Disclosure – Interview – 2016

How about those Disclosure brothers? They've done good, haven't they? From nowhere to international jet setters in the blink of an eye; from playing guitar and the usual paraphernalia of teenagers, they switched overnight to all things electronic, posted a few things online, and voila! Their timing could not have been more perfect, with the house music re-revolution coming like a tornado through the dying hinterland of EDM, they've been huge catalysts in re-igniting a scene that was fast decaying and had become, frankly, rather boring.

It perhaps helped that they had no previous in dance music. Guy Lawrence was a drummer in a guitar band, who listened to some hip hop and his younger brother Howard listened to singer-songwriters, funk and soul, for instance Seal. It was only when Guy turned 18 and started to venture into clubs, some in Brighton, and hearing sets from the likes of Floating Points, Burial, James Blake, and Joy Orbison ("forward thinking music," says Guy) for the first time, that he persuaded younger brother Howard to make electronic music with him, Howard learning how to make beats on a laptop. But with the help of their rock guitarist father turned auctioneer they used a room above an auction house to practise in, to make some noise, Guy ending up mixing and producing what Howard had done on his laptop. Somehow they found management and a record deal almost immediately after putting their earliest experiments on Myspace. So inexperienced were they that early meetings dealt with how to clear samples and how to get hold of the isolated acapella vocals they needed to make remixes. At the same time they were being offered big money to get behind the decks, despite the fact that neither of them had DJ’d in their lives.

From there it was straight up. Moshi Moshi sent a private message via Myspace asking if they could release what was up there, including first single ‘Offline Dexterity’. Following a number of other releases, it was the single ‘Latch’, with Sam Smith on vocals, that propelled them (and Smith) into the limelight, followed by debut album Settle, which went to number one. Their big trick was to feature guest vocals on many of the tracks, complimenting their melodious and imaginative instrumental house and garage based excursions that connected deeply with the public, singers such as AlunaGeorge, Eliza Doolittle, Jamie Woon, Jessie Ware and London Grammar, artists encompassing a broad spectrum of styles and genres, but all very much contemporary rising stars in their own right. “I think girls are pleased that there’s some joy back in club music. And boys are pleased that there are girls back in the club.”

Last year they released the even bigger Caracal, which again featured Sam Smith, but also diverse singers such as Gregory Porter, Lorde, Kwabs and Nao. "We just like working with people," says Guy. "And they always have to be available to do it with us, in a studio. We don't want to do it over the internet or by sharing files. I think it works out much better when it's face-to-face. There is a chemistry that you can't get otherwise, and we want to work up a song together, not just hand a finished piece to somebody, and singing what they believe in, We've always listened to pop music. I feel like we do write pop music; they’re just produced in. the style of house and garage music.” Gregory Porter, who helped write the song around a piano with Guy and Howard, and their songwriting partner, Jimmy Napes, has said of the brothers; “These guys are really musicians.”

Influenced by their parents music tastes in the 80s, Guy says, "There was a lot of Hall & Oats, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder. I listen to that a lot still. You couldn't be in our house and not hear music. They also had a lot of instruments lying around the house. He (Dad) always got us into learning instruments; I played guitar and keyboards, and in a band at school playing drums. But this was the first time we ever played together."

Wild Life, was created by Disclosure in early summer of 2014 as an extension of their increasingly successful live and DJ shows. What began as tiny and very sweaty east London parties, soon grew into a global prospect within a matter of months and found Disclosure curating events in major cites across the world and hosting stages at various festivals in the UK, Europe and the USA. These included Wild Life line-ups at Glastonbury, Unknown, Exit Festival as well as bespoke events at The Greek Theatre in Berkley, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Detroit and a summer residency at Space in Ibiza.

Less than a year later, they reached out to their good friends Rudimental in order to put together the inaugural Wild Life festival at Shoreham Airport or what is now officially called Brighton City Airport. What does Guy Lawrence, one half of Disclosure think the venue should be called? "Shoreham!" he say emphatically. "It just feels that it should be call Shoreham. We are mainly going for something like Bestival, that is up there with the best of them, the way it looks; colourful, chilled vibes. It’s a daytime thing, too. A different atmosphere than a camping festival.”

Winner of the Best New Festival at the 2015 UK Festival Awards, Wild Life easily tapped into an audience who like contemporary musicality; music from across the board, with artists and DJs such as George Ezra, Mark Ronson, Wu-Tang Clan, Annie Mac and Jamie xx just the tip of an iceberg. “We were all surprised at that,” says Guy. “There were a lot of new festivals that year. It was good to be acknowledged like that.” This year, the line up is bigger, better, and even more eclectic, with the likes of hip hop legend Ice Cube, Brighton indie roots-rocker James Bay, techno-house king Carl Cox, indie sensations Bastille, new-kid-on-the-block Jack Garratt, drum'n'bass supremo Andy C, alt-techno experimentalists Four Tet, Australian electronica trip-hop mash up artists Avalanches (making a rare appearance), house DJ specialists Eats Everything, and Daisy Age hip-hoppers De La Soul, just a few of the names that will be bestriding five stages over the two days. How do you find the curatorial side of things? "We just call people up and ask," says Guy. "We're always amazed that people say 'yes!'. We are able to book a lot of people I thought we would never meet or see. We're fans of everyone we book, and I think that personal touch helps. I think that people find it refreshing that artists are curating the line-up, to make it more personal."

Were you able to see much of the festival last year? "Not as much as we would have liked," says Guy. "We were also booked to play another festival that weekend. But this year we are planning on being there the whole weekend, beginning on Friday night for a little pre-festival party, and then seeing as much as possible. We've cleared the diaries. Last year we loved Wu Tang and Skepta and JME who filled in for Sam Smith (who went down ill just before the festival)." And this year? "I'm looking forward to Flume, and Jamie Woon, whose last album is just incredible; Busta Rhymes, and some of the grime artists. Last year we spent a lot of time in the backstage area because there are a lot of friends there. But we also made a big effort to make it nice for everyone. I think that's really important, some backstage areas are not great. And we're of course really looking forward to playing again this year on the main stage!"

Any changes made from last year. "Not really, just a few tweaks here and there, the layout will be a little different. We were surprised at how smoothly it went last year. I think the only real problem was the shuttle buses, we just didn't anticipate so many wanting to use them. Hopefully, we'll have fixed that problem this year."

The brothers grew up just up the road in Reigate, and Guy ventured down to Brighton many-a-time when he was old enough to go to clubs, seeing the likes of Joy Orbison at seafront clubs like Digital, Funky Buddha and Audio (all have subsequently changed their names to The Arch, The Tube and Patterns respectively), and as such their parents and even their grandfather are expected to make the trip, as he did last year. "He loved it! He said he'd never seen anything like it. That was great, to be able to show him what we do."

Why did you choose the airport as the venue? "We went to visit it and everyone thought it would be perfect. There's The Great Escape, but there isn't a festival in a field in the area. It needed one! And the site is big, so we could expand if we needed to.” And what can we expect from you guys on stage? “Holding On (with Gregory Porter), Bang That, which is a more clubby one, people go crazy for that. We don’t know (or won’t tell) who might appear with us on stage. A lot of it is last minute, depending on their diaries, and whether or not they are in the area.
Jeff Hemmings