As huge as electronic dance music is these days, there remains a significant number of music fans out there who don’t understand its appeal. It’s a reasonable hesitation; even at its best, it can sometimes feel a bit anodyne and inorganic to the unaccustomed ear. But with a group like the UK duo Disclosure, who play a sold-out show at the Sinclair on Monday, there’s just no excuse not to be pulled in.
The duo of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have released just a handful of singles and EPs in the few short years since they burst out of Croydon, a longtime dance music hub in South London. Among them was last year’s “Latch,” arguably one of the most soulful and emotional tracks of the year, genre notwithstanding. Much of the credit goes to singer Sam Smith, who imbued the brothers’ update of UK garage and 2-step with an effortlessly romantic vocal. But the other star is the duo’s production work on the track, as subtle and leaned-back as necessary to let the human drama do the heavy lifting. It’s a smart bit of restraint from such young producers (Guy is 21, Howard 18), who might be tempted to overwhelm with a show-offy bag of tricks.
“Working with Disclosure has changed everything for me,” Smith says. “It’s been amazing to watch their career blossom and to have their support and belief in my work. I personally can’t wait for their album and hope they’re a big part of mine.”
Sinead Harnett, another one of their expertly curated vocalists, who appears on the sultry soul glitch of “Boiling,” is even more effusive in her praise. “They have such a strong and consistent sound. When it’s Disclosure you know it’s Disclosure. The way they pull you into their world with their music is amazing. It hits you emotionally and yet at the same time makes you want to dance carefree. That’s why they are blowing up, I reckon — the sheer class of the music speaks for itself.”
The forthcoming LP is still untitled, but nearly finished, Howard explains by e-mail. If it’s anywhere near as engaging as “Latch” — or the more recent single, “White Noise,” which features another throwback ’90s R&B vocal from AlunaGeorge over a 2-step beat that builds to a sweaty head of steam — then it’s bound to be a hit the world over.
Though success is finding them young, the brothers have been at it for years, and have been around music their entire lives. “We were taught instruments from a very young age and were always around music as our parents have both been professionally involved in music for most of their lives in one way or another,” Howard explains. “We both learned from the age of about 3 or 4.” (And on whether they’ve experienced any of the typical filial disharmony that tends to plague other big-time UK musical imports, not yet, they say: “It was helpful at the beginning because we lived together. Other than that it hasn’t made much of a difference. Maybe we can be a bit more honest than if we were just friends.”)
Despite their early immersion in music, the brothers only began listening to electronic music three or four years ago; before that, it was live bands, songwriters, and hip-hop. It wasn’t until they started getting some play on UK national radio BBC 1’s “Annie Mac’’ that they realized “maybe it wasn’t just a hobby.”
As for how they break down their respective duties, they both have their fingers in everything, but tend toward one aspect of the job or other, they say. “We can both DJ a bit, and we are both obviously in the live show. In terms of making the music, we both do a bit of everything but we both have our specialities. Howard does more of the chords, melodies, and lyrics, whereas Guy does more of the production and mixing.”
Reproducing the energy of a live band feel during their tours is part of what they hope sets them apart form the standard “guy at a laptop” approach. On stage they rotate between a number of live instruments and more electronic synth setups, but tend to focus on live electronic percussion. “We’ve always played live instruments in our live shows. To us it goes without saying that a laptop doesn’t count as a live show.”
London’s Transparent Records was one of the many labels eager to put out Disclosure records from the get-go, based on that live energy and tunefulness — like the 2011 song “Carnival.”
“We saw them play a few shows and immediately thought they were right for our label,” Transparent's Jack Shankly explains. “We had never done anything as explicitly dance floor-orientated as that before, but they had a naive, joyful, thrown-together quality that suited the sort of bedroom, patchwork pop stuff we loved so much.”
The fact that a more traditionally indie label like his saw something in the duo helps explain why Disclosure is a perfect gateway group to get those aforementioned rock purists out of their rut.
“I think a lot of dance music has emotional resonance but they definitely have a sense of fun, or freedom that is unique to them,” says Shankly. “It’s just quite unencumbered, excited, as well as exciting, music.”