Since releasing their debut album in 2018, Canadian rock duo The Blue Stones have gone on to sell out several venues on their first headline tour of Europe. Formed of guitarist and lead vocalist Tarek Jafar and drummer Justin Tessier, the pair have made a name for themselves in the alternative music scene.
Brig sat down with them before their Glasgow show.
This is your first headline tour in Europe, how’s it been so far? Any interesting moments?
JUSTIN: It’s really blown away our expectations. Selling out London weeks before the show was amazing, sold out Manchester last night. I’ve never been to Scotland ever before in my life, so it’s the first time I’ve been here, and we’ve sold out. It’s nuts.
What should people expect from the rest of the shows on the tour?
JUSTIN: It’s loud.
TAREK: Loud shows, we really don’t hold back when we play live. We love to do it and I hope people can see that when we actually perform – I think they do. It’s something we love to do. I think you can expect a very energetic but also dynamic show. We like highs and lows in our music, and we like to flaunt those when we play live too.
So how did The Blue Stones start out?
JUSTIN: We were buddies in high school actually. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we started playing music together in university.
You produced your album Black Holes while you were both in university, so what was putting that album together like?
TAREK: We were living together at the time. It was actually kind of nice to write that way, because when Justin wasn’t home, I was writing. Then he’d get home and I’d be like, ‘I wrote this, give it a listen’, then he’d play something on the drums to it. It was nice.
I think the whole idea of being a student about to finish and being unsure of where you want to go and what you want to do in your life sort of helped to birth the idea of what Black Holes ended up being, content wise. It was a good time to write that album.
Is that still how your song writing process goes now?
JUSTIN: It’s kind of the same.
TAREK: Pretty much. It’s not always how I’m feeling about something, sometimes I’ll just have a riff in my mind, and I’ll think ‘that sounds really cool.’
Then I’ll lay it down and then I’ll send it over to Justin and be like, ‘what do you think?’ or ‘do you have any ideas for drums?’
That’s usually how we’ve gone from the start and how we’ve continued writing.
What inspired Black Holes as an album?
TAREK: It was just the time in our lives we were at, about to graduate school, not really knowing what we were going to do. You kind of feel lost, having to make these huge decisions on your own.
And for us, it was more about making a decision between a comfortable route, career path, something you can see ten years into the future of, versus doing something like art, playing music, being in a band.
You don’t really know how that’s going to end up, so it’s kind of like a black hole in a way, dragging you in, but it’s very mysterious. And that’s where the whole idea of Black Holes came from.
What was the turning point where you did decide to pursue music instead of a traditional career?
JUSTIN: To be honest, we did pursue the traditional career for a while after releasing Black Holes. It was kind of ironic that we, for a little bit, went after the solid ground.
Then we had an opportunity when our management company contacted us for the first time. They reached out to us and said ‘we want to shop you guys around to some record labels’ and we said ‘we’ll give this a little shot.
We were at the perfect opportunity where we were just about to start our careers. I remember I had three job opportunities on the line, so it was pack everything up and move to Toronto, get a nine-to-five, or try this.
So we were very lucky, because not everyone gets that opportunity.
You’re a two-piece band – do you think that makes things easier or more difficult?
JUSTIN: It depends on the context. For song writing, it’s actually easier, because there’s just less cooks in the kitchen.
For trying to settle arguments, it’s a little difficult, because there’s only two people, but for the most part, we agree on almost everything.
When differences do come up, how do you resolve those?
TAREK: You do two things, you either take a break from it and, if you give yourself some time, maybe you’re like ‘you know what, I wasn’t really looking at that the right way’ and then that’s how it’s settled.
Or, we do have a third party, and those are our managers and our management team. There’s a couple of people on that team that have pretty good input that we value, so it’s nice to get an outsider’s perspective that’s looking at it in a different way.
What songs are you most proud of so far?
JUSTIN: Black Holes (Solid Ground).
TAREK: Black Holes (Solid Ground), yeah. It’s probably one of my favourite songs we’ve ever written.
JUSTIN: It’s done so much work for us.
TAREK: And Rolling With the Punches. I think those two songs, we’re both very proud of.
They kind of propped us up to a position where we could be doing something like selling out Glasgow. They’ve really done some legwork for us.
JUSTIN: And there’s a new song that we’ll play [on tour] that’s unreleased. It’ll probably be released soon, it’s called Grim.
I’ve been really proud of that one. It’s fun to play and the recorded version is great.
Black Holes (Solid Ground) has over 15 million streams on Spotify – why do you think that song was so popular?
JUSTIN: We got on a lot of good Spotify playlists, so that definitely helped.
TAREK: I think people relate a lot to that song too. A lot of people go through the same idea of ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘I feel lost’ and we can say ‘we feel the same way’.
Your new single, Shakin’ Off The Rust, has quite a different sound to the Black Holes album. How has your sound evolved since then?
TAREK: I think Black Holes has a lot more darkness to the music. There was a lot more reverb and echo and delay to build up the image and the sound of feeling lost. The whole album was built around feeling lost in space.
I think this new material is really in-your-face, we’re not really hiding behind anything, everything’s upfront and it’s very confident. I think that would be the main difference.
We’re not really holding back in our music or content anymore. This is who we are, and this is what we like to play.
When can we expect a new album to follow?
JUSTIN: Definitely 2020. It’ll be early 2020. We’ve been talking about our release strategy.
We’re going to be dropping singles, a bunch of them, and then that’ll lead up to a full album. It’ll be a collection of songs that, once we reach the end, will all be packaged together.
What exciting things have you got coming up on this tour?
JUSTIN: There’s a lot of places we’ve never been, which is cool. I really want to visit Copenhagen.
TAREK: We’ve got a couple of cool festivals coming up, like Rolling Stone Park and Rolling Stone Beach Festival in Germany. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.
Also London Calling in Amsterdam that we’re a part of, which has a lot of under the radar bands, a lot of up and comers. I’m really happy to be a part of that too.
What have you got planned for after the tour’s finished?
TAREK: Definitely some downtime.
We’ve got some more writing to do as well, we’ve recorded about five songs of our next release. We have another five to seven that we’re looking to record and work through, so we’ll definitely be doing a lot of writing after the tour’s done.
The Blue Stones have made huge strides so far with their debut album, tour and singles, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be stopping anytime soon.
Featured Image: Chuff Media