“People always use music to get through hard times,” says Guy Lawrence, as he sits in a room, surrounded by consoles, drums, and more.
Dialling in from Disclosure’s studio in the UK, Lawrence joins us to preview the release of their forthcoming third album Energy. It’s been a while since the Grammy-winning duo, made up of Guy and brother Howard, last released an album.
2016’s Caracal followed on from debut album Settle in 2013, both released to critical acclaim. Disclosure were looking forward to releasing #3 in 2020 and following it up with a big touring cycle. Then, the global pandemic happened. Now they’ve had to take stock of what the rest of the year may hold.
Guy Lawrence says there was never any thought to pushing back the release and hopes that Energy and the singles we’ve already heard can help their fans. “It feels right, musically… Disclosure music is always pretty upbeat and positive… Full of good vibes.
“From a musical standpoint it feels right, but from a technical standpoint, in terms of how to do it, that’s a mystery. Everyone’s trying to figure that out as they go along. We worked really hard on this album, for three years pretty much. So to know we won’t be able to tour it and to have to push it back and push it back, is a bit gutting.
“That’s life man, stuff happens. Shit crops up. It feels really good to have new music out and you see messages from fans that say ‘I really needed this today’.”
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If anything, lockdown has sped things up a little. But there’s no doubt that Guy and Howard will miss the touring that is usually the next step in the cycle.
“We’ve definitely been more productive while finishing this album,” he laughs. “We were already working really hard on it, and we would have put this time into the show, but now that’s flipped and we’re basically already back in the studio making music again.
“I think we’ve always said in interviews that when you’re in the studio for three years, and when you’re on tour you just want to be home, back in the studio.
It will be the personal connection that they’ll miss most, something plenty of people in lockdown will be familiar with. A smile comes over Lawrence’s face as his mind flickers back to happier times performing live.
“There’s no comparison to that feeling of being up on stage, just making thousands of people happy. That’s the thing I’ve been doing with these mixes and live streams, still connecting with thousands of people – but it’s just not the same for us and I’m sure it’s not the same for the fans.
“The beauty of DJing is playing music, covering the crowd in this blanket, and everyone’s under it. Everyone has that feeling of oneness and togetherness, you’re part of something bigger than yourself. You don’t get that with live streaming.”
Lawrence is under no impressions that there are worse problems to be facing than being unable to tour. “Our hobby is our job, and we basically just do our hobby every day like we always do,” he says.
“People seem to love the results and somehow we magically get to make money from it, and that’s been my feeling since day one. We have our dream job, so to be cooped up inside doing that isn’t too bad.”
Album number three is often when bands start to get the process of creating a body of work down to a fine art. While for many it’s often not as commercially successful as releasing a string of singles, continuing to work on full-length records will remain a priority for Disclosure for a couple of reasons.
“I think we associate albums with bands, and we see ourselves as a band, the two of us,” explains Lawrence. “I’ve played drums since I was one year old, Howard’s played drums since he was four. We’ve learned DJing as we went along after we’d already released a load of Disclosure music.
“We’d never claim to be the best DJs in the world. We’re a band first and foremost, so we always wanted to keep doing albums.”
Musically, each track on Energy is almost immediately recognisable as a Disclosure song. There’s something that Guy and Howard Lawrence have perfected, that projects a very particular vibe as soon as a tune starts, and that has remained ever since they began putting out music.
Their music always sounds so polished, tight and full of kinetic energy. They’ve embraced that even further on the aptly-titled Energy. “The energy that we are talking about isn’t just about positive go-get it vibes, it’s about that moment in the room where all the songs came to be, out of nowhere,” explains Lawrence, excitedly.
“That’s something that’s always happened to us; our most loved songs are always the ones that took like 10 minutes to write. Or at least the initial idea, there it is, boom!
“We wrote around 200 songs, 200 ideas. Some full-length and some loops. Just a tiny portion of those make it on the record, and what they all have in common is that initial little spark.
The title track ‘Energy’ gives off a familiar vibe, as it features the spoken word of Eric Thomas of ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ fame.
“We’re both fans of Eric first, we’re just fans of his podcast and speeches, everything he does is amazing,” Lawrence says. ”So with ‘Fire Starts To Burn’ it was vocal first, build the track around it. But ‘Energy’ was the other way around.
“We’ve got massive tribal bongos, almost-frantic noise, it’s fun, it’s big. We thought ‘who the heck can we get on this’ who’ll be able to stand up to that wall of sound, and Eric popped into our heads because he’s got that massive voice and it’s powerful.
“That was the other way around. We picked our favourite pieces out of his podcasts. We wanted to really give it a meaning around the context of the record. We weren’t originally gonna release it as the first track, but with everything going on the world we felt it was right to.”
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As with their other records, Disclosure show off their versatility on this new project with a diverse tracklist. It also features a massive swathe of collaborations, ranging from rising stars to more established acts.
“Me and Howard wrote that song in LA with [American rapper] Amine,” muses Lawrence of the next single ‘My High’. “It’s the second time I’ve worked with Amine, I produced a track with him on his album called ‘Blinds’ which was an old school hip hop thing.
“It just felt right to get back in the studio and do something a little bit more Disclosure-y, but we didn’t have a plan. It was one of the fastest sessions we’ve ever had. That week we wrote three songs that made the album, and everyone was a quick and easy process.”
The tune also features rising UK act Slowthai, who was already a friend, Lawrence says. “It was crazy, trying to imagine them on a song together before we heard the finished product. Thai loved the beat and what Amine did, came to my studio and knocked it out in an afternoon.”
In interviews, Sam Smith often credits the Disclosure boys with helping launch his career when they teamed up for ‘Latch’ in 2012. Guy Lawrence speaks modestly on the subject, calling it a mutual and “beautiful” thing that helped that track breakthrough.
When looking for new people to work with, he says they look for people who are firstly talented and secondly, would pass the pub test. “They can be legends, they can be brand new, they can be whoever. We just have to be fans, they have to be able to rap or sing and they have to be really nice.
“We’re just normal guys. Imagine going down to the pub with your mate and they say ‘have you heard of this person?’ That’s literally it, and if we like it we may hit them up.
“It’s an easier time doing it now, hopefully, we can expect a reply, a little easier than it used to be. Working with up and comers is something we’ve done since the first record. There’s a tonne of names on there of people who had a big step in the right direction while working with us, for us and for them.”
‘Energy’ is out this Friday, August 28.