The Blue Stones are a Juno award-nominated alternative blues rock duo from Windsor, Ontario. Their music is dark, energetic, and angsty enough for any rockhead to enjoy. On Nov. 19 at the Starlite Room, I had the amazing opportunity to interview the band and delve deeper into their origins and evolving story.
Their live show did not disappoint. They came out guitar-slinging, ready to raise the roof and stomp through the floor. Even with just 2 members, Justin and Tarek, their energy filled the entirety of the Starlite Room along with the surrounding streets. They exclaimed several times how this was the best crowd they had played for on their whole tour so far, and they made me feel so proud to be a part of that. I walked out with ringing ears, but it was well worth witnessing their utter love for music and for performing.
Something that I like connecting over with new people is music tastes. What is your all-time favourite song or album? Anything on repeat while on tour?
Justin: My “favourite” song is hard to track down. The thing about artists of our age, we grew up listening to so many kinds of music. We both listen to a lot of electronic, rock, hip-hop, and bedroom pop; I think that’s a product of, for the first time, having any song you want at your fingertips. Versus back in the day, you actually had to buy the album; it felt a little bit more restrictive. All that being said, I honestly don’t listen to much music while on tour.
Tarek: I’ve been spamming the new Drake and 21 Savage album. This was the album I was waiting for. I liked his EDM approach with Honestly, Nevermind, but I think one is, like, bars. My favourites would be “On BS” and “Hours in Silence.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
Justin: Cooking, for sure. We both are pretty big gamers as well. Those are my two things. I’m starting to get super deep into pizza. It is such a fucking rabbit hole. You would think pizza is so simple, so easy, but there’s so many different kinds. The dough is so complex, man. I watched like an hour and a half of pizza videos last night.
Tell me about your new album, Pretty Monster. What inspired this new sound, and how would you describe it to someone who’s never heard it?
Tarek: The amazing thing that the producer, Joe Chiccarelli, did is he really captured us. He did a good job getting us in the same studio room, having us play the songs and capturing what our sound was, and enhancing it. I think Pretty Monster was written over the course of 2021. It was definitely a mix of songs that’s coming out of the pandemic, during the pandemic, and it sort of is a reflection of our lives at the time. Songwriting wise, it took a bit of a turn to songs that felt rejuvenating and liberating in a way. Like using major keys, in our old albums there’s not a whole lot of that. It was nice to take a bit of a happier, energetic approach. We focused on more attention to detail in the studio and a bit more uplifting songwriting.
I noticed a deep metaphor in your music video for “Black Holes (Solid Ground)”; what narrative exactly were you trying to illustrate?
Justin: Well, as for the narrative of the song, that song was written when we were both in university. We were living together and we were having to make this choice between a straight and narrow path with job security, boring nine-to-five job, something easy… Or do we take a risk on something we were passionate about? “Black Holes” is the idea of having to choose between a carved-out route or something risky. The narrative of the music video was kind of like human conditioning. We had a guy who was getting electrically shocked, which was like being conditioned to live a certain type of way, and he eventually got up, busted a mirror open, and stood there kind of reflecting the context of the situation.
Do you ever perform any covers? What’s your favourite song to cover?
Justin: Not really now. We did before when we were touring Black Holes because that was only ten songs. We would do “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones a lot. I kind of lean toward the idea that if we have our own music, we just play it. We have our own things, we don’t have to do someone else’s thing. People want to see our art expressed. Another thing I really don’t like is when opening bands play a cover for, obviously, someone else’s fans. I feel like a cover will get the new fans walking away like, “yeah, the coolest thing they did was play someone else’s song,” and that’s just very forgettable. So I kinda like to not do it.
Tarek: I mean, it’s also really cool to see another rendition of a cover and be like, “wow, I’m so impressed with this band that I’m going to follow them,” but it has to be really good and different. We did that with “Satisfaction,” we took it in a different direction, and it was a lot of fun.
Do any of your songs/albums have a distinct personal story behind them?
Tarek: Off the new album, (the song) “Good Ideas” for sure. It was definitely at a point where I felt my lowest during the pandemic, having to stay indoors for so long was very draining on my psyche. Also having to create during that time was exceptionally hard and it was a period of time where I started to beat myself up. I would tell myself “I’m not good enough, I’m too old for this, nothing I write is cool anymore” and it got to a point where, with “Good Ideas,” something good came out of it.
What was the first song you guys ever did together? How did you know that this was it and you wanted to pursue a music career together?
Justin: The first song we ever played together was “Jet.” It was just a fun little thing. We cared enough about it to show a couple of our friends who promptly made fun of us. Then there was the song “Starkiller” in 2011 where I was like, “okay, this is a legit song. I think people are going to like and enjoy (it), so here we go!”
What advice would you give your younger self just starting out in music?
Tarek: Artistically, I think it would be important to tell my younger self to focus more on the performance of a show versus playing it 100 per cent correctly like you’re playing Guitar Hero. There’s just so much more importance on being a good performer than playing every single note right. To leave people with a show they remember is way more important than playing the right note every time.
Justin: Interesting. It’s tough because I definitely agree with Tarek, but on the other hand, I don’t know how much I would want to change because it ended up [with us] here. It kind of worked! I might just leave it be. I’d say, “you guys are on the right path so keep going. Just trust the process.”