Bob Moses, coming together: An interview

Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie, AKA Bob Moses, are one of those music duos who walk the fine line between band and electronic music. Their dark, emotion-filled lyrics run over equally dark, precise beats coupled with organic instrumentation, a combination that creates layers upon layers of sound and brings something new to your ears every time you listen to it.

Last week, Bob Moses released their long-awaited debut album Days Gone By. As Vallance and Howie tread through their tour, Quip caught up with the duo to chat about their process, working through emotions, the new album, and much more.

Kateryna Topol: You grew up together in Vancouver — when and why did you move to Brooklyn?

Bob Moses: We both moved to Brooklyn separately. Both of us felt a strong desire to get out of Vancouver and explore the world. Jimmy actually moved there to chase a girl, in short, and Tom moved there after spending a year in Boston at the Berklee College of Music, because it was close and made sense. 

KT: But the two of you only started working together fairly recently (in comparison to the years you’ve known each other). Do you ever wonder why you didn’t try to collaborate sooner?

BM: We think it just sort of happened when it made sense. The world works in mysterious ways, you know? We both needed to do our own thing and to grow separately to a place where we were ready to work with one another, we think. It’s all worked out great and we think the work and experiences (both good and bad), musically and otherwise, that we had before working together really helped make our partnership super strong from the beginning.

KT:  I’ve read that you live together — do you still? And if yes, does that result in spontaneous music-making?

BM: We do live together, although now it’s mostly on planes and in hotels. It’s a great vibe to be in the same place. You wake up and start talking about music or something you’ve read over coffee, then that inspires something later in the studio. It just works well, and yes, it definitely inspires spontaneity, and really that’s why we do it. So far we’ve always had our studio in a separate place close to our apartment in NYC, but now we’re getting excited about just putting the studio right in the house and having the whole place steeped in music all the time.

KT: There are 12 tracks on Days Gone By, and they are strong throughout. How long did the album take?

BM: The album took about 12 months to make from start to finish. However, we did tour very heavily in that time, playing 80+ gigs all over the world. It was definite challenge to tour so much and make a record, and we would play quite a bit less next time around. But it was also great to tour and keep ourselves grounded in a sense, so that we could try stuff out live and have the live performance aspect of what we do inform our album, as well.

KT: Do you have a favorite song on it?

BM: Our favorite song switches from time to time, of course, but overall it’s probably “Tearing Me Up”.

KT: That’s my favorite too! How come that one?

BM: Really, because it was the first song that once we had it we were like, “Ok, this is something we can really build the record around.”  It came easily and quickly, in a big gush of inspiration. It took only a few days from inception to completion and was a real joy to make the whole time. Sometimes tracks are hard, or you get stuck, or you have to sit on them for a while  but with this one, the floodgates opened and it was just about letting it out. It’s a really beautiful thing when that happens.

KT: You’ve said before that all of your work is deeply personal, which makes me wonder — Days Gone By is a pretty sad collection, like song after song of sadness and shitty relationships — [was it] all inspired by your life experiences? 

BM: Well…yes, the songs are all inspired by personal experiences. Writing for us is a very cathartic process lots of the time, and so we guess this is why it comes out that way. Also, all the music we love, or most of it, from the blues through rock, jazz, electronic, R&B etc., is always quite sad or based in working through something personal or collective. Music is a method of escape, of finding solace in something, and so this is how we feel when we write and what naturally comes out, it seems.

Lots of the songs are about the same relationships, and lots of the time when we are writing about someone it could also be society or our relationship to the rest of the world, which we’ve framed in a way that could make it sound like a love song between two people. If we look through the track list, about half the songs are about actual love relationships, and then some are about other familial relationships, and then the rest are about our relationship to the world around us, society, what have you.

KT: The woman in “Tearing Me Up” — is she a real person?

BM: Yup!

KT: Oh! Ok, let’s talk about the tour a little — you’ve already played a few sold-out shows and had festival appearances. How is the world treating you so far?

BM: The world is being very kind to us. We are very thankful to be able to go all the places we go, and to be honest, the amount of people that show up in some places and know our music is surprising and very humbling. Playing live is the most fun for us, so we are super excited to keep touring hard and to play this album and share it with the world and as many people as will listen.

KT:  How was Burning Man? Any interesting stories? 

BM: Burning Man was a blast! We had way more fun than we did last time, which is saying a lot, and our performances at Robot Heart and White Ocean were the highlights for us, for sure. We have lots of great friends who go to Burning Man, so from riding electric bikes through dust storms, or playing with Skrillex at Robot Heart with P. Diddy dancing behind us — it was all just a blast!

KT: Awesome! So what’s next for Bob Moses?

BM: We’re currently rehearsing in Vancouver for our upcoming tour through North America, and then over to Europe, and then the rest of the world! We’re just ready to play and take this music to as many people as will listen.

Tour dates and show tickets can be found here.

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