Miro Magazine's Ellie Kemp caught up with self-proclaimed 'Canadian rejects' The Blue Stones where they talked hip-hop, juggling a masters with music and living in Leeds.

After a few London gigs last year, rock duo The Blue Stones have finally embarked on their first headline tour across the UK. The band released their new single “Shakin’ Off The Rust” in October before heading on a European tour throughout November.

Miro Magazine’s Ellie Kemp caught up with self-proclaimed ‘Canadian rejects’ Justin Tessier and Tarek Jafar at their Manchester gig to chat about the last year.

What were your first impressions of the UK – and have they lived up to expectations?

Justin: Well, I think we’re going to have two different answers…

Tarek: Yes, we are – because I lived here from 2015 to 2017. I lived in Leeds actually, which is just like only an hour away from Manchester. So I kind of had an idea. I went to a few shows myself and I got the overall vibe of concert goers and show goers. And I actually was really impressed because I thought that a lot of people around here just loved to see live music. It wasn’t really a chore to get people up to shows. So, I was looking forward to that. 

Justin: Well, I mean, I knew, pretty much, that from you. The one thing that I was looking forward to was short drives, which is all we’ve had so far. People are very surprised. We went from London to Newcastle and everyone was like like, ‘did you fly? On like six hours?’ Six hours? Like, that’s f*****g standard. It’s nothing! So yeah, that was nice. Other than that, the shows have been very receptive. Everybody’s been, you know, welcoming, which is great.

What did you do for two years in Leeds, Tarek? 

Tarek: I was actually in a master’s program for physiotherapy. So it was at a time where music… I don’t want to say took a backseat. But we kind of put it on the back-burner for a little bit and focused more on schooling. But then, just when you start to pack things up is when like all the opportunities come knocking. So it worked out that I was able to finish my degree and become qualified and then also continue to do this. So the timing of it worked out. But I loved the two years that I spent in Leeds, that’s very, very close to my heart.

You must have been organised, working on a masters degree as well as music!

Tarek: Yeah, I kind of juggled everything that was going on. I feel like my whole life I’ve been doing two things. It’s always been like, this and then that. So I guess I’m kind of used to it. But you’re right, it’s a lot of organisation, a lot of travelling. I mean, I remember one time I had to fly – it was a maybe a two to three day stint –  to New York from Leeds. I’ll play a showcase, then fly back the next day to make a placement at a hospital. I had this crazy, crazy time, but it was worth it.

Justin: We’ve spent like 16 hours in New York from Leeds, then made it right back. It was crazy. 

Tarek: It was crazy, but it paid off. So yeah, it was worth. It’s nice that it was and that it’s that it could have not been worth and that would’ve sucked a lot more!

At the moment you’ve been releasing singles – is there a plan for an album anytime soon?

Justin: Yes, the album is probably dropping in 2020. But for now we opted to do the whole strategy of just releasing singles.

Tarek: I feel like we both agreed it was just a good way to continuously put out music, at good intervals and keep people invested. Keep people’s attention in a way. I feel like it’s just the way that things are going now, too –  all the streaming music platforms, everybody sort of trends more towards singles –  singles off playlists – than they do listening to a full album. I’m still an album guy myself. Like, I’ll listen to an album front to back. But, you know, we don’t mind doing it this way. It’s kind of fun, actually.

Justin: It’s nice because you’re just constantly, you’re always getting new feedback, which is kind of cool. Instead of all at once. And you know what, honestly, if you were to find us a year from now, you would never have known that we’ve released them single by single. It’s just gonna be packaged as an album, you know?

Would you say that your sound has gotten darker over the years?

Tarek: I wouldn’t say it’s darker. I suppose Black Holes is a bit more emotional, it’s a more introspective look at yourself and trying to figure out who you are.

Justin: I feel like these batch of songs is sort of the answer to that. Being like, you know exactly who you are and you’re not really afraid about it and you’re confident, you’ve got swagger. And I think these songs reflect that. You know, there’s some content lyrically that definitely, you know, taps into a more emotional side. But overall, I feel like it’s a lot more in your face and a lot more just like swagger-filled Blue Stones music.

Has growing up in Canada influenced your music at all? 

Justin: We grew up in a very interesting part of Canada, that’s right across, like a tenth of a mile from downtown Detroit, which is in the US. So we always went over there and we got all of our media from the states. We’re just sort of like a landlocked area. The only direction where there’s more Canada is north east, every other direction and we’re surrounded by the US. So we were very Americanized. But at the same time, still even different than America. So, yeah….we’re kind of like Canada’s rejects.

Tarek: Honestly, Canada was very slow to pick us up. Like, we’ve been doing this a long time and for whatever reason we toured Canada quite a bit and they never really picked us up, but the states embraced us almost immediately. It was weird. You’d always expect your home country to… So yeah, we always said, we must be Canada’s rejects or something. But you know, now now they’re on board, I guess!

What kind of music do you listen to, when you’re not busy making music? 

Justin: I listen to a few of my favorite bands. I really like My Morning Jacket. We used to listen to Hendrix a lot when we were writing the last album. I mean, we’re really into Foals now. Mutemath was a big, big band for us a lot, awhile back. These days we gravitate more to a lot of newer hip-hop stuff like Anderson Paak, who’s amazing. Tarek listens to a lot of J Cole. 

Tarek: I’ve listened to hip-hop like my whole life. Even high school, I had the Jay-Z discography and it’s just something that I’ve always listened to. More recently, you know,  R&B. I guess it would be called acid jazz, new jazz, like BADBADNOTGOOD would be something in the realm of what we what we enjoy as well. So it’s really just a huge spectrum of music that we pick and choose from. But yeah, there’s a lot of influences that go into. 

Justin: Yeah, it’s a tough question!

Tarek: Like, these days people listen to so much stuff and it’s almost like when you hear about the sort of music that an artist listens to, it doesn’t change the way you listen to the music. It’s because everything is available to us now. We’ve been big proponents of streaming for that reason, that you might as well listen to someone new, because it costs you just the same to listen to a new band than an artist you already like. I think that’s why these days there’s so much cross-genre bands because everyone is listening to everything. It’s amazing.

What else have you got planned after this tour?

Justin: Tour and sleeping! There’s going to be some rest time. Probably continue writing

Tarek: We’re heading back into the studio to do the back half of the album we were talking about earlier, that’s going to be in January. So that’s five songs down and we’ve got another five to seven that we’re planning on recording in the new year. 

Check out The Blue Stones’ latest release, Shakin’ Off The Rust, here.