7:50PM • FRIDAY, AUGUST 19 • MAIN STAGE
When Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier formed The Blue Stones, they were facing uncertainty about who they were and where they were going. But they did know they wanted to make music together, and so they did, writing songs overtimeand eventually releasing their debut album Black Holes in 2018. As confident and self-assured as they are, that record was very much about the pair finding themselves, both musically and existentially, and deciding to pursue the rock’n’roll dream by jumping into a black hole of the unknowninstead of choosing a more ordinary life-path. “When we wrote that stuff,” explains Tessier, “we were both finishing undergrad degrees. That album was us trying to figure out who we were. These new songs are more about how we know who we are, but they’re also us learning to come to terms with the dark side of ourselves.”The band drew the attention ofproducer, Paul Meany -the creative force behind alternative rock band Mutemath, and who recently worked with Twenty One Pilots, producing their fifth album, Trench.Needless to say, getting Paul involved provided the pair with a huge sense of validation.“We jokingly suggested him,” chuckles Tessier. “We were shooting for the stars, but a week after our management approached him we found out he was into the bandand into us as musicians.”Working with Meany didn’t just lead to The Blue Stones exploring –and creating –music in a different way than they had before, but it also led Jafar to approach and tackle lyrics in an entirely new light. Combined with the band’s nuanced and layered approach to their sound, it makes these songs resonate with a powerful emotional intensity.The band will release multiple songs as singles leading into their highly anticipated sophomore album release in 2020.The first of those is ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’ –a song, as Jafar explains, that very much serves as a mission statement for their renewed sense of confidence andnewfoundidentity.“There were timesalong the waywhere Ifelt I wasn’t good enough, “ explains Jafar, “or that I didn’t deserve any happiness or success. This song is about battling thosethoughts in your head that make you doubt yourself, and coming through with the confidence to make something great.”That much is clear from listening to the songs that the pair have recorded so far. While ‘Shakin’ Off the Rust’ is probably the closest to the sound the band inhabited on Black Holes, it also represents a clear and profound evolution –it’s more textured, more layered and, yes, more confident than anything on the first record. That’s an idea the pair –Jafar on vocals and guitars, Tessier on percussion and backing vocals –havewoven into the fabric of the other new songs. Take, for instance, the restrained, layered, hip-hop-inspired vibes of both ‘Careless’ and ‘Make This Easy’, two songs that would be hard to imagine the band that made Black Holes recording, but which make total sense in terms of their new outlook and approach. Although The Blue Stones were always more than a blues-rock duo, that’s especially true now.