Rock never died––it just evolved. The Blue Stones, the project of high school friends Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier, is a thrilling step in that evolution, with equal parts respect for their musical roots and exploration into a modern direction. While they often allow electronic or pop influences to elevate and define their individual sound, The Blue Stones always come back to their classic formula of electric guitar and loud, punchy drums, cementing them as the latest in a crew of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll artists.
Their debut album, Black Holes, is a bluesy exploration into love, frustration, and the uncertainty of the post-grad life in the 21st century. Their hit “Black Holes (Solid Ground)” starts slow before exploding into an unapologetically unhinged anthem, while maintaining impressively clean production. This lead single perfectly exemplifies the Blue Stones’ sound, as they know exactly when to let loose and when to pull in the reigns–– heavy, intense jams like “Rolling With the Punches” and more restrained tracks like “Magic” perfectly complement each other in this impressive first LP.
We got to catch up with the Blue Stones to talk about their first headlining North American tour, their songwriting process, and the spacey imagery in their music. Check out the interview below, and be sure to track the Blue Stones on Bandsintown to see them on tour!
Your first LP, Black Holes, is an awesome exhibition of modern rock. What was the process in nailing down what has become your signature sound?
Lots of time in the rehearsal studio writing, lots of time refining and fine-tuning the songs, and playing lots of shows live. Just putting in the work.
What was the songwriting process for the album like for you guys? How long does each song typically take to write and record, or is it different for every track?
Typically Tarek will come up with some guitar parts for a song then Justin will write some drum parts to accompany them. Then Tarek will dive into his lyric book and pull something that fits, tweaking it as necessary to fit the song. That happens for 90% of our songs, Midnight is an example of a song that started with a drum beat, though.
The length of the song creation process definitely varies from song to song. Sometimes we’ll write a song and shelve it for a long time, sometimes we’ll throw something together in the studio as we’re recording. The average song probably takes a few months to dial in and get it right, though.
You use a lot of space exploration imagery, like your album art of a falling astronaut and song titles like “Black Holes (Solid Ground)”, “Orbit”, and “Airlock”. Where does this motif come from, and how does it play out in your music?
When we were writing these songs, we were finishing university degrees and facing the great expanse of life — a nearly infinite number of choices and not a ton of external direction. It gives you the feeling of being adrift and lost in space, like an astronaut stranded outside their ship.
Your band name calls to mind another great Stones band, and you’ve done a great live, bluesy cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. So are you Mick or Keith guys?
Hahaha, stirring up the pot here. We’re not picky. It wouldn’t be the Stones without either of them.
Your music embraces a lot of genres, from rock to blues to electronic. Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Just to name a quick few: Mutemath, Hendrix, J. Cole.
You two decided to start your band while at university together––how was the music scene there? Did that community impact the development of your sound?
Windsor has an incredibly talented music community that belies the small population it has. We never formed any other bands or played very much with other musicians, but the community was very supportive and that helped us grow.
With only two members, you don’t have the typical rock four-piece band dynamic. How do you think that changes how you record and perform?
We don’t let that change how we record — we’re not bashful about having lots of instrumentation on the record. We write and record the songs how we think they would sound best in the studio. On stage, we strip the song to its essential elements and reproduce it for the live show. We tend to say that we’re covering our own songs when we play them live.
What would be your ultimate deserted island album that you can listen to over and over again without getting sick of it?
Justin: Days by Real Estate. It has such a nostalgic, serene vibe that I could listen to forever.
Tarek: Odd Soul by Mutemath. Every time I listen to it, it’s as if I’m listening to it for the first time.
You’re currently on your huge North American Be My Fire Tour. How are you adjusting to the tour life? What have been your favorite moments so far?
Tour life with two people is pretty easy, to be honest. We’ve been very close friends for a lot longer than we’ve been in a band with each other, so this is more like a road trip vacation for two friends in a lot of ways than it is a band being on tour. One of our favorite moments was selling out our Detroit show, but the shows have been great the whole way so far.
Do you have any solid plans for writing after your tour, or have you already started working on some new music while touring?
We have a lot of demos in the bank right now, after touring we’ll be putting some of them down in the studio. Very excited as it’s the first time in a very long time that we’re heading back in to record songs.
Who would be your dream tour mates?
Sammy Stephens from Flea Market Montgomery.