Editor’s Note: Madness To Creation sat down with Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier of The Blue Stones to discuss many topics, including mental health awareness, their video for “Grim”, and finding success. The Blue Stones is a duo out of Canada that has so much groove, catchiness, and just a feelgood vibe to their music. The Blue Stones absolutely slaughtered the show at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Iowa and they took the time out beforehand at Fong’s Pizza with us. Fans can find The Blue Stones at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Thanks for having me meet you guys here at Fong’s Pizza. You guys have amassed over 300,000 YouTube hits for “Shakin’ Off The Rust”, what was the most fun and most challenging part about making that music video?
Tarek: Well, it takes all day, it’s a early start and a late finish, and you’re pretty much working all day and getting pulled in every direction, but it is fun, we had great extras that showed up for the video, a lot of which were fans, so we took the time and talked with everybody, that was the really fun part, learning who really likes the music, and who likes it enough to come out and support for the video. It’s really the first time that we’ve done a video that’s somewhat quirky, with a little bit of comedy, so it was a nice change-up.
Madness To Creation: Just curious, who are your favorite comedians since you mentioned comedy?
Tarek: I really like Sebastian Maniscalco, I find him to be really funny.
Justin: I like him too, I’m not Italian, but I find him to be really hilarious, we have really close friends that are Italian, and we’re like, “oh man, he’s pulling out all this standard Italian stuff, and he’s so animated. I think about his Chipotle bit every time we eat there.
Madness To Creation: What’s the biggest challenge that you face when you make music?
Tarek: It’s long hours, especially with a music video, I guess more so that there’s a lot being asked of you, there’s a lot of repetition, because you’re doing things over and over and over again, that’s the toughest part, but I would say 80% of it is pretty fun, recording to me doesn’t feel like a chore to be honest, because when there’s an issue, it’s fun to solve it and get something really good out of it, where the real grind comes is touring, that’s a big grind, and a lot of people feel like that’s a glorious thing, for the most part it’s 90% work and 10% glory.
Madness To Creation: What’s the biggest misconception about touring? People say that it’s a glamorous life where you get to see everything and all these places, what is the biggest misconception?
Justin: That it’s anything like that! *laughs*
Tarek: That we’re sitting around and having everything done for us, it is a full-time job from the moment when you wake up to the moment that you go to sleep, it’s not even really about doing anything physically, it’s about thinking, planning and strategizing, it’s hard work, touring is hard work.
Madness To Creation: What strategies work for you and what hasn’t worked for you?
Tarek: Communication is huge, especially when you’re running with a crew, having a direct line of communication with everybody, making sure everyone is on the same page, scheduling and using something like Master Tour, which is an app for touring, those will all make your life easier and having a good crew as well, having people that know what they’re doing and know what they’re supposed to be doing, it just makes everything run easily, that’s pretty much what you really need, like a good mindset, you have to know that you’re gonna work and you have to strategize and having open communication. Everything should be on the table.
Madness To Creation: Where do you see The Blue Stones five years from now?
Tarek: In a cave somewhere hiding from society.
Justin: Waiting it all out.
Madness To Creation: I get blown away by bands that only have two people in the band. How do you set yourselves apart?
Justin: We just don’t play the same music. I’m sure we draw influence there. We love The Black Keys and The White Stripes not because they’re duos but because their music is really good. I feel like a Blue Stones fan could be a Black Keys and a White Stripes fan, but they’re still three different types of music.
Madness To Creation: You guys like the O.G.’s Local H?
Justin: Yeah, but for the longest time I didn’t know that they were a duo.
Madness To Creation: Tell us about the single “Grim” and what inspired you to experiment with different sounds?
Tarek: Yeah, that is just kind of like our variety of influences coming together and coming into a song because like with “Grim” you get a lot of hip-hop, it’s a good mix of hip-hop, rock and r&b, which we both listen to frequently, so it’s a blend of our musical palette in one song. I’m glad we can get to the point where we can establish some groundwork with the album “Black Holes” last year, so now that people who love us can still get that Blue Stones, but we’re taking a step forward by showing people a variety of sounds that we mess with, and here’s an example of that. To me, that’s what “Grim” is.
Madness To Creation: Tell us your favorite hip-hop artists.
Tarek: Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, but you’ve also gotta listen to Drake, I mean who doesn’t love Drake? Travis Scott, Freddie Gibbs, there’s just so many, I guess when it comes to songs, “99 Problems” is just epic.
Madness To Creation: What song would The Blue Stones cover and your fans would be like “what the hell”?
Tarek: “You Don’t Have To Call” by Usher, that would be a left field cover.
Justin: I have no idea! That is a really tough question, maybe something by Carly Rae Jepsen, maybe “Call Me Maybe”.
Madness To Creation: Take us into the moment where you absolutely wanted to do this for a living as if there is no other option.
Justin: We graduated from a university and we were like, “we can keep doing this for a little bit” or we could try a normal career, and it came to a point to where we had job offers on the table, and this started taking off, and we were like, “let’s keep going with this for a little bit” because it’s promising and we can see what happens.
Madness To Creation: What did you guys study?
Tarek: I did Biology as my undergrad and Physical Therapy for my master’s.
Justin: I did Philosophy as my undergrad and I’m studying Business for my master’s right now.
Madness To Creation: What is a band that we need to check out that we never heard of?
Tarek: That’s a good question! The Pistol Whips. There’s also a Canadian rock band with a lot of different sounds called The Fantastics. We toured with them last year, they’re so so good! I would say the band that we are touring with right now, a band called J.J. Wilde, her and her band are just really really good. I would say check those bands out, they’re all up and coming, they’re all Canadian.
Madness To Creation: You’re having bands providing support for you, what advice do you usually give them?
Tarek: It took me awhile for me to come out of my shell, playing guitar and playing in The Blue Stones takes time, but really people will adore whatever you do up there if you’re fun enough, if you focus on playing a show and stop focusing on everything being 100%, take 10% or 15% off of that and put it into being a performance, it’ll pay off hugely because now, it’s okay if you mess up a little bit or if you don’t play a part, just transfer that into being a performance because that’s what a live show is about is putting on a performance, I would say that’s my piece of advice, for any aspiring artist, otherwise find a good manager.
Madness To Creation: What’s your biggest strength and biggest weakness as a musician is?
Justin: I think there’s two sides to this coin, I don’t really get really rattled up there on stage, my biggest weakness is that I’m not very driven to like become technically better, I serve the song and that’s pretty good, I don’t like I ever feel like I just want to like I need to be faster, I need to be a faster drummer, I need to learn this new technique, I don’t feel that drive, which might be limited because I don’t get rattled very easily on stage. I just sit in the moment and just play what I need to play.
Tarek: I feel like I’m pretty good at capturing an audience especially for us being two guys, to try to engage everybody and to not make the audience feel left out in a show because I’ve seen a lot of shows where you have a full band and you still feel left out in a weird way as an audience member, so I feel like I do a pretty good job of that, but as a weakness, I feel that I do get rattled a lot, if I feel like I didn’t perform well or if I feel something is going wrong, it takes me a little bit to shake that off.
Madness To Creation: It’s good that you guys complement one another. At Madness To Creation, we strive on normalizing mental health conversations and creating mental health awareness, what are some things that have helped you get through, and what advice do you have for our readers?
Tarek: That’s a great question! Especially being touring musicians, a lot of touring musicians might have this problem, you can almost feel lonely out there, just that grind and day-to-day work that you’re doing, it can really lower your mood. I guess with anybody with mental health, I think to establish a routine, I feel like a routine is healthy because they’re anchors in your day, and I feel like as humans we thrive off of something like that, for example, going for a walk, going to a cafe by yourself or having a good hour of the day where you’re listening to music, decompress somehow as part of your routine, then do that every day, no matter what you’re doing, I feel like that would benefit you just to have that kind of anchor in your life. But also, just talk about it, I feel like now we live in a time where the stigma is being reduced, and just talk about it and say, “hey, I feel sad sometimes”, and that’s okay, and I feel like just being open about it will help you because contrary to what you might think, talking about it and getting it out there will actually make you feel better because you’ll stop internalizing everything, so that would be what I would say.
Justin: Basically, just one thing that we’ve always done is celebrate the small moments and that just helps keep the motivation up.
Madness To Creation: What are a couple of things that make you happy?
Justin: Spending time with friends for sure!
Tarek: Friends, video games makes me pretty happy, “The Office” makes me happy, but playing music obviously, no matter what and no matter how hard the daily grind would be, but when you have an audience that’s engaging and reacting to what we’re doing in a positive way, there’s really no better feeling than that, and I feel like that’s what kept us doing this for nine to ten years.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add?
Tarek: Best way to keep in touch with us is Instagram by far and we’re pretty active on Instagram, I would say that, come on out to a show and say hi!
And there you have it! The Blue Stones will be out on a Canadian tour coming up. Check out the gig dates below:
Thu. 3/12- Park Theatre in Winnipeg
Fri. 3/13- The Exchange in Regina
Sat. 3/14- JUNOFest in Saskatoon
Wed. 3/18- Better Than Fred’s in Grande Prairie
Thu. 3/19- Bo’s Bar & Grill in Red Deer
Fri. 3/20- The Starlite Room in Edmonton
Sat. 3/21- The Gateway in Calgary
Mon. 3/23- The Blue Grotto in Kamloops
Tue. 3/24- Sapphire Nightclub in Kelowna
Wed. 3/25- Capital Ballroom in Victoria
Thu. 3/26- Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver
The Blue Stones have U.S. gigs coming up, check out gig dates below:
Fri. 3/27- Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Washington
Sun. 3/29- Knitting Factory in Boise, Idaho (w/Royal Bliss & Stone Prophet)
Fri. 6/5- Saint Louis Music Park in Maryland Heights, Missouri (w/The Struts & Glorious Sons)
Tue. 6/9- Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (w/The Struts)
Wed. 6/10- The Beacham in Orlando, Florida (w/The Struts)
Fri. 6/12- Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida (w/The Struts)
Tue. 6/16- The National in Richmond, Virginia (w/The Struts)
Sat. 7/18- DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan
For tickets and further information on any of the gigs listed above, click here.