interview / Alyssa Hardy
photos / Santiago Felipe
photographed at the Black Flamingo, New York City
Great duos are the one of the best gifts the music industry has ever given us. When two people are willing to compromise their creative ego to make something that is often times more brilliant than what they can create on their own, it’s like striking gold. Bob Moses, made up of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, is a millennial leaning, digital-driven example of exactly that sort of synchronicity that makes musical duos so special.
Labeled a “deep house duo,” these two Vancouver born guys are coming out with a brand new album and a solo tour to back it up. If you’re already a fan, you’ll recognize a familiar sound with more complicated mixes that are lyrically driven. Their upbeat ambient sound is a mix between the perfect dance track, and something you can chill out to. If you haven’t heard them yet, think about putting their music on in the background next time you have to get some work done. (Trust me, I’m doing it right now and it’s perfect).
Though two people certainly grow at different paces, a reason their sound seems to mature so flawlessly together is that Jimmy and Tom are best friends who respect and admire one another. As the pair embarks on their first major headlining tour, they’re relationship will no doubt be tested, but like any great duo their work will tell the story.
What are you looking forward to most with your upcoming tour?
Jimmy: We are actually stoked about this because this is the first time where we’re going on the road and we’re bringing our own lights and a crew with us and kind of doing our own thing, setting up and bringing our own vibe with us. Usually, we just play in clubs, small venues, and festival. So for us it’s really exciting to be able to get on the road and every night have it be, I guess, our kind of party or our show.
Tom: We’re going across the country on a bus this time. Usually we do flying dates where we fly everywhere and this is the first time we’re going on the road for real. We’re going to be driving everywhere and it’s going to be really fun. It starts at the end of September and it’s all over North America and it’s taking us to the beginning of November and then we’re going to go over to Europe to do a similar sort of thing and it should take us until the end of the year to do it.
So do you have anything special planned for it?
Jimmy: We’re going to have a new live set up that we have never played before with a bit more gear, some really cool visuals and we’re going to be playing lots of new songs. So I mean, it’s new, new, new. We’re going to go to a lot of places actually that we’ve never been before. I guess it’ll be the first time for, well, it will a lot of firsts for us. We are going back to lots of places we’ve played before so it’ll be a much more involved show for people who have seen us before. It will be, like, much more, like Jimmy said, “our own thing” as oppose to just showing up to a club and playing.
How do you think your fans are going to react?
Tom: We’re really fortunate in the sense that, you know, we’ve tried to slowly started to push things a bit and they’ve been really accepting. So you know we’ve had the chance over the year to play some shows I feel, like tonight, for example, even the weekends we don’t have a show that goes past ten o’clock at night. And usually, you know, we started off basically playing raves at four o’clock in the morning. And to go from that to like, I don’t know what you would call like a more civilized hour, we were a bit like “how is that going to work?” People keep coming to the shows and following us and trusting us to do what we do (knock on wood) and getting that support is just amazing. I guess another benefit, and we were just talking about this yesterday, is that we’re selling tickets for shows that like, you know, people are buying them and it’s going to be a room full of our fans to want to hear what we do and for us, you can’t ask for anything better than that. And it’s been a different process for the last year to be able to play shows and win fans at places where we didn’t have any. We’d show up and start with fifty people there, and then go to one hundred or two hundred, and work our way up and that’s kind of like a different thing. We kind of learned a lot, how to do what we do and be who we are from that struggle in a way. And now we get to play for people who come to see us.
Is anything going to be surprising from the new album?
Jimmy: I mean, it’s the same sound, it sounds like us. It’s got the same vibe and lots of it is very danceable the same way that our old stuff is. So there’s going to be really similar in that sense. I think the only main difference is that since we have an album we had longer to say something so we can kind of go off in other directions a little more. Some rhythms are not all dance, like “Four On The Floor” is a little bit more experimenting. It’s the same sort of vibe. It’s kind of like the next step for us, we felt, creatively. It’s the same sound.
Tom: We pushed the songwriting aspect on it a bit more. We’re really putting in the time to think about the multi dimensions of the song. Also incorporating that into the atmosphere sound that we came from before. That was something that we felt like on this album we had more time and more of a chance to say. I think we also found that we got more confident in our blend of it of atmosphere and songwriting. There’s more of the whole spectrum of that as oppose of only having four songs.
So when it comes to making music and working together, what is the dynamic like with you guys?
Jimmy: There’s not one way to begin it. There are so many roads which is a blessing. I’ve heard of other peoples’ writing process and they either can only start with an idea or they need something. The cool thing about harmonizing is you can kind of go away and do our own thing. You know, I’ll hear Tom playing the guitar and I’ll be like, “Dude, what’s that? That’s really great.” He’ll be like “It’s just something I’ve been working on” and I’ll be like “We have to go write it down and work on that!” Then we’ll record it and maybe one night I’ll write something on guitar and Tom will be like “Hey man that’s really great!” We just kind of inspire each other. A lot of times we sit in the room together and just say, “okay, let’s start something from the ground up and just go from there”. So there’s like five or six or so many different roads for us to get to a song. I think the cool thing is that it’s really a 50/50 partnership and Tom is great at all the things I’m horrible at, and vice versa. So we’re really fortunate in that and it’s just kind of everything that you could want out of a great partnership. It always has to start with some sort of idea, like a chord progression that one of us has on some instrument.
Tom: Sometimes I’ll have some little piano idea, or Jimmy will have a piano or guitar idea, or I’ll have a guitar idea. Sometimes it will even be when we’re listening to some other track and we’ll be like, “hey dude, we should try to make a song like this” and then we’ll go in the studio and do that. Then sometimes it will be like we have a loop and then I’ll start singing something. Once we have that little spark of an idea, it’s basically kind of about throwing back and forth. It’s like playing a game of catch. Say I’m wearing the hat and I’m kind of fiddling around, Jimmy is being my producer and he’s saying “Do this, go back to that chord, don’t do that.” I’m finding it and he’s guiding me. Then he’ll be like “Oh that’s great” and then he’ll start it and take it the next little way. I’ll say “No we have this, it should be more like this.” We toss it back and forth. A lot of the time we find that we’re finishing each others’ sentences. I think something and he’ll say, “Yeah, that’s what I was just about to do!” That’s kind of how it works.
What is something about the other that you know that others don’t?
Tom: Jimmy has this energy and he gets in these couple, very specific and minute moves. I’ll call them moves, because one of them is sort of a dance and the other is sort of like the fucking stoked face. There’s like two or three things that I know that we’re on to something when Jimmy starts doing that. And it’s kind of like one is a dance, which I would have to show you but I don’t want to give it away, and the other looks like he’s going to explode or something. His energy—he kind of starts moving and getting a bit more tense. It’s like two seconds long and then he’ll kind of snap out of it. I’ve only learned after many, many, many hours alone in a room with him that if that starts happening we’re onto something… and then usually Tom starts laughing at me for no reason and I turn around and I’m like “What?”
Jimmy: Tom has an extensive calf high sock collection that I find very inspiring. There are multiple colors and all these things and it’s funny that I’m saying this because he’s the one wearing colorful socks. Really though, Tom is an incredibly amazing guitar player and I actually started to improve myself by watching him and he can play anything. You say “here’s something” and he’ll just pick it up and go. I’m not so much like that. Tom can hear an Eric Clapton verse and in ten minutes he’s got it nailed. I can ask him what chord is this and he’ll sit there for a second and say “That’s a G major 7” and I’m like okay, you’re crazy, but great.
If you guys could play with anyone, who would you want to play with?
Tom: You’re killing us here! We could spit off so many names. John Lennon, Thom Yorke, anybody in the Beatles. I would also like to have Eric Clapton in our house and just play blues and play rhythm guitar to the blues or the piano and just let him solo and not let him leave my house. I’d be down for Trent Reznor. I’d love to get Trent Reznor and sit down in a room and just see what happens. I’d also like to jam with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Moby! I’d love to eat with Moby but he’s like vegan so I’d have to get him some salad and be super healthy. It would be awesome. We should start a spin-off band. We should call Moby and Flea up and ask them if they want to be in a band with us. I don’t know how it would go though.
You’ll have a ton of tea….
Jimmy: I’d be down for that, I like tea. I was saying to my friend the other day that I kind of feel like I could start getting into tea.
Sure, it’s healthy for you.
Jimmy: I think we’re onto something here!