Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world. An Interview With Bob Moses
Surprisingly enough Bob Moses is not just one man. While the name might conjure images of a lonesome troubadour wandering desolate plains, the band are actually a deep house duo consisting of Tom Howie and Jimmy Valance. Having first risen to fame through a series of sparkling EPs for Anthony Collins and Francis Harris‘ esteemed Scissors & Thread imprint, this September sees the band move to Domino to release their debut LP Days Gone By (All In All from earlier this year was actually a collection of said EPs). By JOHN BITTLES
And what an album it is! Deep, booming basslines, careworn vocals, elegant synths and warm beats combine to winning effect. Mixing house, pop and soul, Bob Moses create twelve tracks which resemble Jamie Woon singing over the type of classic deep house that would make even Frankie Knuckles or Larry Heard proud. Opener Like It Or Not sucks you in right away, its gorgeous bassline sending shivers down the spine. From here Days Gone By explores a number of musical textures with consideration and style. Talk mixes a tribal groove with a series of killer hooks, Too Much Is Never Enough sounds like James Blake being dumped in the Sub Club, Nothing At All blends a techno pulse with heartfelt vocals, while Touch And Go recalls the glory days when singers like Robert Owens were king.
Bringing to mind the soulful, ‚grown-up‘ house from the mid 90s by Presence, or The Aloof, this is sophisticated dance music which isn’t afraid to get dirty every once in a while. The song writing is melancholy and reflective, while the beats are crisp and phat, with the album developing the promise of the duo’s earlier EPs into something that transcends the dance floor to become something rather special indeed. But don’t take my word for it, have a listen to a sampler here Bob Mose Days Gone By Soundcloud
The duo were kind enough to take time out from their busy schedule to answer some questions I sent their way. The result sees the guys discuss the new album, James Murphy, playing live, melding vocals and house, Scissors & Thread, and loads more.
By way of introduction, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
We are Bob Moses, otherwise known as Tom and Jimmy. We are a couple of Canadian dudes who went to high school together but never really made music together for whatever reason, then serendipitously met up in a Lowe’s parking lot in New York, and started partying too much and making beats in a building next to where they parked the dump trucks. We stumbled into working with Scissor and Thread and started playing some late night affairs in New York, found our way to Burning Man, released a couple EP’s and now have been touring all over the world for the last little while and got a chance to make an album for Domino Records. We pinch ourselves every day to ensure we can go on making our style of dusty electronica, fusing rock n’ roll and techno to the best of our abilities and saying what we want to say.
Your debut album Days Gone By is out on the 18th of September. Why do we all need this album in our lives?
We all need this album in our lives because……….well whatever reason we give will probably be bullshit. You don’t need much in your life other than food, water, shelter, some love….a little sex is nice every now and again too. The only thing that comes close to a reputable answer is that if you are at all like us, you’ve been through some of what we’ve been through, and this album is a direct reflection of that, and so maybe you’ll relate to some of what we’re saying, but maybe not. Give it a try and let us know!
How indicative is lead single Talk of the album as a whole?
Talk is the most like our previous work, and one of two tracks on that album which are a launching pad from the old towards the new. It’s all the same sort of vibe and it won’t feel alien to anyone listening, but Talk and another track are the starting points towards taking you on the next step of our musical journey, so to speak.
Like It Or Not is a gorgeously groovy opener which instantly sets the mood for the rest of the record. Was this always going to be the album’s first track?
As soon as we started working on this track, we thought, »This should open the record.« It’s funny how certain tracks or songs really show their true nature or self in the beginning of making them. This was one of those, and as soon as we had started working on it we really thought it would probably be the opening track on the album.
One of my favourite tracks from the album is the 80s strut of Tearing Me Up. Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind this song?
This song came about really naturally. It was one of the first songs that we finished for the record, and also once we had finished it we knew that it was the centre piece we wanted to build the album around, so to speak. It started with a beat and baseline, and a simple little piano line, and then it came together with the sort of rapping, Tom Petty-esque verse and the rest of the chords. It happened in a bout 5 days, from conception to a fully finished record. It was one of those ones that is so exciting that you just have to rush through to the finish line right away, and it all came really naturally and easily. Once it started coming out, there was no stopping it.
Your singles collection All In All was released earlier this year. How does this sit next to Days Gone By?
All in All is a good snapshot of the story of Bob Moses, of us finding our sound and honing in on it. Days Gone By is us comfortable within that sonic landscape, taking the next steps, taking some risks, pushing the envelope of our comfort zone, and really making a body of work that encompasses the beginnings of what we really want to do and say as artists more deeply.
What were your main influences when working on the album?
We were listening to all sorts of stuff. Caribou, Four Tet, Led Zeppelin, Pharell, Tame Impala. Everything from Trip Hop to Blues and Downtempo Eletronic to Hard Rock. Watched quite a lot of LCD Soundsystem interviews as well. James Murphy is very forthcoming about all the idiosyncrasies of making a record, the high points, the low points and it turns out his work flow is quite similar to ours. Via Youtube James was able to shed a little light and give us some comfort in the process.
Are you planning on touring the album at all?
Yes, we are about to begin a big tour of North America, starting September 30th at Bowery Ballroom. It’s our first bus tour, and we’re bringing our own sound and lights and production and everything. It’s a big step for us, but a very exciting one, and we’re really looking forward to playing the types of venues that maybe we haven’t played before in some cities. Plus, we’re bringing our friend Desert Sound Colony on the road, so for sure we can say it’s gonna be lots of fun!
Your live set-up is quite different for an electronic duo. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing your live show yet, can you tell us what to expect?
We play all our own original music, with live vocals, guitar and keyboards, but it all flows together like a DJ set, with mixes that we alter and tweak with each performance on the fly. So it’s fun, danceable, moody, but all made up of our own stuff.
How did you two first meet?
We went to high school together in Vancouver.
What made you decide to start your own band?
We were both bored with what we were doing and we met in a Lowe’s parking lot in Red Hook in NYC and what else do you do in a Lowe’s parking lot other than start your own band?
The electronic pop and melodic house sensibilities in your music remind me of the output of a label like Kompakt from Cologne. Do you think this is a fair comparison?
We’re a big fan of lots of stuff that has come out on that label and so that’s flattering. We definitely admire Panda Bear, The Orb, Gui Boratto, etc. Seems like a fair comparison to us!
It can be notoriously difficult to successfully marry vocals to house music. What’s the secret to getting this right?
We have no idea. We just do our thing. We remember making our first collaboration with Frank and Tony thinking, »Either this is really really awesome or it really really sucks. We will have to wait and see.« Luckily some people liked it. Probably though it’s keeping the melodies and tracks in check with one another….not going too over the top with the vocal melodies, keeping the lyrics in a darker tone so as not to be corny, and blending the vocals in your mix to act like an instrument moreso than a big top line hook. That gets old really quick
I first discovered your music through your EPs on Anthony Collins & Francis Harris‘ Scissors & Thread imprint. How did you first hook up with them?
We did a guest vocal feature on a MANDY track. Philipp introduced us to Francis who he had co produced a track with, and then Francis called us up and asked us to do another one, and then another, and then our relationship just developed from there. It was all very natural and we hit it off with Francis and Anthony right away, became good friends, and then we just kept on working together. They, along with Philipp, have been great mentors and have guided us from the beginning, and still do to this day.
How do you think your sound has developed since your first EP Hands To Hold?
We’ve gotten more experimental with songs and with sounds, and always tried to take the next step in developing our song-writing within our desired sound aesthetic.
What’s it like working with the lovely people at Domino Records?
It’s a dream, they are all amazing and we couldn’t ask for a better home. They really are music lovers first, and believe in allowing artists to be artists. It’s an amazing home and we feel much that way there.
What does the future hold for Bob Moses?
We’re looking forward to sharing this record with as many people as possible and touring as far and wide as we can. Beyond that, if we get the chance to make another record after this one, we’ll be very happy!
Do you have any final words for our readers?
Thanks for reading, thanks for letting us do what we do, and we hope that part of this album does something useful for you in your lives, or helps you in some way. Our goal has always been to make music that provides for others the solace that our favorite music has provided for us, so we hope to have at least come close! Lots of love, Tom & Jimmy.
| JOHN BITTLES
| Photos TIM SACCENTI