The Silence in Between – Interview with Bob MosesLEFAIR
It is early evening on an ocean-facing deck at Papaya Playa Project in Tulum, Mexico. The eminent EDM duo, Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, collectively known as Bob Moses, are soaking up some pre-set sunrays before they play the closing weekend of Sundream Tulum. Although they both hail from Vancouver, the two formed a band while living in New York City, and are currently based in Los Angeles. Their remix of the song Tearing Me Up by RAC won a Grammy Award for best remixed recording, non-classical. They have released a total of three albums and one EP. Their last album, The Silence In Between, dropped on March 4th, 2022.
MR: Who is Bob Moses? Why do you call yourselves that?
Tom Howie: The scene we came out of was all about being mysterious. We used to say Bob Moses was a gym teacher of ours. At one point, we made up a story that he was a famous hairstylist in London back in the 1970s. We just thought it was cool to kind of be mysterious. We did not choose it based on any real historical figures with that name. We did not know there was a jazz drummer named Robert Moses for instance, but we used to drive on the Bob Moses Expressway to go to our studio in New York.
MR: What is your writing process like?
Jimmy Vallance: One of us will come up with some kind of melody- even if it is just humming and recording that on a phone. Then we take it to the studio to flesh out the beat and figure out the chorus. Lyrics are what we do last. Usually Tom will spit out a few lines like, Love brand new. What does love brand new mean? And we come up with a story about it. We will decide what is cool and what works. Our life experiences wind up pouring into the lyrics. There is no ego or tension when we write. Being able to share and be honest and let ideas flow.
MR: How involved are you in the creative process and decisions behind your music videos?
Tom Howie: We are both super involved in every aspect of our careers. The buck always stops with us. Our goal is to surround ourselves with great talented people who bring things to the table. In terms of videos- Geoff Barnett, our manager, is very in tune with us. Geoff is very cognizant about whoever we bring on to do anything creative with us. The visuals always draw inspiration from the lyrics and not just the sound. We want to convey the messages of the songs through the videos. We choose a video director who will make a treatment and then we work out the kinks together. Of course, the video creative is very dependent on whoever directs it.
Jimmy Vallance: Ultimately, we all work together and everything we do is a collaboration. A big part of collaborating is surrendering. There is no ego attached. You share ideas and when someone else has a great idea, you have to recognize that. To create a video like the video for Time and Time Again, with dancers and choreography, you have to put trust into your creative team, that they will help run with the project.
MR: Jimmy, what impresses you most about Tom?
Jimmy Vallance: He is extremely open minded. He teaches me something every day. He also reads a lot and sends me articles. He is not stubborn in any way. He is always willing to listen- creatively and just as friends. He is receptive to philosophical discussions. Overall, he is very open and he has made me more open. It is hard to be like that.
MR: Tom, what impresses you most about Jimmy?
Tom Howie: It is hard to choose from a long list of impressive traits, but if I had to choose one, it would be his general positivity and positive energy. He is perfect at cracking a joke right at the perfect time when everyone is down about something. He makes certain parts of our job and our friendship in general a little lighter and more fun (like when we are stuck at the airport together). I have a tendency to take things too seriously and take myself too seriously. He reminds me to enjoy the moment and not get lost in a train of thought that is five years down the road. He reminds me to be present. I think that is what I appreciate about him the most as a friend and a bandmate. But it is hard to choose.
MR: What does the title of your most recent album, The Silence In Between refer to?
Jimmy Vallance: When we started this record, we had no idea that the pandemic was going to happen. We literally built our studio in the beginning of March, 2020 in LA. Twelve days later, we were on lockdown.
We had no idea what the future held and if we would be able to continue music as a career; would we tour? It is the story of the world shutting down, us writing music, and the world opening back up and all the experiences we went through as artists: watching the riots, and the lockdowns and all of the anxiety that came with that.
Tom Howie: We had to process a lot. It is hard when your identity is this group that travels around the world playing music and that is stripped away. There was a lot of stress and uncertainty. This was probably the first time in eight years when we had to stay in the same place for a year or more. With that quiet there was a lot of personal and interpersonal stuff percolating up. This was our way of cathartically making sense of what we were feeling by ourselves and together. So The Silence in Between refers to that silence in between the world as we knew it and the world that we are now coming back into.
MR: Do you think silence is important in music?
Jimmy Vallance: Absolutely. Silence is our canvas, just like a painter and an empty palette. It is extremely important to have quiet moments and loud moments.
Tom Howie: Silence is just as important as the notes played. It is integral. 100 percent.
MR: How do you hope to inspire your fans?
Jimmy Vallance: The same way that we were inspired, which is having acts that write meaningful music that connected with us, and inspired us to want to make music or feel better in our day to day lives. And I know that we have been very fortunate to have a lot of fans and a lot of artists who are up and coming. And I think that is all you can hope for as an artist, is to write meaningful music and connect with it.
Tom Howie: Music is the thing in both of our lives that feels closest to like a god. It is how we make sense of the world but also writing is how we make sense of the world. Listening and writing music growing up, and even now is how we make sense of the world. If we are lucky enough to write stuff that can have an effect on as many people as possible like our favorite music had on us, then it would be like our dreams come true.
MR: Jimmy, both of your parents are songwriters- do you think there is a genetic compulsion to write music or do you think it is more nurture over nature?
Jimmy Vallance: I have asked myself that so many times. I would like to think it is a bit of both. My parents never pushed music on me. They were around but they left the stuff there for me to have fun with. It is funny looking back now. The things I gravitated towards are all the things my dad got into. Like he started with drums, I started with drums and he got into the writing side and then I got into the writing and production side. They never showed me how to do anything. It felt possible because they did it and had success at it. Also I saw how much fun he had doing it, and it made me want to get involved in it.
MR: Your parents recently divorced. Did you use songwriting to help you through that experience?
Jimmy Vallance: It was very cathartic for me to write about the process. It was a very hard thing to go through. I had a great childhood and I love both of my parents to death. It is unfortunate what happened, but life happens, and I am really fortunate to be in my position and have the head that they helped form on my shoulders.
Music has definitely been a life raft.
MR: You also lost a friend recently?
Tom Howie: We lost our joint friend, George. He was a crazy dude. He was a big support to us in the beginning. He was the driving force behind this Burning Man camp called Robot Heart. He really loved our music and embraced us and gave us a lot of opportunities. He brought us out to Burning Man. Not only did he help our career in that way, but he also became a really close friend.
He was a force of nature. He accomplished so much in his life and he was all about helping other people who he thought were doing cool stuff, be the best that they could be. So that was a really special relationship for us. And he died too soon. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. So that was pretty hard. Like I said, we use music and the creation of it to understand the world, and our music is always going to be a little autobiographical. We are going to pour what we are feeling and experiencing into our songs. Time and Time Again was inspired by him and was not only a way of processing his passing, but also a way to capture the moments in life that were his favorite and our favorite:
When you are dancing at a great party and the sun is coming up and the music is amazing and you are with your best friends and everything is just right. He always said, You need a sunset song and a sunrise song, and this song is an homage to him and those moments.
MR: You have touched on heavy topics that have occurred over the past couple of years- both personally and generally. What was the song, Broken Beliefs inspired by?
Tom Howie: That song was inspired in part by the riots but also just by what is happening on social media and the division in the world. And how it feels like everything we thought we knew is being reinvestigated and sort of turned upside down and shaken up. Everything that we thought was the core to our belief system is broken and maybe it was a broken idea to begin with and how do we move forward with that?
MR: I think there is a depth to your songwriting that is missing from other current EDM artists. What do you attribute this to?
Jimmy Vallance: I think a lot of the bands we grew up listening to would have been called EDM back in the day, like New Order, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nail are all electronic acts that wrote very deep lyrics. We really connected with a lot of music that has deep subject matter, so that is naturally what we do as songwriters and we try to pair that with a beat that works well on a dance floor. Dance music, historically, has been very cathartic and music for celebration. House music was of course invented in Chicago and techno was invented in Detroit. And electronic music has historically been music of resistance to what is happening in the status quo, while also being very inclusionary of the LGBTQ community and has always been a place for celebration: no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, you are welcome on the dance floor. We like to encapsulate that in our lyrics.