A cross-country tour sees the Blue Stones ‘shed the rust’

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While many bands had to scramble to figure out how to continue making music together remotely when the pandemic was declared, the Blue Stones weren’t one of them.

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The blues-rock duo, who play Kingston on Tuesday night at the Ale House, have been writing songs separately for six or seven years as guitarist Tarek Jafar lives in their hometown of Windsor while drummer Justin Tessier now lives in Kingston .

In fact, the couple even wrote songs separately while living in the same house during their college years.

“I worked midnights and went to school and Tarek worked days and went to school, and so we were rarely able to just sit and write together,” Tessier explained in a video call the week. last.

“Tarek would come up with an idea and then put it in a Dropbox (file). I would download it when he was at work, and kind of write something on it, and then go to sleep.

Tessier moved to Kingston to attend Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business – he graduated with a master’s degree in 2020 – so the band recorded their second album, ‘Hidden Gems’, at Kingston’s North of Princess Studio. It’s up for Rock Album of the Year at Sunday’s Juno Awards, and other nominees in that category include the Beaches, the band they’re kicking off their cross-Canada tour for, and another blues-rock duo, Tir au pistol noir.

It was during the emergence of other blues-rock duos such as the White Stripes and the Black Keys just over a decade ago that Jafar and Tessier formed the Blue Stones. These duets influenced Tessier and Jafar not so much in their music as in their configuration.

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“I don’t know if we would have started a band without a third member if they hadn’t already proven you could do it,” said Tessier, who first met Jafar when they were all together. two in high school. “And so we just ran with our own two-piece style.

“Coming back, I would have changed the name because I think we draw a lot of comparisons to bands like the White Stripes and the Black Keys.”

The band’s “big break”, so to speak, came when their song “Rolling with the Punches” – found on the band’s debut album, “Black Holes” – was included in the show’s soundtrack. “Suits” TV show. This resulted in the song being added to a few popular playlists on the Spotify music streaming platform.

“And so it wasn’t even an official Spotify playlist, but from there the Spotify algorithm could sort of calculate what other people were listening to. So our song was served up to a lot of other people Tessier said. “And that’s how our management ended up finding us. You know, he was just listening to an album on Spotify and that album ended and our song came out and that, you know, the rest is kind of history.

While ‘Hidden Gems’ wasn’t released until March last year – ‘Shakin’ off the Rust’ was the lead single – the duo haven’t really played it much live due to health restrictions. public. So, with gigs inactive, the band returned to North of Princess to record again.

“I think a lot of these songs were written during the time when nobody was touring, and we weren’t really able to move around a lot. “Hidden Gems” had basically been mixed and mastered around the time COVID started. So it was basically ready to go and then this whole year and a half,” Jafar said on the video call. “You had so much free time that, you know, we just wrote a brand new album.”

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While the duo loved the ambient tones and reverb found on the Paul Meany-produced “Hidden Gems,” they were determined to take a different approach this time, this time with producer Joe Chiccarelli.

“And I think we both wanted to go back into the studio and be like, well, you know, what if we recorded an album that was super tight, super punchy, not really leaning on production stuff so much and being more like a guitar-drum duo in your face,” Jafar said. “And that kind of prompted a new direction.”

Even though his bandmate lives in Kingston and the studio he records at is also here, Jafar isn’t ready to move to Kingston anytime soon.

“I’ve been there so many times now and I know the city pretty well,” Jafar said. “I always enjoyed my time there and just lots of great culture and really good food and really, really great people too. So no complaints from me when it comes to Kingston, but I love Windsor too. I feel rather settled here.

phendra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/petehendra

Essential

Who: The Blue Stones opened for The Beaches on their “Professional Lover” tour.

When: Tuesday, May 10 (postponed from February 8). Doors open at 7pm Blue Stones probably around 8am, Beaches around 9am.

Or: The Ale House & Canteen, 393 Princess St.

Cost: $35 (it was close to a sale at press time, so be sure to check ahead).

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