By Jonathan Crane
Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie have been touring internationally for the entire year, playing locations like SXSW, WMC, and Ibiza. Last month the duo released their debut full-length, Days Gone By, on Domino Records and things aren’t slowing down for them any time soon.
On this day in particular, they were back home in New York preparing for Burning Man. I asked them about the alleged bug infestation that the festival is rumoured to be threatened with.
“Yeah it’s not true,” says Howie. “Every year there’s some big crisis that they put in the news and it’s always blown way out of proportion.”
“I’m bringing a flamethrower,” says Vallance.
The duo’s gradual rise to notoriety has been resonating in Western Canada, as they are both products of different pockets of the Vancouver music scene.
“Well, we both started in our younger years making rock, punk, and stuff like that,” says Howie. “As we both got a bit older we got sick of having bands, so I went to do more acoustic guitar stuff. And then Jimmy started DJing trance stuff.”
After high school the pair moved separately to New York, unbeknown to each other. Soon after, Vallance went to Berlin with the aims of furthering his electronic music career. Once there, he began working with producer Matthew Dekay.
“I spent a couple months [in Berlin], and we were making tons of records, and just trying to find cool songs and make headway over there,” says Vallance.
Back in New York, Vallance and Howie encountered each other by chance in a parking lot one day on the way to the train. By this point, Howie was already an accomplished recording artist, having released a solo EP mixed by Sarah McLachlan’s drummer Ashwin Sood in 2010.
This experience, combined with the knowledge Vallance gained through working with Dekay, gave the pair a solid foundation from which to launch a new project.
“It helped me to push myself as a producer, and engineering and making really good sounds, so then when Tom and I started to link up I had kind of been to university of how to make beats, and how to do all that sort of stuff,” says Vallance.
Their combined mastery of both electronic production and live instrumentation gives them a dynamic that sets them apart from other current electronic acts and serves to fuel the off-kilter sounds heard in their records.
“We always try to make certain things that would typically be electronic with a sort of live start, like maybe recording something, and then messing it up in the computer to make it sound very electronic,” says Howie. “We try to like switch it up a bit, and keep things interesting, and combine [sounds] in ways that keep people guessing when they’re listening.”
For this duo, achieving this effect means continuing down a path of experimentation that was inspired by artists like James Blake, Nicholas Jaar, and Radiohead.
“There’s one [track] where I’m playing drums on the floor, on a mic stand, and we just put some effects through that and put that on the record,” says Vallance. “If we don’t know how to get things we hear in our head, we’ll try a bunch of stuff until we get there.
The forthcoming release is both a culmination and continuation of this experimentation.
“Sonically, it’s kind of like we felt really comfortable with the sound we found over the last few EPs, and so it’s really kind of stretching the boundaries of that, and pushing the boundaries of songwriting within that sound,” says Howie.
These attributes, along with lyrics that speak on their own experiences with relationships, careers, and life, are ultimately what have allowed Bob Moses to carve away from being grouped with other contemporary electronic duos.
“We don’t really think of ourselves as deep house or anything like that,” says Howie. “We like making deep music.
Bob Moses will be performing on October 14 at the Imperial (Vancouver).BC, Bob Moses, British Columbia, The Imperial