Bob Moses' Jimmy Vallance on Dance Grammy Noms & Slow-Burn Success of 'Tearing Me Up'

Brook Linder
Bob Moses

In the summer of 2014, Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie, the duo known by moniker Bob Moses, recorded their debut album Days Gone By in a former candlestick factory in Brooklyn. The album came out Sept. 2015, but it wouldn't be until this month, Feb. 2017, that the duo's career leapt to the next level. Not only is Days Gone By standout “Tearing Me Up” continuing to rise up the Alternative Songs charts (it’s currently notched in at No. 16), but this Sunday the duo is up for two Grammys: Best Dance Recording (up against the likes of Flume and The Chainsmokers) and Best Remixed Recording. In addition, this week it was announced that they’re also up for two Canadian Juno Awards, and Days Gone By has been nominated for the American Music Prize for Best Debut Album. 

It’s a long time coming for Howie and Vallance (son of acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Jim Vallance, known for penning Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” among other hits), who initially met in the parking lot of a hardware store and later moved to New York from their native Vancouver, British Columbia. Since those humble days slumming it in the candlestick factory, they’ve become familiar faces on the festival circuit and, as of this week, are an emerging mainstream force. In advance of the Grammys on Sunday, Jimmy Vallance talks about the making of their hit “Tearing Me Up,” the meaning behind its candid lyrics, and its slow burn to success. 

Congratulations the Grammy nomination. Where were you when you found out? 
Thanks, it was totally unexpected. I was at my apartment in New York. My dad was visiting at the time and I got a phone call from my manager saying I was nominated for a Grammy and that the remix is nominated for a Grammy. I was just like, “What, is this a joke? Is this a prank or something?” He said it was legit and my dad asked me how I was doing and I told him and he freaked out. That was kind of cool.

This week Days Gone By was also nominated for an American Music Prize for Best Debut Album and you guys also were nominated for two Junos. How does it feel to get so much love for this album so long after its release? 
It’s doing some things. It’s crazy to think we put this record out almost a year and a half ago. It’s just been kind of like, “What? What’s happening?” It’s great and it’s really flattering. Anything like this you just have to really appreciate. We’re just two kids who started making records in basically a dump in Brooklyn and to get stuff like this, it’s just great. We do it because we love the music, but to get the thumbs up from your peers is cool. 

Let’s talk about the making of “Tearing Me Up.” What was that process like? 
We were between Bushwick and Williamsburg on Graham Avenue in an old candle factory they turned into some studio spaces. We were recording in the summer of 2014 and I think I heard the drumbeat to that old Gary Glitter song (“Rock and Roll, Part 2”). I thought it was really cool. It kind of sounds like Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People,” it has this shuffley thing. Just for fun, I went into the studio alone and I just tried to make something sound like that. Tom and I work with each other a ton of different ways, so sometimes we’ll have different schedules where we’ll go into the studio at different times.

When I got home that night I said, “Tom, when you go in I made something. Play it and have a listen, I think it’s kind of cool.” He started doing that kind of verse-rap over it, like Tom Petty. He was singing jumbly bits, but it sounded pretty similar to what the end result is. From that point, I walked in and we went running with it and finished it in three days. When we were finished and had enough of a demo, there was this really feeling like, “I think we did something really special here.” We didn’t know where it was going to fit in the grand scheme of things, we just thought it was really cool. 

The lyrics to “Tearing Me Up” have to do with some relationship difficulties. What do they refer to? 
I think the lyrics speak for themselves. Tom and I were both kind of going through similar things in relationships and we were both kind of writing about each other. We both write lyrics and often times because we spend so much time together, we experience so much of life together and we tend to write about what we live through. Basically, both of us have been kind of done wrong and this was a cathartic process of getting that out. Wouldn’t go out for a drink and talk about our relationships, we talk about them while writing lyrics. Which is a weird way to talking about something with your friend by writing it down for a song. We were feeling passionate about that, and it gelled really well with the mood of the song. 

Now it’s over a year and a half after the song came out and it’s continuing to rise up the charts. Was there a point when you thought that was all the song was going to do and then it surprised you?
I had no idea what to expected. The only thing Tom and I know how to do are write and release records and then tour until it’s almost not healthy. That’s just how our band works. We’re super grateful that the single still has legs. It’s just crazy to us to think that’s a thing that’s happening and we’re super grateful for it. 

What are your feelings ahead of the Grammys? Are you nervous, excited? Did you write a speech?
That’s a good question. We’ve completely ruled out winning in our head, but now you asking if we wrote a speech reminds me that there’s a chance that maybe we win it and then we go up there and, uh-oh. 

Well, think of it this way. You have a one in five chance. Those are decent odds!
You’re the first person who convinced me that I think I should write something down and put it in my jacket pocket. That would be bad to butcher a speech. A lot of people have helped us get to this point, so the last thing I want to do is not be gracious to all those people.

2017 Grammys