Interview | Bob Moses

Vancouver born, Brooklyn based duo Bob Moses (aka Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie) have had an rapid rise to prominence since the release of their debut EP Hands to Hold back in 2012 via taste-making Brooklyn label Scissor and Thread. Signing with Domino Records in 2014, Bob Moses released their debut album Days Gone By in late 2015, showcasing their unique blend of sultry deep house and pop melodies, fortified by their punk and metal backgrounds. Having toured the globe since their debut, headlining sold out shows across North America, Europe and the UK – the band are currently on the road with St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. Bob Moses took some time out to answer an email interview as the festival tour kicked off.

You guys are heading back to Australia  for your third time – what are you keen to see or do while you’re over here?

Yes we do! We love Australia. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is a must. Hanging around in Melbourne again would be a vibe, it’s just so cool and there are so many cool little places to hang out. Other than that, maybe get a little sunshine in and to be honest we’re just really looking forward to seeing all the other acts at Laneway!

Who are you keen to catch at Laneway Festival that you haven’t seen before?
We’ve never seen Tame Impala and we are huge fans so we are definitely stoked to see them. We’ve always been big fans of Clams Casino’s productions and have never seen him live either, so stoked on that. White Lung are fellow Domino label mates and also from Vancouver so we’re excited to see them and hopefully meet them too. Love Tourist, love Glass Animals, love Floating Points, love Tycho, curious to see Chet Faker shed his old name and do his new thing…I mean, the lineup is insanely sick and if we keep going we’ll just have to copy paste the whole damn thing into the interview and that’s boring. We’ve always wanted to do Laneway and it has a legendary reputation worldwide, and we’re super stoked to be part of such a sick lineup. It’s gonna be fun playing but even more fun getting to watch and learn from all these other amazing acts!

You’ve brought on a live drummer at past festival shows, what’s your live set up looking like for Laneway?
We are doing the full band Bob Moses experience at Laneway. Drums, guitar and vocals, keyboards. Over the last year we added a drummer and have an awesome crew now, almost all of which we’ve brought with us. The sets are short as they are at most festivals, so we’re just looking forward to packing a punch and putting on the best show we can. Gonna be fun!

How do you approach a festival tour like this, do you plan out your sets differently to say a headline show?
It’s a bit different to a headline show, yes. Festivals are shorter sets than headline shows, and are a good chance to get in front of potential new fans and people who haven’t necessarily heard you or heard of you before, as opposed to a headline show where almost everyone has come specifically to see you and knows more of the catalogue. So at festivals we just try to put our best foot forward and play our strongest material as best we can, and to bring good energy no matter what’s in front of us. We’re really looking forward to the challenge of playing in some places we haven’t before, and going back to some that we’ve had great experiences in the last few times we’ve been down under.

You guys have toured pretty relentlessly since your first release and especially around the time of writing your debut album – do you ever test new material on audiences while you’re still working on songs?
Definitely. This is a big part of our creative process, and it also helps to keep things in perspective. Our music has always been very closely connected to a live experience since we started out in warehouses in Brooklyn, and so it’s always been beneficial and fun for us to try stuff out and keep close to the live space while working in the studio.

What’s the dynamic like between you guys when writing new music?
It’s very collaborative and open. It’s just us sitting in a room and bouncing ideas back and forth, and switching hats between being edited and editing the other. A song can start with a drum loop or just a cool sound, or a melody or some chords on either the piano or guitar…and then go from there. The writing and production process is all sort of one process, we work on each song as just sort of layer upon layer, building it up as we go. We’ll hop back and forth between sitting at the computer and walking around the room shouting ideas out, and sometimes we’ll pull an idea just back to a vocal and piano and guitar, sort of having an acoustic jam session. We usually leave lyrics until last, at which point we’ll try and pull things out of the air or base something around a cool phrase we’ve found in something Tom mumbles, sometimes without even realizing it and having Jimmy point it out. It can be a bit chaotic and sometimes frustrating but it’s always fun and challenging at the same time.

You both come from punk and metal backgrounds, have your musical tastes always been fairly aligned?
We both grew up in Vancouver listening to the same radio stations and playing in punk and metal bands. We’ve both always loved songs and songwriting, but also acts that combined that with pushing the boundaries of what they could do in the studio, using the studio as an instrument, so to speak. We both love lots of different types of music, from dance music to soul, r&b, blues, jazz, rock, punk, metal, pop, even some old country etc…There was a brief period where Tom went singer/songwriter and Jimmy went trance, but those were short lived iterations of trying to find our way when good collaborators were scarce. We’ve always both been songwriters and producers and loved story telling and acts that spent as much time on their background noises and reverb techniques as they did the smallest details of their lyrics. And that’s what we both always wanted to have in an act, and what we set out to do with this one.

You guys spend a lot of time on the road, what kind of stuff do you listen to in the tour van?
We listen to a lot of stuff on the road, but staples that we always seem to come back to include, amongst many others….Fleetwood Mac, Zeppelin, Stones, Petty, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, Bowie…stuff that the whole crew loves and that’s great for driving. The list goes on but those are some of the ones we were cranking on our last bus tour.

Last year was huge for you guys with a lot of milestones – festival appearances, sold out shows in legendary venues, you were even on The Ellen Show – how do you process so much progress in such a short amount of time?
It’s been pretty nuts, that’s for sure. It’s hard to process it all and to be honest, you can’t really. A lot of it sort of seems like a dream and you wake up every now and again and go, “Oh ya, holy shit, that happened!” But it’s been amazing and quite the roller coaster. We love working and we love music and all the things that come with it, so we’re just happy and excited that we get to experience some of what we’ve always dreamed about. Count your blessings, as they say.

After this Laneway tour, will you guys slow things down at all to get some shut eye? What’s on the cards for you guys for 2017?
Yes! We are working on another record, and this Laneway tour is our sort of last big tour that we’ll be doing save for some festival appearances before we really get into the next album in a big way. Couldn’t think of a better way of starting of 2017!