Back in 2016, the last time we spoke to them, electronic duo Bob Moses was touring its debut LP, Days Gone By, and had just broken through to the mainstream, even appearing on The Ellen Show. So what Jimmy Valance and Tom Howie been up to since then?
“A lot,” Howie says, before stopping himself. “I mean, a lot and also not much. We’ve been touring and making music, which is what we love to do.”
Back then Howie didn’t even have a place to live. While he and Valance considered themselves a Brooklyn act, in practice they were living out of suitcases. When he wasn’t on tour he would stay in an Airbnb until it was time to move on and get back to work.
By 2017 that life was starting to get old so they decided on a new base of operations across the country—and a permanent place to live.
“We moved to L.A., decided to settle down. We’d been rehearsing there a bunch and I really liked the vibe,” he says. “We’d always had this fantasy of making a record in a house. So we moved here, got a house in the hills, put a studio in it. We spent that year making an album. And we also did a lot of touring.”
Despite having an address they didn’t stop spending time on the road. Howie says they spent more time touring that year than they expected or even really intended.
“We always do more touring than we think we will, which I really like,” Howie says. “It’s really nice to have that and studio work so neither gets old.”
Bon Moses did eventually finish the album, Battle Lines, and released it last year. The duo has pretty much been on the road ever since, making its way through North America, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe and China. While it’s still uncommon for an American act to tour China, Howie found it to be an especially illuminating experience.
“We played deep China: Yuhuan, Chengdu, Shenzhen,” he explains. “These are cities of like 15, 20 million people, twice the size of New York.”
Once the metro areas were figured in, some of these places had as many as 50 minion people living in close proximity.
“I grew up in the West, in Vancouver. I’d been to Europe [and] South America, and they seemed very different,” he says. “But I went to China and I really realized, ‘Wow, I’ve only seen half the world.’ There’s this entire half of the world that’s so different, and until I went there I didn’t even realize how big the world was.”
Now that the duo is back in the U.S., Valance and Howie are planning a return to San Francisco, an important city in the band’s history and one of the first places the duo played outside of New York.
“We had this friend in San Francisco who booked us a few shows at these seedy clubs,” Howie says. “We only had enough to fly out there so we stayed with her, switched off who had to sleep on the floor and who got the couch. But it was great for us to be so accepted by an audience so far from home. It made us feel like we could make it.”
This time they’re in town for something a little bigger: Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park.
Bob Moses has played everything from Bonnaroo to Coachella in the U.S. to Sónar in Spain. While festivals worldwide may have totally different atmospheres, Howie considers what they have in common.
“The thing with festivals is that it really feels like it’s a community. It’s about the music but it’s also about more than the music,” he says. “With things like food and art installations there’s just so much creativity.”
Once they leave the Bay Area there’s, of course, more touring. They’ll be on the road with Phantogram, and after that back to the other side of the world with a tour of India.
But now, after all that traveling, they’ll have a home to come back to.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.