Disclosure’s rise to global domination is one the most astounding success stories within the modern electronic music world. From humble beginnings peddling a progressive meld of pop, dance and UK garage influences, Howard and Guy Lawrence have been fully ushered into the lauded upper echelon of the music world, lining their acclaimed sophomore album Caracal with an astounding list of A-list features like The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Lorde and Miguel.
A swift rise to worldwide recognition doesn’t just fall into an artist’s lap, and the Lawrence brothers have demonstrated an insatiable desire and drive to keep creating, collaborating and innovating. The result? Their brand new surprise EP Moog For Love (featuring Al Green and Eats Everything) and a string of unprecedented appearances in Las Vegas under their Wild Life project. Brushing shoulders with flashy mainstream heavyweights like Calvin Harris, Avicii, Laidback Luke and Rudimental, the refreshingly modest brothers have managed to inject a welcome dose of underground energy into a music scene with a stigma “of being entirely into the big, aggressive EDM sounds.” We caught up with the duo while they were in Vegas for an appearance at the iconic Daylight Beach Club to discuss their place in the city’s live music landscape, their experiences at Coachella, the conception of Wild Life, and how they’ve managed to remain so consistent thus far.
Vegas is currently home to numerous famous DJs to play in the clubs but in the past, artists performed only in the city. If you could travel in time which Vegas show or performance would you love to see?
Guy: Elvis never came to the UK so you would have to do that to see him.
H: (Does iconic Elvis impression).
How does it feel for you to have residency here in Vegas? Is the crowd different compared to the bigger festivals?
G: The crowd is very, very different to most other places in the world. It’s got that stigma around it of being entirely into the big, aggressive EDM sounds. We are dominated by people like Calvin Harris, Avicii and those sort of artists. That is not the sort of music that we play, especially when we are DJing. We play really underground music, a lot of it coming from the UK and U.S. It is very different for people. It’s not what they are used to; we have been playing it for a couple years now. Every time we come back the shows get better and better and it’s been growing especially the last 6-12 months. It’s selling out pool parties.
H: People expect us to play that now. Last year people were like that was not Vegas at all and you guys are playing too underground. We never got told that but we got that impression whereas people now come to our show at the Light, there was 2,000 people outside that didn’t even get in. I feel like what we do is becoming known -- Disclosure at the Light plays proper underground music and their own stuff. People know that is what they are going to get and has much more relaxed vibes.
So you get a lot of creative freedom.
G: Definitely. That’s kind of why we’re still there, if not we would’ve moved. They let us set up how it looks, visuals, lights, we try to minimize the bottle service kind of vibes. We make it a little more discreet, everyone wears black, the club is dark, we make it more European. It's still got that Vegas element, we wouldn’t want to take it away from it because it is. We want to find a nice balance.
Talking about crowds, I saw your show at Coachella weekend 2. I watched the stream for weekend 1 as you guys had some very special guests coming out, such as Lorde and Sam Smith. What did you think of the crowd's reaction from that?
H: Coachella is all about that; people expect you to do that. I was actually really happy with weekend 2. I liked the fact that we could still play our own show without having to bring out massive superstars, still bringing out the up and coming guests, and it was still a really good show.
G: We feel like we don’t have to rely on those people but it does make it extra special when they come out. Sam Smith is like a brother to us so he was always going to come out. The fact Lorde could fit it in her very busy schedule as well was amazing.
Was it a last minute thing?
H: We had to plan it for f*cking ages. You have to man, they’re always busy. Sam wanted to do weekend 2 as well but he got his throat thing going on and had to rest. Lorde was writing so she couldn’t come. It all depends on people's schedule. If it falls into place they would do it, there’s no pressure.
G: The only time we really do it less planned is if we are playing as the same schedule. We had to fly Sam out to play for us. We have to do that stuff in advance. When we have crossed path with people who performed, we tell them to do it. We are playing it live so we can do whatever we want, we have the freedom to have vocalist there or not; it makes no difference of the organization.
At Coachella there were tons of huge acts. What were some of the must-see acts for you guys?
G: Ice Cube. We watched the whole set weekend 1 and half of weekend 2 for the guest. He was the man to check out -- one of the best hip-hop shows I’ve ever seen. Usually, they cut the mics so bad you can’t hear anything, but the sound was so good. The visuals were amazing. It was one of the best rap shows I’ve ever seen.
H: James Bay was really good as well, we checked out his set during the day. I personally loved Guns N' Roses. I watched it in the crowd on my own, I went out with a funny hat on or whatever. I went out with Lorde and we watched it together. No one really cared, it was fun.
G: I met a few guys who knew who I was; they were relentlessly trying to give me drugs. I was like guys I just wanted to watch Ice Cube, stop trying to give me drugs! I appreciate it but Ice Cube is on!
Coachella is an exhausting three days. How did you guys manage to survive?
G: We had a slightly more relaxing one. We toured in between the last couple Coachellas. This time, we chilled in LA. Stayed in the Chateau Marmont and had a really nice time. We went to a few parties like the Jeremy Scott after party -- it was really fun. We actually just hung out with people and it was much more enjoyable. We made that time a little break, it was only a two and a half month tour so that was in the middle so we made it a break.
H: It was great in-between that everyone was in LA. We were there with Sam, a lot of friends, and management. It was just nice to hang out and have some downtime.
G: We wrote a bunch of tunes as well. We were working at this EP at the moment that will be put out in a month or so, really clubby stuff. I kind of mix all of that stuff in LA at the Capitol Records Tower. I was in the room everyday, mixing; getting it finished. It was kind of a holiday/make your tunes break.
How was it this year being on the main stage at Coachella? How did it feel emotionally?
G: It was insane, we went up a stage a year basically. We went to the little white tent up to the outside second tent to the main stage. We worked our way up. It was wicked. There was about 75,000 people going and the main stage had 60,000. It was nuts, one of the biggest crowds we ever played to.
H: I think the most rewarding thing to me was the first time we played in Coachella. They are all pretty big stages, the smallest one is 10,000 people. Every time we played, I feel like we are out of our debt. The first time we played, we had no budget for the show. We could not afford to make it how we wanted. The second time it was an upgrade stage so it was bigger. This time, I think we f*cking nailed it. We got the show how we wanted it to be. We filled the stage in a way that I felt it worked which was a first.
What was your best festival memory from the past? Best memory in a festival in general?
G: Probably watching Radiohead in 2009 headline Reading Festival in the UK. Radiohead just released In Rainbows and it was just an amazing show. That was the first festival I went to, it blew my mind.
H: I’m not sure where it was but I think it was in America somewhere. We were playing on the stage and it was really fun. We just finished, the crowd was going crazy just saying thank you. I look up to my left and there was another stage across the way. There was a little crowd going fucking crazy. I went off and asked who it was and it was some new guy called Flume. I was like I’m going to check that guy out. Now look at him and see what he has done. The rest is history.
G: Also, the 2014 Coachella when Nas performed all of Stillmatic from start to finish.
I want to talk about the incredible lighting and visuals that you guys brought out for Coachella. Did you guys have full creative control over what you guys wanted to interpret?
H: We have a really great team around us. The tour manager Toby. Will Pots does the lights. It’s kind of a team of people who work back in London who work in Moross Studios, Kate Moross. We tell her what we want and so does Will for colors and theme. She draws it up and makes it; that’s kind of what you see. The Coachella stage was amazing because it had these wraparound screens. We were able to map the visuals to that and the wraparound thing was incredible. We could never afford to get screens like that so to have that stage at our disposal was an amazing thing. Our visuals are great and we love them; to put them on that screen was amazing. We tell them what we want and what color we feel the song should be and the mood that should be set. For instance "Nocturnal" feat. The Weeknd is super dark, just white light like stars because it should be the nighttime. "Magnets" is just this big ball with stuff spinning around it like a magnet. We kind of look at the lyrics of the song and try to literally interpret them into the visuals a little bit, which is sometimes good and sometimes is just a pattern. For instance, "Superego" is just a wave, some watery wave. You have to kind to think to take it literal or at face value. It does all come from us and our very close team we take advice from, and been with since the start. It is all pretty creative and we love it. If we don’t like anything, we say I don’t like that and they change it. It’s like making a song, it’s like the same thing.
In June you are bringing your own concept to New York City, can you tell me about the 'Wild Life' tour? How did this come about overall?
G: 'Wild Life' started out just being the name of a night we would do in London where we would DJ with some of our friends. I don’t know why but our manager called it 'Wild Life.'
H: No idea why that’s just the name, just wanted to party with that. It moved on to from parties to big club nights where we curate the DJ who would play. Now 3-4 years later, it comes to the point where it’s our own festival in the UK. Thirty-five thousand people a day come. We curate the whole line up for both days. We headline one day and Rudimental headlines the other day. Loads of DJs, loads of live acts. While that is happening we still do little club nights and events in the whole planet. For instance, New York we are doing Mobb Deep, a legendary hip-hop act. We always try to bring on a proper old school act to the game. For the festival, for example, we have Busta Rhymes and some legends that we love. We always bring out up-and-coming artists that we love as well. We got Anderson .Paak, who for me is the hottest in the market right now. Malibu is without a doubt the album of the year.
G: Agreed, really hyped to have him. We got Dusky and some other DJs. It’s basically "Disclosure presents" is the best way to describe it.
Do you have full control on which artists you want to be involved with?
G: Completely. We send our agent for who we want to get him. If we can’t get them, we get someone else. It’s kind of like going through our iTunes seeing who we like.
How "Wild" is your life?
G: (Laughs) In terms of geographically, it’s wild. Two weeks ago, we did one show in Bangkok and did a show the next day somewhere in the West Coast of America. It’s full-on man, we do a lot of traveling. I reckon on an average year we do 200 shows at least and that’s live shows. We do 100 DJ sets as well, so we’re busy. It’s cool man, we can’t complain. We have the best job in the world, we have the best time. We spend 90 percent of our time sitting around doing nothing and it sucks. We spend the 10 percent of our time doing the best thing in the world and it makes all the rest worth it.
Are you guys always kind of chilled and laid-back after the show?
H: I’m pretty chilled out. Guy likes to party more than me.
G: We are going to watch Claude. It’s going to be awesome.
After many years in the industry and the success of your music, how do you manage to keep the consistency going?
G: The main thing and the most enjoyable part for me is literally mixing the tunes and making music. Howard loves writing the chords, melodies, and the words. I love spending months and months EQing hi-hats, that’s my favorite thing to do. That’s what we always love the most, it’s so much fun. The reason we got into it is still the main reason we like. We never let anyone else do it for us because it won’t sound like Disclosure. When you are an electronic music producer the best example I can give is Burial. If Burial were to let someone else mix their tunes, it would have been shit and would not sound like Burial. Your mix is your song. It’s so electronic and experimental and you use so many bits of software and hardware. The way you work them is the sound of the song. If you let someone else start fucking with that, it’s going to sound like someone else’s song.
H: You have to do it yourself; if you don’t, put the time in. You would start to change the way you sound and lose the thing you started with and that’s what people liked. You've got to evolve musically and try new ideas. As long as you two are doing, people are able to hear the initial song they loved immediately. Apart from mastering, we do everything. That is what I’m super proud of. The fact on the back of the album it’s us two, the singer, Jimmy doing the lyrics, and we mix all of it. It’s really fun. It’s my favorite part of it. I don’t want to let anyone else be involved because it’ll take away the fun.
Last but not least, I think everyone wants to know what’s the future for Disclosure? You mentioned an EP coming out next month, maybe an LP next year?
H: I think we will write one next year but we won’t release it. We kind of wrote one in six to seven months. We want to take a little more time for a break. We will have an EP out this summer for people to enjoy. It’s super summery and super dancey. It takes it back to old times, very housey. Around the end of October when the dates start to disappear, I think we will disappear for a little bit.
G: I think we’ll have a little time off. We’ve been working straight for seven years. Howard started doing this when he was 15 and he still hasn’t really had a holiday. He’s 22 now. I think it’s time for us to have some time off. We’ll do that; we’ll write because that’s what we do. That’s the thing, as soon as you have time off, we realize what you like to do. It’s not my job, it’s what I love.