Black holes: deep in space, they’re the stuff of legend. Nothing – not even light – can escape their pull. While no human has ever seen an actual black hole, haven’t we all found ourselves at a period in life that feels like an absolute dead end? On their debut album Black Holes (out now via eOne), garage blues-rock duo The Blue Stones explore soundscapes that bring to mind imagery of outer space and the desert, two wildly different, yet equally vast and unknown, landscapes. Lyrically, the album explores the in-between feeling we all relate to when we’re leaving the security of childhood and youth to explore the real world as an adult, and the chances we find ourselves taking.
Tarek Jafar (vocals/ guitar) and Justin Tessier (percussion/ backing vocals) aren’t new at this. While this is the first full-length album from the Blue Stones, the two have been playing together for seven years, since they were in university (they met back in high school), and independently released two EPs. We were able to ask Jafar a few questions about Black Holes; read below to learn more about the album and get to know The Blue Stones!
SUBSTREAM: You recently released your first album, Black Holes. What was the first thing you did when the album was released?
Tarek Jafar of the Blue Stones: It was midnight on Friday, October 26th. We were both hanging out in our hotel room in Toronto, on Instagram live just listening to the album with whoever was tuned in since we hadn’t heard it in months. We had two glasses of bourbon, made a toast, and thanked the fans.
SUBSTREAM: You had been writing and playing together for seven years before signing to eOne and releasing the album. When did you begin writing the songs that would be on the album?
TJ: A lot of tracks were written and included over the years, but writing began in 2014. At that point, we were still roommates in an apartment in our hometown.
SUBSTREAM: Before the album, you released two EPs independently. How was it different creating an album vs. the EPs?
TJ: For the EPs, we had decided on songs to go into studio with on our very limited budget. Only Justin and I worked on songs at this point, and recorded them the way we wanted. For the album, we decided it’d be great to involve a producer to help us by providing a third ear on the project. Black Holes ended up being one of the most enjoyable recording experiences we’ve ever had, and ultimately helped us sign to eOne.
SUBSTREAM: How has your sound evolved in the past seven years and how do you see it evolving in the future?
TJ: We always reference a time shortly after releasing our first EP, sitting in a car listening to the release and wondering how to improve. The idea of “depth” in our music was something we wanted to develop at that time, and became a launching pad for the way we sound today. We wanted to sound large, both on stage and in studio. I think our sound has evolved by the inclusion of depth in our music, but also due to years of Justin and I playing hundreds of shows together and developing together as musicians.
SUBSTREAM: What do you want people to get out of the album?
TJ: We want new listeners to hear this album and think, “Ok, who are these guys? Because now I’m paying attention.” We’re extremely passionate about the music we make, and we want listeners to feel that with every spin.
SUBSTREAM: Songs like “Black Holes” touch on the feeling of being caught in between security, and taking the path less traveled for a shot at the unknown. When you’re stuck at an impasse like that, how did you decide what to do? Have you come to any resolution in that area (go with the familiar, or shoot for the unknown)?
TJ: I love this question, because it really nails the idea behind “Black Holes.” Making tough decisions at earlier ages is a task that’s expected more and more these days. Both Justin and I had to do the same, and the frustration of choosing your “ideal path” is what birthed the tone and concept behind this album. When we were stuck, even though we may have second-guessed ourselves a few times, we continued to create and perform music. The draw to it would diminish at times, but it was never lost. I think that’s important no matter what your passion is, don’t ignore it because it will track you down. Resolution? I guess we’re pretty deep in the unknown now, but it’s worked out so far.
SUBSTREAM: “Magic” touches on the idea of instant gratification not having a lasting impact. When you’re overwhelmed with the drudgery and less-than-exciting parts of making your goals and dreams reality, how do you motivate yourselves to continue?
TJ: It’s the small victories that keep you going. A nod from a specific publication acknowledging your work, or even a fan who messages you saying you’ve inspired them to make music. The industry might seem glamorous from the outside, but there is a LOT of grind going on behind the scenes. We take the small victories, and use it to power us creatively and in our live-performances. It’s all part of the journey.
SUBSTREAM: Listening to the album, my mind is filled with imagery of both outer space and the vast open desert. Lyrically, musically, visually, aesthetically, or anywhere in life, where do you take influence from in your song-writing?
TJ: I drew back to that time in my life where I felt lost. There was a landscape of endless choices, opportunities and decisions I could have made. I was confused on where to go, and what to do. As a big fan of film, I drew parallels to a lot of the sci-fi movies I was watching at the time (Gravity, The Martian). I felt like a lonely astronaut, torn from his safety cable and floating endlessly through space. That fueled the song-writing over time.
SUBSTREAM: The Blue Stones is a duo, but your sound feels so dynamic. What’s your key to creating music that’s larger-than-life with just the two of you?
TJ: We both listen to a wide-spectrum of music, and I think that comes through us as players. We don’t want our music to be confined to a small space, and the wide-spectrum of influences comes through. You know, that…and we can get pretty loud.
SUBSTREAM: You have several tour dates coming up, including shows in Europe with Welshly Arms, as well as holiday radio shows in the US in December. What can fans expect from live shows from the Blue Stones?
TJ: We’re giving you 100% every time. Our shows are full of energy, and you can expect us to want you just as charged up as we are.
SUBSTREAM: How do you respond to haters or any negativity surrounding your music?
TJ: They’re always going to be there. Actually, I kind of like seeing haters because that’s when you know you’re doing something worthwhile. I just Bugs Bunny them with a big kiss on the face and keep moving forward.
The Blue Stones will be on the road through the end of this year as well as in 2019, so stay tuned for announcements on future shows. Visit their website to see if they’ll be coming to a city near you.