Dressed in a tight black V-neck, leather pants, and pointy-toe boots, Nick Raines, lead singer of The Blackstone Roses, pauses in the middle of their set at the Cadillac Lounge. He grabs the mic and snarls at the crowd. “This next song’s a grinder.” He looks over at his younger brother, dressed similarly, except for a black hat perched low over his eyes. His fingers move at a blistering pace as he grinds out an impeccable solo, and the crowd moves along to the pulsing, bluesy beat.
The Blackstone Roses, a rock band from Parkdale consisting of brothers Nick and Criss Raines, Brandon Beretta on drums, and a currently vacant spot for bass guitarist, is making huge waves both north and south of the border. Their punk-goth look sets them apart but they have a sound that is rooted in the familiar. They name classic blues and rock acts like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and The Rolling Stones as major influences on their music.
“We grew up with our parents’ records around the house all the time,” says Nick. He adds that bands like Guns N’ Roses and Motörhead influenced the band’s name. Nick started playing guitar at 12 and younger brother Criss started around the same time on drums and bass guitar before moving on to electric. Nick remembers the first time he heard his brother play, “I thought to myself, ‘That’s a damn good guitar player. I should see who it is and steal him.’” When he found out it was Criss, he fired his band the same night. “And the rest is history as they say,” says Nick.
Their latest album, The Dead City EP, has been huge for the band, with the title track qualifying for curation in the Grammys Amplifier competition. That means it will be heard by panel judges the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Rihanna. “It’s definitely humbling,” says Nick. “It makes you feel like all the turmoil you got through is all worth it.” Adds Criss, “It’s a big nod to get.”
The boys have been through their fair share of hard times, and they describe their album as an “audio diary” of everything they have been through over the past few years, from travelling between Toronto and Los Angeles trying to make it in the music business to indulging in the stereotypical rocker lifestyle. “This record is the end of that era for us,” says Nick. Their next record, which is currently being written and will soon start pre-production, is what Nick describes as “back to the basics,” with a stronger blues influence than their latest EP. The style is something like home for the brothers, who even have a blues band as a side project called Criss Raines and the Grimm Rhythms.
With fists full of rings, eyes ringed with black eyeliner, skinny jeans, and leather jackets, you literally can’t miss The Blackstone Roses. Their tough-as-nails look is loud and their throwback sound is even louder.
WORDS: JASMINE WILLIAMS
PHOTOS: SASS FRASER & CRISTINA ARCE
HAIR & MUA: EMILY O’QUINN
LOCATION: THE CADILLAC LOUNGE