The Duo, THE BLUE STONES Open Up About The Inspiration Behind Their Forthcoming Album and More!
“Grim” is the latest single from the Canadian rock duo The Blue Stones. It is the second track off their upcoming sophomore album due out later this year via Entertainment One (eOne). The song finds the band exploring a more experimental sound, blending lo-fi beats with a hip-hop-inspired vocal approach while still remaining true to their alternative-blues roots. Following the success of “Shakin’ Off The Rust,” the track showcases the band’s continued lyrical growth as vocalist Tarek Jafar takes a darker look into his vices.
About the track, the band states:
“People ask us what ‘direction’ we’re heading in for our new material. ‘Grim’ is a pretty good representation of that. We drew from a myriad of genres that we love, and wrote a song that makes you feel so good about being bad.”
When Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier formed The Blue Stones, they were facing uncertainty about who they were individually. What they did know for sure, though, was that they wanted to make music together – and, so they did. Following the success of their debut album, Black Holes, the band quickly found a following in the alternative rock world that lead to them sharing the stage with the likes of grandson, Welshly Arms and Reignwolf. As they began working on new music, The Blue Stones caught the attention of producer, Paul Meany (Mutemath, Twenty One Pilots), with whom they would eventually enter the studio with this past summer. Working with Meany lead to The Blue Stones exploring – and creating – music in a different way than they had before, and led to a new approach by Jafar when it came to tackling lyrics. The result was the band truly discovering who they were during the writing process. They’ve crafted something that shimmers with such purity and truth – musically and lyrically – that one can’t help but be swept up and carried off by the songs that will eventually form their as-yet-untitled sophomore album slated for release on Entertainment One next year. The duo may be redefining who they are, but their decision to pursue the rock’n’roll dream holds as strong as ever as they enter the next stage of their journey.
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Learn more about The Blue Stones in the following All Access interview:
When it comes to your music, what are you most excited about for 2020?
It’s been a very long time since we’ve released any new music at all, so we’re excited in general to get some new stuff out there. But even besides that, we’re very proud of the new songs yet to be released. It’s definitely a step in a new direction for us, and the reception for the two singles we’ve already released has been fantastic.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Do you find that your band name still represents you and your music today?
This project was always pretty gradual for us in the beginning. We were jamming in Tarek’s parents’ basement without any thoughts of turning this into a “band”, just riffing around and having fun. We’d been close for years before playing music together so originally it was just another way we would spend time together. Eventually, we had enough original songs to play a set at a local bar, and after that started to take things a little more seriously each day.
As for the name, there’s no good story behind that. We probably should have recognized that our name puts us in a pattern with other guitar-and-drums duos from the Midwest like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. We’re not on a mission to make the kind of music they made, so we could have done a better job differentiating from that side.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, why is that?
Windsor is a blue-collar town through and through. Grit and simplicity. Its close proximity to Detroit reinforces those values. At the same time, we grew up in a more privileged part of the area. The music has some grit and raw energy at its core but we do like to have somewhat of a polished finish. Maybe we’re painting the target around the arrow here… who knows.
What was the inspiration for your newest single, “Grim”? How would you say that it compares to the rest of your upcoming sophomore album due out later this year via Entertainment One? What other songs are you excited to share from this collection?
Our previous release Black Holes was about reaching a point in life where you need to make a serious life decision and feel lost with all of the existential options that are in front of you. Grim, and a lot of the songs on this upcoming album, are about settling into the lane you’ve chosen and embracing everything that comes with that — the fun that comes along with confidence but also coming to accept the darker parts of yourself.
Sonically, it’s a good lead-in to the rest of the album. A lot of these songs lean into a lot of different genres. Grim is so far the song that defies any prescript of “what a rock song should be” most for us. We still have some definite straight-up rock songs on this record but we got away even more from genre limitations and got back to why we did this in the first place — to write songs we love to hear, regardless of whatever made-up boundary someone wants to lump them into.
Let’s talk about making your sophomore album. What was it like having your producer, Paul Meany, work on this collection? How did the making of this album compare to your debut? Did you approach the process any differently?
Paul has been a longtime major influence on this group going back to the early days of Mutemath, so it was an incredible experience to tap into his creative power and style. He’s a fantastic person in general and we’re flattered that he believes deeply in what we’re doing.
This record is the first time we recorded something after already being signed so we had the budget to explore a lot more pre-production and spend more time immersed in the writing and recording experience.
What has it been like being part of Entertainment One? Why is this the right place for you and your music today?
We truly do love our label. We can tell that everyone believes in what we’re doing and is excited about the new stuff we’re coming up with. They’re very accepting of our creativity and there’s never a conflict about creative control.
Generally, how does this group go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately? What is the first step in your music-making process?
Tarek will start with either a riff or vocal melody and build different elements around that. Sometimes Justin will produce a beat that serves as inspiration for the rest of a song, but either way, 90% of songs start out written separately. Occasionally we’ll jam something out in soundcheck or rehearsals that ends up becoming a full-fledged song.
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music? When you aren’t working on music, do you guys hang out for fun?
Definitely. Again, we’ve known each other for more than half of our lives and have been playing music together for almost a decade. Each of us counts the other among our closest friends, and among our friend group we’re just “Tarek and Justin” first, not necessarily “The Blue Stones”.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years? What has remained the same?
I don’t think we necessarily took a unique path in the “artist’s journey”. We started out writing a lot of songs that were inspired by other songs we thought were cool. Then a common thread appeared and we followed that more closely and let that bloom. Eventually, we found our own unique voice and continue to explore it as it evolves and changes with us as individuals.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Each has its own time. We love creating and recording new stuff, but part of that excitement is being able to play it for others. It’s hard to write on the road, so if we’re too busy playing the same songs too much, we start itching to get back in the studio. And again in the studio, we start itching to play the songs live for people. All part of a cycle.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band? What truly makes you happiest on a stage?
We really love an involved, responsive crowd. We really like to facilitate fun, so if you’re having a good time and showing it, that makes us incredibly happy.
How has your current tour been going so far? What have been some favorite venues and crowds? Where else are you excited to play at?
This run has been great. It’s been surreal to be selling out a lot of these rooms, and we’re getting excited at the prospect of coming back to a lot of these cities on a bigger stage with a bigger production. At the same time, knowing this might be some of the last times we do these club shows, we’re savouring the experience.
The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto is a longtime favourite of ours. Milkboy in Philly was an awesome spot, and selling out Rough Trade in Brooklyn was incredible.
Western Canada has a lot of good rooms so we’re stoked to get out there and finish off this headline run.
With all the different social media platforms out there, how do you balance it all? How do you think that social media has impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
We prioritize some platforms over others. We’ve found that it’s better to be proficient on one or two platforms versus trying to spread yourself thin over several. Social media has really been more of a tool for us to go deeper with existing fans more than creating new ones. We try to interact with our fans as much as possible, but obviously as the fan-base grows, it gets more difficult to stay in direct touch with everybody.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today?
We don’t let external circumstances determine our outlook on life. We choose to have fun no matter what’s going on around us.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music? Who would you still love to work with?
We have so many influences that none of them really contributes even 5% to the overall whole. We’re music fans through and through and listen to and draw from a lot of different sources. Again, this project is genre-independent and we’re just trying to write music that we like to listen to. We’re not out to create something specific, which might mean that we’re drawing from just a couple sources of inspiration.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
We hope that our music helps feel people more confident. If we’ve done that with you, we’ve done our job. We want the music to be there with you at your best times.