Disclosure’s global domination has been, in no small part, down to the resounding success of Guy and Howard Lawrence’s debut album. Settle is a slick, distinct and ambitious record; a fizzy, pulsating mosaic of influences, sounds, thoughts, and moods, extending past its deep house roots and embracing something else entirely.
As part of the act’s involvement in Sennheiser’s What's Your MOMENTUM campaign, Dazed spoke to Guy about the band’s influences, the acts that inspire them, the scenes that birthed their phenomenal record and how two 19 year olds ended up working with some of the biggest acts in the world.
Did you have a good time at Glastonbury? Your set on the West Holts stage was incredible.
Guy Lawrence: That's good to hear! The show was really good, one of the best, definitely. It was a nice way to kind of top off the whole "campaign" if you know what I mean. We went straight to Norway after Glastonbury and I'm just back, so I'm pretty tired. Everything's winding down now, but it was really, really special.
What else are you doing this summer?
Guy Lawrence: We're going to be really busy, although not as much as last year. That was intense. In the UK we're doing T In The Park, Reading and Leeds, that's still to come. And we're going around the world, to Japan for Fuji Rocks and to America a fair bit again. We have another tour there. And then some European festivals, so it's by no means over.
And then are you going to be doing album two? What's the plan there?
Guy Lawrence: Well we're going to disappear for a while, I think. But we'll be writing. We'll see what we come up with, it will probably be for another album, I can't say anything yet though, because we haven't written anything.
So there's no truth to the rumour that working with a certain popstar called Madonna?
Guy Lawrence: Ah! It's weird how people assume when you meet famous people you're instantly collaborating with them. All we did was take a photo with her! Basically she came to our show, and we met her, and that's why we took that photo. It was the first time we'd met her. But no, we haven't made any music together as of yet.
“As of yet”...?
Guy Lawrence: No, we just hung out with her a little.
What was Madonna like?
Guy Lawrence: Oh she's wicked. Really nice, really chilled. She came to Governors Ball, and the night before she came to see us DJ somewhere. She didn't tell anyone she was going, she just turned up. And she didn't make a scene, it was cool. It was amazing that she wanted to meet up at all.
"Sometimes EDM can feel basic. I just prefer stuff that has that melodic nature to it. I love songs that have loads of words and phrases in the choruses, things like that. We can relate to that kind of stuff." – Guy Lawrence
Did she say she liked Settle? Does she have a favourite song?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah she was really nice about it, basically she said was a big fan. She said she liked the album and she loved the show. It was just one of those things.
It's a shame you're not working with her though isn't it?
Guy Lawrence: Hmm!
Moving swiftly on! What made you want to get involved with the What's Your MOMENTUM campaign?
Guy Lawrence: It felt like a really natural fit, Sennheiser were already one of our favourite brands so it wasn't hard. We use so much of their stuff for our live shows like headphones and microphones, it had a lot to do with that really. I think it just felt like a good fit.
The campaign's looking at interesting and innovative people. When you make music who do you look to for inspiration?
Guy Lawrence: Well I think with Disclosure our inspiration comes from the past. The nineties, and garage music from the UK. Eighties and nineties beat-house music, techno from Chicago and Detroit. All of our songwriting influences really come from a pop background, that's what we look to. Anything from Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson, to, you know, artists like Diana Ross. What those artists have done for song writing is incredible. It's a combination of all those things.
You've said before that you're both big fans of jazz.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, specifically talking about the chords and the harmonies in jazz and stuff like that. I think in deep house and garage that there are really nice melodies and chords, too. Sometimes it feels like that's lacking in other areas. Sometimes EDM can feel basic, like there's the same drop every time, at the same place, over and over again. If I'm watching an EDM DJ, whoever it is, it's hard to distinguish when one song ends and another begins. They're all so similar. Not to say EDM hasn't got its place somewhere, but for us, we're a big fan of other styles. I just prefer stuff that has that melodic nature to it. I love songs that have loads of words and phrases in the choruses, things like that. We can relate to that kind of stuff.
You draw a lot of inspiration from other eras and genres, but what artists inspire you?
Guy Lawrence: Well I think the most exciting artist right now in the world has got to be Sam Smith. Easily. He's just absolutely smashing it on all levels, and it's so nice to have actually been a part of his career in some way. He was always going to do well, and his album is amazing. I'm very excited about him. In terms of producers, I'll tell you a couple of releases I've really loved this year. Probably Leon Vynehall's album, Music For The Uninvited, I think that is just an incredibly classy piece of house music. It's a really good album. Also my favourite producer collectively is probably Kaytranada, from Montreal. Actually just generally, the Montreal scene right now, with that kind of broken hip-hop house stuff – I don't know what people call it – we're both really into that. That kind of forward-thinking, original music is great.
What about the work you guys did with Q-Tip earlier this year? How is that sounding?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, well we kind of went to his house to hang out, he has a studio in his house, obviously, so we got to hang out and make loads of music and shared some tunes. We worked on a few ideas. Hopefully we'll see him again, I'd like to go back to his house. I mean Q-Tip is my favourite rapper of all time, so to get to go over there was pretty cool.
How does something like that happen then? Do your people go and speak to his people, do you bump into him and ask one of your idols straight up if you can go round? What's the process like?
Guy Lawrence: It usually varies from person to person. I can't even remember how it happened with Q-Tip, I think we must have reached out to his management. It happened like that. But sometimes, like with the acts who appear on our album, people like Aluna or London Grammar, we just bump into them at festivals and things like that. We chat about our music and we ask if they want to do something. It can be as simple as that.
What was it like working with Mary J Blige on "F For You"?
Guy Lawrence: She's wicked. Again, really really chilled and kind. That whole collaboration was cool because she actually got in touch with us. She saw the video for "F For You" on telly and she loved it. She said she wanted to do a cover of the song, and we were like “Er, okay, this is great, yes Mary, please do that”. So we sent her over all the parts of the track, and a month passed, and then she sends back all these accapellas and different versions and she'd basically made two new versions of our song. She'd done a whole reinterpretation of the track with new parts and she said like "here you are, let me know what you think, if you don't like it, no worries!" so me and Howard took the vocals and made a new version of the song. Her voice works so well, especially when we play that at festivals. It's so good.
It's incredible to hear her voice – given what kind of music she makes – suddenly dovetailing into this house/dance sound.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely, and what's brilliant is she really knows her shit. She knows house music. Mary said to us that she's a big fan, we were chatting about records with her and she knew loads. I'd play her a house record and she'd be able to name some obscure song that was sampled on it straight away, she had so much knowledge of soul and RnB. She was always correct. She said she'd been wanting to do this kind of thing for a long, long time. Waiting for the right act and the right time to do it. It was great to know that was us.
And then at the BRIT awards you performed on stage with Lorde. How was that?
Guy Lawrence: That was really great. We had only a couple of days for rehearsals. We kept hearing "Royals" while we were touring, it was always playing, and we figured out how we could merge it into "White Noise", so we'd already had the idea done before we even got in the same room. We just worked on it, hit the studio, and then next thing you know we're on stage at the O2 doing it. She's such a nice girl, really really professional, really really great singer.
Lorde would sound good covering some of your stuff, wouldn't she?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, maybe not "White Noise" though, the vocal is definitely high up, Aluna's range is a lot higher, Ella (Lorde) has got a more soulful voice, so that contrast between the two tracks and the vocalists performing on them worked well during that performance.
Maybe you could work with Lorde on your second album?
Guy Lawrence: Maybe so. Maybe! She is the biggest female singer in the world right now. So if we can track her down, who knows?