Having first started making beats in their bedroom three years ago, precocious producers Disclosure are now storming the charts with their vocal-heavy hybrid of garage and deep house. We caught up with Howard, the younger of the Lawrence brothers, to find out more about debut album Settle.

So let’s start from the beginning, Howard. Was music a big part of your upbringing?

Yeah, definitely; we came from a very a musical household. Both our parents were professional musicians so they were always playing us songs or showing us instruments. Music was pretty much all we really did as children.

Did you always intend to follow your parents into the music industry?

I think we both always aspired to a career in music, yeah. Obviously, it’s quite a hard thing to get into, especially if you want to be in a rock band or something, which is the only option you really know about when you’re very young. But we definitely wanted to have some sort of involvement in music, whether it was working on the production side or by actually being an artist.

When did you first get into dance music?

This project was actually the first time we both got into dance music. We’d known about dubstep but we weren’t really into it that much, and then, about three years ago, we started listening to some of the new stuff coming out of the UK at that time – stuff like Joy Orbison, Burial and Floating Points. It was a bit like dubstep, but it had more emphasis on melody, and we found that much more interesting. So we set about trying to imitate that to learn what it was all about.

Presumably you weren’t going out clubbing at that point?

I wasn’t, but Guy was. He was 18 then, so he was going to clubs in Brighton and London to get a basic knowledge of what was going on and who the popular DJs were, people like Skream and Benga, and all the dubstep guys. But because I was too young for us to go out together at that point, I do think the internet played a huge role in educating us about dance music.

Music journalists seem to be fixated on the fact you started so young. Does that ever frustrate you?

No, it doesn’t really frustrate us. It probably gives us a boost more than anything. Because we’re young, people underestimate us and our knowledge of dance music, or music in general. But you don’t have to have been alive when music was made to learn about it. (Laughs)

Deep house is crossing over in a big way right now. Why do you think that is?

I have no idea. I mean, coming out the backend of dubstep, I think people are enjoying hearing something with a bit more melody, as opposed to just wobbling bass. I mean [that bass] definitely has its place, but you can only go so far with it. Maybe people are just looking for something with a bit more musicality about it? I don’t know; I don’t really feel qualified to say.

Let’s talk about Settle, then. Can you explain the creative process behind the album please?

It changed with every song to be honest; we didn’t have a set routine that we stuck to. On the whole, Guy did more of the drums and mixing and the production, whereas I focused on the chords, the melodies and the songwriting part. But it wasn’t as black and white as that really; we both got involved in all sides of it.

Being the older brother, does Guy tend to take the lead or get the final say?

I think at the start it was more down to Guy because he was doing a music technology course at college so knew how to work the computer software better than I did. But now I’d say it’s pretty even on the whole. We don’t really even see each other as brothers; we’re more just like mates.

There’s a really impressive mix of guest vocalists on the record. Did you select the artists or were they suggested to you?

It varied. A few of them – like Jamie Woon and Ed from Friendly Fires – we chose because we were just huge fans of their music. The collaboration with Aluna came about pretty naturally because AlunaGeorge supported us on our UK tour. And then with ‘Voices’, someone sent us a YouTube clip of Sasha [Keable] singing and we thought it was amazing so we got in touch.

Was there anyone on your wish list that you couldn’t get?

Yeah, there were a few. We wanted to get an American rapper on the album – someone like Kendrick Lamar, or A$AP Rocky, or Joey Bada$$, or Q-Tip – but it just didn’t really work out with the time frames. I think we’re still planning on doing something with a couple of those guys.

How much creative license do you give guest vocalists? Are they allowed input into the melody and lyrics?

Yeah, they do have an input into that, but we tend to do all the beats and the chords before they get there. It does differ between vocalists, but generally we like to write the lyrics with the vocalists, so they’re singing words that mean something to them and it’s not just completely soulless.

You sing on the album too, alone on ‘F For You’ and with Jessie Ware on ‘Confess To Me’. Is that something you want to do more of in the future?

Yeah, I think so, though it only really happened as an accident on this album. I recorded guide vocals for ‘F For You’ about a year and a half ago, just to have something to work with until we got someone to sing it properly. But then Guy finished the entire song without asking me, and it turned out to be me singing it. (Laughs)

Ed McFarlane’s vocal on ‘Defeated No More’ surprised us; it’s so soulful we didn’t even realise it was him at first.

Yeah! Well, we haven’t changed the tone of it or anything. We had the beat for that track for months. We even tried to write a song over the top of the beat with Jessie Ware at one point but it didn’t really work out. And then we took it to Ed and he was really feeling it because he’s a massive fan of deep house. He knows more about deep house than we do. We recorded that track in a couple of days, and I think that if songs come together easily and quickly they generally turn out better.

Do you have a current favourite track?

My current favourite is ‘January’, featuring Jamie Woon. To be honest, I think that’s just because it’s the only one I haven’t had on my iPod, because I couldn’t find a copy of it. (Laughs) I’ve listened to the rest of them way too many times, trying to check if there’s anything wrong with them.

Can you tell us about the sample on ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ please?

It actually stems from not being able to find a rapper to work with. I got so frustrated because we were so close to working with someone and then it got cancelled. So I thought I would just find someone who sounded American, and sample it to make them sound like they were rapping anyway.

I just searched the internet for something like “spoken world Harlem” and it came up with this business strategy preacher, who just talks about getting your head in the game. I thought it was really cool so I sampled it, and we also used that same sample for the intro of the album because we liked how he talks about change being inevitable. Our sound has changed quite a lot since our first releases, so using that sample was a way of telling people that we’re not going to keep making the same song over and over again, even if they might want us to.

Where do you think you’ll go next sonically?

I do think we’ll probably aim towards more hip hop stuff in the future, because we listen to just as much hip hop as we do house and garage. I think that would be a natural progression, but I guess we’ll see.

A lot of successful producers and DJs never actually produce complete albums. Why is the album format important to you?

I think it’s especially important to me because I don’t really consider myself a producer. Guy does more of the production stuff, and I see myself as a songwriter. Also, our tracks are structured like pop songs, with verses and choruses, and I think that format works for a full-length album. Whereas having instrumental house tracks for 50 minutes wouldn’t really capture many people’s attention.

So what’s the plan for the rest of 2013?

I just got told we’re doing 39 festivals… (Laughs) So, yeah, festivals all summer, and then we’re doing a huge amount of headline shows in autumn, finishing just before Christmas. Now we’ve finished the album we’ll probably be looking out for some remixes to do too. We’ll probably do one or two over the summer.

What’s your ultimate ambition for Disclosure?

I’d like this album to get to as many people as it possibly can, and for everyone to think that it’s good. We’re very nervous about it, so to get a great response for this album would be enough right now.

Finally, what’s been the highlight so far?

I think maybe going to America the first couple of times and just seeing these people so far away from home knowing all the lyrics to our songs and singing them back to us. The response out there has been incredible, especially as we’ve only just had our first release in America. It’ll be amazing to see what happens out there once the album’s out.

June 2013