Bob Moses Breaks Down Beautiful, Moody Dance-Rock LP 'Battle Lines': Exclusive
Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses are back with a killer sophomore album, and these dudes are not playing around. Battle Lines is a beautiful ode to troubles of all kinds. It kicks out the gate with a groovy, almost industrial rock feel that may shock some die-hard fans, but it only whets our appetite for more. It's an emotional album indeed, rife with frustration, doubt, anger and fear that often haunts our daily lives in this strange era of late-stage capitalism. Much of the record was conceived on the road, and the lyrics certainly speak of world-weary travelers with wide-eyed grips on reality.
“This record is about the battles and struggles we all live through,” the duo is quoted in a press release, “battles within ourselves, battles with and within our society, battles between each other, with our loved ones, battles between ideologies. It’s also about struggling to identify where those battles lines start and end, and what within us and within our environments cause these struggles, and ultimately cause our suffering. It’s also about the struggle to reconcile with those things, somehow.”
There are definite rock undertones throughout. Each tune is presented with straightforward compositions and lyrics that beg deep dives. Good thing we caught up with Bob Moses to get the inside scoop on each of Battle Lines' 11 tracks. Learn more about the album's in and outs in the exclusive track-by-track breakdown below.
1. "Heaven Only Knows"
"Heaven Only Knows" is about blind faith and the trouble it brings. It was a really fun track to make. It came together quite quickly once we started it, and our goal once we found our footing was to layer interesting parts and take the listener on a journey. Jimmy had a loop that he played for me with that bass line and that huge '80s kick and snare. We were both a little unsure what to make of it, then I got this idea for these choir-like stacked vocals. Once we started layering those over the chord progression, it created this really looming, ominous feeling. The song came together quite easily after that, with the melody and some chord changes to keep things moving. Jimmy had made this weird sound in Ableton while on tour that we had always wanted to use in something, and we had the idea to make a big rock out section around those stacked vocals at the end. I layered lots of hectic guitars and did my best Rage Against the Machine impression on bass to make the end really pop. We gave into our guilty pleasure of making something that was really rocking and heavy, which is a bit of a change in direction for Bob Moses, but the ominous and somber repetition of the hook over that section keeps it in Bob Moses land. We are really happy with what it turned into, and we felt that those very "classic Bob Moses" layered vocals were the perfect way to set the tone as the intro to the album.
2. "Battle Lines"
"Battle Lines" was one of the first songs we started writing, but we weren’t sure it was going to make it on until the end of the writing process. It was inspired by a piano line Jimmy had, which made me start singing the main chorus melody that very closely mirrors the piano and builds off that line. We kept it quite simple and struggled with the dynamics between sections a bit, which is something Lars Stalfors, who helped us produce the album, really helped us with. We decided to put a guitar solo in, and I did a ton of takes, but the one we ended up using is literally the first or second take I did. Funny how it works that way sometimes. We were very upset by all the gun violence happening in the US, so we wrote the song from the perspective of those feeling helpless, unrepresented and ignored by the people that are supposed to be working in their best interests to protect them. It’s a song about anger, confusion, sadness and disappointment.
3. "Back Down"
"Back Down" is about taking responsibility for how our own intolerance and inability to find common ground has gone too far and is at risk of threatening all that we hold dear. It started around a riff we were jamming on during a soundcheck while on tour. We found the verse melody quite early on but struggled a lot with the chorus. We wrote quite a few different choruses and finally got one we loved. The drum programming was really fun and came together quite quickly, and it was nice to have a great chord progression, strong melodies and a great riff that melded so well with our drum programming early on in the album making process. Sometimes, you have one or two of those elements but not the others, and it’s really frustrating. I think we both would have been bummed to lose that riff if we hadn’t gotten the drums right. Luckily, we did.
4. "Eye For An Eye"
"Eye for an Eye" is about being taken advantage of and the desire for revenge. That riff melody came into my head on tour in Berlin. I programed the basic drums and bass, and found part of the riff sound some months later in a hotel room in Singapore while on our way to Australia on the Laneway Tour. We always loved the riff, but weren’t quite sure what to do with it once we fleshed it out in our studio together. We sort of shelved it, and it wasn’t until the end of the album making process that we found the verse (after several attempts). We really struggled with the chorus, and finally got it after many, many attempts. Tim Pagnotta, a producer and writer in LA, really pushed us to get that chorus, and I’m very glad he did. This one was a lot of work, but we are so happy with it now. I’m glad we stuck it out.
5. "The Only Thing We Know"
"The Only Thing We Know" is about being stuck in a toxic relationship. We were in Mexico at BPM festival when Jimmy first played me the melody idea and this lyric, “If you can’t see me / guess I’m a shadow,” which I always thought was a really cool image. It kicked around in both our heads for a while, and once we tackled it in the studio together, it materialized really quick. We had discussed a guitar solo of some sort a couple times where it is now, but I hadn’t really figured out how to approach it. Near the end of the recording process, Lars helped us get an amazing guitar sound with lots of pedals and a real Roland Space Echo. I did lots of takes with me sitting in the middle of the control room at his studio with the speakers absolutely cranked. Eventually, I worked it out and got a good one. It was a lot of fun to record, let me tell you.
6. "Nothing But You"
"Nothing But You" was an ease at first and then a tough challenge. The chorus came to me in a dream, fully formed, and I woke up at like 4 in the morning to work it out on the piano, half asleep. The verse and basic song structure followed quite easily. It took us a few attempts at producing it. We couldn’t seem to get it right at first, but finally, we got it right. We wrote about six different sets of verse-lyrics all centered around the chorus. At one point, we worked for seven full days in a row and ended up scrapping everything. Jimmy had an unfortunate event occur in his family that ended up being the inspiration for us to get the lyrics right, and once we started with that in mind, it clicked in one day. Funny how sometimes writing works best as catharsis. It’s about thinking that what you want is somewhere else, and then realizing that it was right in front of you all along once it’s too late.
7. "Enough to Believe"
We were in New York for a string of shows in the summer, and we had a couple days off, so we booked some studio time. We were both super hungover and tired as we had partied a bit too hard -- summertime in NYC is the best. Neither of us really wanted to be in the studio, but we went anyway, and after kicking around a few dead-end ideas for a couple hours, we stumbled upon this one. It was simple and melancholic, and it just came out. Just goes to show, always go to the studio.
8. "Listen to Me"
"Listen to Me" was an idea I had recorded a demo of quite a while ago, and we discovered it while going through old hard drives. We thought the core of it was good, so we fleshed out the drums and came up with the end riff which we both loved. We struggled a lot with the arrangement on this one, and Lars really helped bring this one to life in the end. Thanks, Lars.
9. "Selling My Sympathy"
This speaks again to the wisdom of digging through hard drives. Jimmy recorded this demo of a song idea he had where he was attempting to be in Oasis or something. It was really funny, and I think he was just messing around, but part of the melody was really good. I’m not sure if he meant for me to hear it, but I found it and was like, “Dude why are you holding out on me. This could inspire a really good idea.” I think he was too embarrassed to show me or something. Shortly thereafter, we went to go see Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Bowl in LA. That night, I had this dream of them doing it and playing this really cool version. I went into the studio the next day and started building some drums around the melody like I had heard in my dream. I think Jimmy immediately caught my drift, and we ended up finishing it in a few days in it’s current form. The verse came from this cool piano/vocal thing we came up with while jamming in the studio one day, too. So, always share your ideas, no matter how corny you think they are, and always go back through old ones. You never know where inspiration will come from.
10. "Don't Hold Back"
"Don’t Hold Back" came on a day I really didn’t feel like being in the studio. Jimmy played me this idea he had with the sort of repeating stagnant bass that stayed on one note and this chord progression on the piano. I just threw up a mic and started riffing over it, and the verse and chorus melodies came out almost instantly. We took those parts, built out a bit of an arrangement and fleshed out the production a bit. Some of the chorus lyrics came, too. It was one of those really nice moments when you stumble upon a good idea and you can’t quite believe it. We kept dancing around the studio being like, “Dude, it’s really fucking good! Right?! Ya it’s really fucking good!” We sort of couldn’t believe it was coming so easily. We fleshed out the production and other parts over the next few days. It’s meaning is pretty obvious I think, but maybe it was a subconscious message to myself to just keep pushing through and not overthink things so much when you feel like you’re starting to go crazy.
11. "Fallen From Your Arms"
This was a song I had been kicking around on the acoustic guitar for a while. We had both acknowledged [it] being quite pretty and a nice little tune, but [we were] not really sure what we would do with it, if anything. Once we had the bulk of the album coming together a bit more, we said to each other that it might be nice to have a little chill tune like this in the vault just in case. When decision time came, we could potentially use it as a moment, should we need it. Lars suggested just doing it live off the floor. We rehearsed it a few times and just recorded it in his studio with Jimmy playing the organ and me singing; candles lit, lights dimmed and all that shit. Jimmy found a couple little background noises to stick in it that sort of helped with the vibe, and we mixed it quite dark, intentionally. We think it ends the record really nicely, and I’m glad that tune finally found it’s feet as well as a home.
Bob Moses kick off an international tour in support of Battle Lines that runs September through February of 2019. Catch the duo jammin' from Mexico to Poland and get ready for the magic with Battle Lines below.
BOB MOSES LIVE
September 15 -- Ensenada, Mexico @ Guadalupe Valley Wine, Food & Music Festival
September 21 -- Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
September 22 -- Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
September 24 -- Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
September 25 -- Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
September 26 -- Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre
September 27 -- Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory
September 28 -- Salt Lake City, UT @ The Metro
September 29 -- Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
September 30 -- San Diego, CA @ CRSSD Festival
October 2 -- Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
October 3 -- Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
October 4 -- Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
October 5 -- Las Vegas, NV @ Encore Beach Club
October 6 -- Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall
October 7 -- Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
October 9 -- Boston, MA @ Paradise
October 10 -- Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
October 11 -- Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
October 12 -- New York, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
October 13 -- New York, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
October 15 -- Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
October 16 -- Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
October 17 -- New Orleans, LA @ Republic
October 18 -- Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
October 19 -- Austin, TX @ Emo’s
October 20 -- Dallas, TX @ Trees
October 23 -- El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace
October 24 -- Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
October 25 -- Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
November 1 -- Guadalajara, MX @ C3 Stage
November 2 -- Mexico City, Mexico @ Auditorio Blackberry
November 3 -- Monterrey, MX @ KNOX
November 16 -- Los Angeles, CA @ The Palladium
November 30 -- Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Riptide Music Festival
December 29 -- Hexton, NZ @ Rhythm and Vines
December 31 -- Glenworth Valley, AU @ Lost Paradise
January 1 -- Melbourne, AU @ The First NYD
February 12 -- Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
February 14 -- London, UK @ Heaven
February 15 -- Paris, FR @ Le Trabendo
February 16 -- Brussels, BE @ Orangerie
February 18 -- Zurich, CH @ Kaufleuten
February 19 -- Munich, DE @ Strom
February 20 -- Berlin, DE @ Funkhaus
February 21-- Warsaw, PL @ Mala Warszawa