“We’re a rock band with an identity crisis.”
That’s how Jimmy Vallance describes Bob Moses, his music project with fellow Vancouverite Tom Howie. (There is no actual Bob in the group.) It’s true, the duo straddles the line between being electronic producers and a rock band, making icy electronic pop wrapped in warm vocals and shimmering guitars, that plays equally well in the café and the club, but is especially great on big stages. But if there’s any crisis within, from the outside it seems to be paying off pretty well: Their debut record, Days Gone By, hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart, they’ve appeared on Ellen, and are gearing up for Coachella.
The two first met at St. George’s, an all-boys prep school in Vancouver. Jimmy, son of famed producer-songwriter Jim Vallance, was listening to Radiohead and Rancid, drumming in a metal band, and had recently fallen in love with electronic music. “I liked that fact that one guy could do it all,” he says. “When I heard Moby’s Play and found out he didn’t have a whole band, that was exciting.”
“We recorded it all ourselves, but one thing we were quite adamant about was, let’s get someone really awesome to mix it.” – Jimmy Vallance of Bob Moses
Meanwhile, his classmate Tom was transforming from punk rocker into a more serious singer-songwriter. “I saw his punk band play,” says Jimmy Vallance. “They were awful. But one day there was some school assembly, with him on an acoustic guitar playing these Jack Johnson-style songs he’d written himself. And it was incredible.”
Yet it would be a few more years before the two would become Bob Moses. They’d both de-camped to New York to pursue music, and after a chance encounter in a parking lot, decided to try writing songs together. After several releases on Brooklyn’s Scissors & Thread label, the duo signed to Domino, the prestigious indie label that’s also home to Canadians Caribou and Junior Boys. The Domino connection helped Bob Moses secure two ace mixers to work on their debut – Mike Stet (Madonna, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack’s downtempo masterpiece Mezzanine) and David Wrench (fka Twigs, Jamie XX).
“We recorded it all ourselves, but one thing we were quite adamant about was, let’s get someone really awesome to mix it,” says Vallance. “We didn’t need the hottest person working right now, but someone whose music we really like. When it comes to electronic music, the mix can be such a big part of the end product. It also really helped us fall in love with our own music again after working on it for a year straight.”
The result is a sound perfectly timed for the come-down from EDM. Is Bob Moses’ relatively swift success sign that the generation raised on club bangers is ready to chill-out?
“Kids are starting to realize there’s only so much hectic noise you can listen to,” says Vallance. “Don’t get me wrong, I think EDM has been an amazing thing for electronic music, but at a certain point people are going to be looking for something a bit deeper. I kind of joke that we’re the ‘90s grunge to ‘80s hair metal. They’re both rock, but one’s just more grassroots, the other is a big machine. And then they switch places. That’s where we are right now.”