“My thoughts and feelings change about these songs all the time and they always will.”
If you’re not familiar with Spiritbox now, you soon will be.
The band have been causing ever-increasing waves throughout the scene since their inception back in 2015 and as we head into 2021 it only looks to get even bigger as they build on their recent signing to Rise Records.
With the release of their brilliantly constructed and wonderfully different singles ‘Rule Of Nines’, ‘Holy Roller’ and ‘Constance’ this year, the band have opened up so many more doors and captured so many imaginations. But where did it all begin? And how have they reached this point?
We jumped on the phone with vocalist Courtney LaPlante to talk about the band’s origins, their writing processes and what they feel like they bring the metal scene that it has been lacking…
So, let’s go right back to the start. What was the moment when Spiritbox changed from an idea to a reality for you?
“There was a day when Michael [Stringer, guitar] and me were on tour with [our old band] Iwrestledabearonce and we were going back and forth with the other guys where we were pretty much trying to take over the band. One of the guys was like, ‘Nope, this is my band and I’m going to take over the social media. You guys can do whatever you want’. So we told him to consider it our two weeks notice. We happened to be doing a show close to where a load of my family members lived, so we stayed over at my uncle’s house. It was weird because I had all of my family coming over to see me and they were asking about the band and I’m like, ‘I think I just left my band’.
“So Michael and me were staying in a guest room and that night we just said, ‘Okay, let’s do this’. We had wanted to make our own band together since 2011 and by this time it was 2015. The first priority was to go home and get normal jobs, I ended up working in a café and Michael was delivering pizzas. We had also been engaged for about four years because just before we were about to be married we joined IWABO and we were poor again, so the second priority was to finally get married. What did we ask for in terms of wedding presents? Money just to make music.
“At the time it was so weird because it had been so long since I had been in a band that was actually still forming. Each song that Michael would create and present to me would be completely different from one another. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to sound like yet, but I find that naming a thing can shape the product. We had a couple of names that we were going back and forth on, but it was Michael who chose Spiritbox. It felt like it perfectly set the tone for our spooky songs.
“In 2016, two weeks after we got married, we started recording and dumping money into this thing. We then just sat on it for a long time after that. It’s weird trying to have a band with all of this crazy production and technical musicianship when it’s just you and your husband, even though Michael is a multi-instrumentalist and could play it all but we just couldn’t play live. Though we showed our friend Bill [Crook], who was a musician we respected, and he said, ‘This is all great, I’m going to be your bass player and join your band’. At the time we were really influenced by Tesseract and what we were making felt very proggy on our first EP. I love that EP because all of the people who were involved in it then are still involved now and they are all people that got in on this because they believed in us so much.”
It must have been nice having so much time to really solidify what this was and what you wanted it to be, especially after having so much expectation on your shoulders with Iwrestledabearonce…
“Being a replacement singer in a band is really hard. No matter what you do, people are hearing you perform a song that they have heard someone else perform a thousand times recorded that they first heard at a certain age and it made them feel a certain way. You can’t ever live up to that. I don’t like to admit it but I’m competitive and I like to win and I want to be the best no question. Yet I realised just how much I lost out on during that time because I was so focused on proving myself when I should have been focused on honing my skills and the things that I like. Not how high can I sing and how low can I scream.”
It feels like every element of this band is clearly as important as the next, especially making sure that the visual aspects relate perfectly to the sound you’re making. How has that adapted over the last few years for you?
“In a lot of ways, we never had to try and get someone to translate an idea that was in our head because it was just us doing this. Until recently every visual we did ourselves. We have 11 music videos and Michael has made eight of those. We don’t come from a background like that, we just learned how to do it all. I think that helped in forming what we wanted to be because when you’re doing everything yourselves you have to think big picture. Time was catching up to us and we always had that urgency about us. We knew we didn’t have ages to create a whole world around this thing or this track. We didn’t have any time to stumble. We needed everything that we did to show off every facet of what we like about art. That’s what’s been really missing in the metal world. There’s a huge disconnect between the audio and the visual and I’ve always been frustrated by that.”
When you’re able to surprise yourself as much as you surprise the people who are consuming your art, and it feels very much like Spiritbox is designed to be absolutely anything you want it to be at any given time…
“My main goal with this band is fluidity. I want to never have to feel the restraints or the pressure of having a singing to screaming ratio or something like that. Michael writes all of this music and when he writes a riff and it’s really good we’re going to put that in a song. I really appreciate bands who work like that, like Deftones or even Dance Gavin Dance and Bring Me The Horizon, who have trained their audience to not care what type of music they are making and just enjoy each song as it is. I really respect that and that’s the career that I want to have. You have to start that early as well and train people not to put you in those boundaries. Our first EP is very-Tesseract inspired because it was written in 2015 and I was a very different person. That’s the same with the music that we’re coming out with next.”
So what is the process for you when it comes to turning an idea into a whole song? What do you draw on lyrically and vocally when Michael shares something he has written with you?
“So what Michael creates is instrumental music that creates imagery in my head. I think that one of my biggest influences and one of the things I watched most when I was a kid was the original Fantasia. I think that’s why when I hear music I’m able to write in such a way. That really worked for me when I was a kid and why I was so drawn to the music and visuals when there were no actual words. So that will serve as a prompt when I hear music, I will make a note of it and then the song will come from that.
“An example of that is the song we have just put out [‘Constance’]. We’ve had the song for over a year but I only finished working on the lyrics a few weeks ago. We tried a new experiment where Dylan, the guy that we now work on music videos with, and me decided to write the two things at the exact same time. So he would show me a concept he had and that would change my writing and then I would show him my lyrics and it would change his story a little. That’s a new way of writing for us. But we’re along for the ride and loving every minute as it goes by.”
It’s all about the journey as much as the destination and when you’re still learning and developing even now, that’s only going to help you to excel again and again…
“I think that it comes from not having everything you may want at your disposal. We excel in ambiguity and vagueness. When we first started, every photo and music video was black and white. People thought that was really cool but the reason we did that was because we didn’t know what we were doing. It’s one of those things where if you don’t tell people things like that, they can project whatever feeling or meaning they want onto your art. That’s why I like art in the first place. There’s no little card telling you that this represents this and this represents this. You just look at it and find your meaning. So there are so many things within our music videos that people have created totally themselves. My thoughts and feelings change about these songs all the time and they always will.”