puppy together. Beyond that, Howard shrugs. There’s little he needs right now beyond some clothes. But then his eyes widen and for a moment he looks less like half of an electronic act set to conquer the globe, and more like an excitable teen. He perks up, smiles and says he wants a professional yo-yo, so that he can learn a bunch of new tricks.