We chatted with the duo behind Bob Moses about appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, how they prep for a show, and why they love Miami.
If you're unfamiliar with Bob Moses, you won't be any longer. Starting out as high school acquaintances who chatted about music and girls over art class to serendipitously having studios on the same block, and then running into each other on a New York train a decade later, everything about the Canadian electronic duo—Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance—screams sonic fairytale.
To top it off, the pair will make their way to the Magic City on October 28, when Bob Moses will serenade Miamians once again with their deep, dark enigmatic sound at the historic Olympia Theatre as part of their largest North American Never Enough tour. Here, the sultry twosome talks performing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, their spirit animals, and how they prepare before each show.
You've been coming to Miami since Last Resort in 2013, well before releasing your debut album, Days Gone By—any crazy Miami nights?
Tom Howie: We love Miami. It's one of the first places we ever played and we feel at home. Most nights in Miami are not spent with much sleep, I'll tell you that much.
The Bob Moses story is pretty crazy. It almost sounds like you guys are cosmically connected.
TH: I believe what you put out, you get back. A month before that happened, I was thinking I would like to find a musical partner. Then I ran into Jimmy—we willed it with our cosmic powers.
Your lyrics are so powerful. What place did you take yourself to emotionally or mentally to come out with what you did in Days Gone By?
TH: You write about things that are happening in your life, and lots of the time, a phrase will come and you don’t really know what it means and you have to keep writing to figure out what you’re writing about. "Too much is never enough"—that phrase just came and we were like, "What the hell does that mean?" It’s cool cause it’s kind of contradictory, but we don’t really know what it means. You just put up the antenna and you make sense of it as it comes. It's 50 percent brain and 50 percent heart and feeling. Sometimes, we sit there all day, get two words, get extremely frustrated, and go to the bar.
Jimmy Vallace: We just burn palo santo and write music.
Where do you find inspiration for your unique sound?
TH: We use a lot of field recordings and things that wouldn’t necessarily be in music: vents making a funny noise, a train door opening, somebody’s keys jangling in their pockets, or onions frying in a flat. We distort those sounds and use them to create texture in the music.
Do you have any weird pre-shows rituals?
TH: I do a vocal warm up that kind of makes me look like a gymnast slash retard. Jimmy’s trying to find a new pre-show ritual, so maybe he could get weird.
JV: Overwhelming panic has worked great for me. It gets me amped and in these fight-or-flight modes, which is great when you’re playing on stage because you never know whether you’re going to run away or stay there. I call it danger mode.
You don’t seem like the panic kind of guy.
JV: I’m like a bunny rabbit in a very small cage with not a lot of food, and that’s how I go, but like an energizer bunny. I don’t stop. Going back to the cosmic thing, I think the bunny rabbit is my spirit animal.
What’s Tom’s spirit animal?
JV: He’s an Atlantic salmon: pink and fluffy on the inside, majestic, and hard to catch but really rare. If you get it, it would cost a lot of money on a menu.
TH: I think I’m like a phoenix or a hawk.
You were recently on Ellen, pretty huge! How’d that manifest or come into play?
JV: It was like weird because she was a fan, and Tom and I are Ellen fans, so it was like this fan-off going on. We were nervous because backstage, there were pictures of her with Obama and Kanye and we’re like, "What the heck are we doing here?"
TH: We were on tour in Brazil when her manager texted us, "Ellen wants you to come, it’s her birthday," and we were like, "Oh, a birthday party in LA, like a private party? Sweet!" And he was like "No, the show!" So we freaked out, changed our flights and got there in time to do the show with no sleep.
You’ve been starting to receive a good amount of mainstream recognition between being on Ellen and getting a tour with Kygo. How do you plan on staying true to yourself and your sound with all these new songs to accept?
TH: We’ve been mentally preparing for it. We’re 27 and 28 so we’ve had a bit more time to get to know who we are, and we’re both pretty clear on what we want to do it for and the reasons we do it for.
JV: It’s not like we’ve made a thing and it seems like a fluke. We spent several years finding our own sound and sort of creating a voice for ourselves. We are both impatient and patient at the same time. We know what we want but we don’t want to compromise on how to get there.
What is something that each of you can tell me about the other that a lot of people will find surprising?
TH: Jimmy is scared of woodpiles.
JV: I don’t like woodpiles because I grew up in Canada and spiders live in woodpiles. I’m not afraid of spiders so much but I’m basically picking up an animal’s house and trying to burn it to keep myself warm, while that animal is doing everything it can to make sure its house doesn’t catch on fire. I like campaigns to keep spiders out of the woodpiles alive, and if people could stop cutting down trees that would be great. Tom doesn’t like screen doors.
Photography by: photography by brook linder