Disclosure are like the biggest guys in British dance music right now. Their album isn’t even out yet and they’re already headlining festivals and hanging out on magazine covers. They're not just a British success story either, their US tour was a sell out and their playing massive shows in Japan and Europe too. When their debut album Settle drops on Monday, it’s pretty certain to go to number one.
As part of our album DNA series on You Need To Hear This, we asked Disclosure to break their record down into its genetic constituents: the collaborators, influences, sounds and settings that made the album what it is.
Disclosure are doing so well that these days they're pretty much presented with a cheeseboard of trendy UK vocalists for them to pick from. So the record includes incredible turns from Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge and her out of London Grammar. But one of the more unexpected collaborators is singer-songwriter and X Factor auditionee favourite Eliza Doolittle, who provides the vocals for "You & Me", a big tribute to 90s Garage. “I hadn’t really heard much of her music, but I wasn’t sure if she’d be right,” says older brother Guy. “But Howard has been a fan for a long time and he convinced me we need to have her on the record.” Guy wasn’t the only one who needed persuading. “She’s not really into dance music so we had to convince her that it was a good move, but once we got her in, she got really into it, her voice is perfect for that sound,” explains Howard. "We like to use singers that have a unique quality to their voice. Eliza has an unusual way of pronouncing words when she speaks, which comes out in her music. She’s trained in jazz and so really gets how harmonies should work too.”
“Bring Me Down” by Zak Toms - Stanton Warriors remix
As well as citing UK garage legends like Zed Bias and Todd Edwards, Disclosure also talked about some of the genre's deeper cuts. “You don’t hear Stanton Warriors mentioned much these days, but they were big in the game back in the day and their mix of Zak Toms’ "Bring Me Down" is pretty much the perfect garage beat,” says Guy. “Everything about that song – the vocal line, the chords, the melody – is totally original. We wanted to recreate that hard tribal sound using bass and drums.”
Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
It wasn’t just old garage records the boys brought into the studio, Howard was also reading Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. “It’s an incredible book, each Christmas Tolkien would write these long, 20 page letters to his children as if they were from Santa. He’d write to each child individually, updating them on what’s going on at the North Pole, creating characters and subplots that would return each year. I sometimes flick through while I’m writing lyrics.”
Despite the record’s contemporary sound, it was mostly written using a synth first released in the early 80s. “We used the Juno 106 because you can like draw stuff in MIDI and then sync it on Logic. Loads of people swear by it,” says Guy. He’s not wrong, everyone from Daft Punk to the Pet Shop Boys still use Juno-series synths. “We actually found this one in our uncles loft, it must be one of the first big MIDI products.”
Although they don’t share much sonic ground, in terms of technique and attitude both brothers agree there’s only one master: Dilla. “Donuts is my favourite album of all time,” says Guy. “They way it flows, how the tracks go from one to the next, it’s just incredible. The fact he wrote it all days before he died is just astonishing. Dilla exemplified the fact that you can be a producer and still make albums work as a whole.”
The unlikely album
1991 - Seal
That’s right, the hottest property UK bass culture bloody love Seal. “There’s so many different things from different producers on that one album. One song written by Adamski, another is like straight 909 House. But he still makes it cohesive just using his voice and song writing, it’s incredible He’s able to convey the same themes throughout the whole album: paranoia, living in London, love, but he does it through different channels. I guess we’re trying to do the same but the other way round, all these different voices but one clear sound.”
The auction house
Before taking the sensible route in life, Disclosure's dad was auctioneer by day and rock star by night. He built a studio above the auction house in the 70s for his band to record in and sound-proofed the walls with bits of sofa. This studio has now become Disclosure’s studio, whilst downstairs old men go about their day-to-day. “I did my work experience there in year ten. We still pick up the odd bargain.”
What disgusting food did they eat on those late nights in the studio? "I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese with Marmite on it, I pretty much add Marmite after every stage of the cooking process."
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