On The Many Meanings Of ‘Heavy’ Music With Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante

Canadian metal band Spiritbox are the hottest name in heavy music right now. Fronted by creative force of nature, Courtney LaPlante, who also serves as one-half of the band’s primary songwriting duo with her husband, guitarist Michael Stringer, the band’s unique hybrid of metallic styles, paranormal-infused visual aesthetic and marketing nous have catapulted them to the brink of superstardom. Having amassed over 73 million streams and become mainstays of US rock radio thanks primarily to a collection of standalone singles including ‘Holy Roller’, ‘Blessed Be’, ‘Constance’ and ‘Circle With Me’, the band have the world waiting feverishly in anticipation of their debut album, Eternal Blue due to drop in September this year.

The fact that much of their breakthrough success has come during a time when it hasn’t been possible to play shows or tour, is surely as much of a testament to the power of the music and its suitability to the rather heavy emotional climate of the moment as it is the totality of the Spiritbox package.

To spend even ten minutes trawling their online presence is to come face-to-face with a band seemingly always a step ahead of their contemporaries. In the wake of the release of their expansive, proggy new single ‘Secret Garden’, a song that shows off yet another side of the Spiritbox sound, we caught up with vocalist Courtney LaPlante and unlocked a little bit of the mystery that is Spiritbox.

MF: G’day Courtney, how is this plane of existence treating you today?

CL: Oh, lovely. I’m stuck in my house quarantining.

MF: Oh that’s right, Canada has quite strict quarantine requirements don’t they?

CL: Yes, because I had to go to the states to do all of my music stuff and to record and everything, so that’s part of the deal. If you want to go, you have to do that. Even if you’re vaccinated, you have to go back to your house and never leave your house for two weeks. So this is a very exciting moment, in my day, this is a highlight.

MF: Well you’d probably be the first to say that talking to me is a highlight of your day, but I’ll take it, thank you!

CL: I mean in a two-week quarantine when I can’t even take my garbage out, this qualifies as exciting. In two days, when I’m allowed out to take my garbage out, that’ll be an exciting time too.

MF: We’re also in lockdown here in Melbourne, so I can vibe with that. Now your band Spiritbox are arguably the hottest name in heavy music currently, you are blowing up, as one of the primary forces behind the band, how does it feel to be you right now?

CL: It is weird because nothing in my life has changed. Any money my band makes, I’m saving it and we still have our jobs, we are still with the same team of people that have been with us in some respects for the last four years of the band. Whether they are full time with us or involved with the label or something like that. So it’s so bizarre because it shows how important perception is to a band.

I think until I walk out on a stage and there are people there singing along, or we’ve released the album and we’ve got first week numbers back or something, I don’t think any of this stuff is gonna hit me until then. Because right now I’m just like, I’m just, I’m just me.

MF: Well, that’s a pretty interesting point that you’ve made because the band has obviously achieved most of your success in terms of increased exposure, during a time when you haven’t actually played any shows. So I suppose you wouldn’t really know what to expect yet?

CL: I mean we’re so lucky, the cool thing about the internet is that we’re so connected to all of our fans around the world, so we know that we have support. But it’s still really hard to visualize a thing that you’ve always dreamed about; like the crowd singing along to your song or knowing the song well enough to know when the breakdown’s going to happen, or someone coming up to you after the show and giving you a hug and wanting to take pictures with you. All of those things aren’t feeling very tangible to me at the moment, they’re feeling very abstract.

MF: The ascent you’re on is no accident, it’s clearly the product of very hard work, on all elements of being in a band, from the music itself to the aesthetic and marketing, you present as a complete yet ever-evolving package. How important is that to you and has that been to you and to Spiritbox as a whole?

CL: These things are all equally important. With everything that we put out, nothing can be half-assed, everything has to have a thumbprint of our passion about what we’re doing on it.

Even if it is just to the best of our abilities. For instance a music video, maybe it doesn’t have to be the highest budget music video, but it still has to have that thumbprint of how passionate we are about what we are doing on it, that much we can control.

Then it’s just riding with the journey, getting out of that questioning mindset that says “oh, we can’t release this, because then we’ll have too many singles out” or “we can’t release this one because it was never meant to be a single” and little things like that, you just have to roll with what the world is handing you, in the moment.

You have to be able to adapt, if you’re going to have a nice time, otherwise, you’ll always feel like you’re compromising, when in fact, in my opinion, you’re getting more opportunities to do stuff. You have to learn how to pivot and celebrate the opportunities, rather than feeling like it’s messing up what you were trying to do.

MF: That’s a really refreshing mindset, one that I think a lot of people in bands or otherwise, could really benefit from taking on. On the musical front, you’ve explored a lot of sonic territory in Spiritbox. Particularly over the last few songs you’ve released. If you consider a song like ‘Holy Roller’ for instance, that sounds distinctly different from ‘Circle With Me’, which leads me to ask what do you think is the core component of the Spiritbox sound?

CL: Just heavy, you know, the sound is just heavy. Which doesn’t actually mean breakdowns. I mean it in all aspects of the word heavy, whether that’s heavy emotion or heavy breakdown, you can explore that word in so many ways, and I think that’s what this is. That’s what encapsulates me as an artist right now. It’s just exploring what heavy means to me. It’s a vehicle for me to express myself in the way that I want, and sadness just really resonates with me, musically as well. Sometimes you’ll hear a guitar lead for example and it sounds like they’re weeping, there’s always these very visceral emotions that you can connect with in music. So that’s the band to me right now.

I think ‘Holly Roller’ is a good example of just doing what feels right, in the moment. We got back from having our tour cancelled and our album rollout cancelled and honestly it was a case of saying “okay, we’re pissed, this one’s pissy, let’s put that out”. It was never intended to be a single at all, but I’m so grateful that we did that.

MF: You were talking about emotional heaviness a moment ago and that is the perfect segue to talk to you about the song ‘Constance’ which I have to admit to being a little bit obsessed with, both with the song itself and its video clip. As a person who lost their grandmother this year, the lyrical elements of the song and the visualisation in the video, really connected with me. Can you talk to me about the song’s inspiration?

CL: I think it is one of those things that unfortunately was such a universal thing that happened to a lot of us this year. As your grandparents and your parents get older, you really have to start to think about the fact that you’re going to lose them, but I don’t think any of us anticipated losing those people that we love during such a strange time, where we couldn’t go through all those steps of mourning. We couldn’t go to a funeral, or spend time hugging your parents because they’ve just lost their parents, there are all these little things that you think you’re going to go through to find closure when you lose someone, that we just weren’t able to do.

So that’s the reason why we put out that song as a single, it was meant to be the closing song on the album, but I just felt really compelled to put that song out in the moment, because putting it together was very therapeutic for me. I’m so happy that it resonated with you because that was the full intention of the song. It was selfish, it was me wanting to get some closure about how I was feeling about losing my grandma, but then I knew that there were so many of us that had to deal with such bullshit this year we never really got a chance to deal with it in the way that we wanted. So it’s also kind of like a siren call to all those people that have been through a bunch of just shit this year.

MF: It’s a beautiful thing to get to connect with other human beings in that way through music. And I’m sure there are people out there that are feeling the same way as I did about ‘Constance’ about the new track ‘Secret Garden’ as well. This one feels like there’s a lot of internal conflict to it, which I’m sure we can all relate to. Is that internal conflict something you feel you need to work through via your music?

CL: Yeah, I think most of our songs have been about internal conflict. That’s a great way to put it. I’m not really usually speaking to anyone other than myself in the songs, you know, basically, the songs are me trying to understand and analyse why it is I do what I do. Why do I act the way I do and behave the way I do? So that’s so insightful what you said. A lot of the time, people will think that the song is about an ex-boyfriend or something and I’m like, no, I’m the narrator and I’m the protagonist, but I’m also the antagonist, so internal conflict is a great way to put it because a lot of the songs deal with that.

MF: We should touch on the aesthetic of the band because it is this beautiful mixture of paranormal and human with little bits of pagan imagery and mythology. How did you arrive at that visual style? Is that something that was influenced by your beliefs or anything? Or was it just a perfect match for the music?

CL: It’s all a necessity. We find it so necessary to bring the music to a visual medium, but until recently, we’ve had to do a lot of that stuff ourselves. Even the videos we’ve made professionally have had a caveat like we’ll have a limited number of days at this location and a small budget, and so we always work backwards from there. For ‘Holy Roller’ we were in the middle of a pandemic, no stores were open, but a friend of ours had got married recently and had a bunch of flowers from the wedding, so we decided to make a pagan symbol out of them to burn down, and so the idea grew from there.

So we are always about the necessity, first of what novel idea we can create, with the really little time and resources that we usually have at our disposal. That can be hit or miss, but I think when you hit it, it comes off as so authentic because it truly is authentic to you. You started it from the bottom up. And then there you go, you have an interesting visual, so that’s usually the process for the band.

MF: Well that seems to work really well, and it comes off as a cohesive presentation, which really adds to the impact of the band. Now you and your husband Mike are the primary songwriters in Spiritbox, so I’m curious if you’ve found the process of working with him easier than experiences you’ve had in music in the past? And if that process has taught you anything?

CL: Well, you know, aside from being in iwrestledabearonce, I’ve always been in a band with my family. My old band when I was just starting out was with my little brother, and was in a band with him for six years. And then I was in iwrestledabearonce briefly without Michael but he joined that too. So it’s just what I’ve always known. I have such a musical connection with him. I love working with other people too, but I just find so much ease working with him because I can be vulnerable, like off the bat without getting to know a stranger in the room. I have Michael there. And he knows the best and worst of me and I know best and the worst of him and we’re not scared to be vulnerable and put our truest selves out there and it works really well.

MF: That’s wonderful. Now I have to let you go, so I’ll just rattle through one of my final questions here. You host the podcast Good For A Girl, where you talk to other women in the industry about the realities of being a woman in the music industry. How important is it to you now you’ve got this platform with Spiritbox to continue to push women to the forefront of the industry

CL: My work has just begun, I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.

Spiritbox’s debut album ‘Eternal Blue’ is out on Friday, September 17th via Rise Records. Pre-orders available now, here.

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