Spiritbox // Courtney LaPlante

8 May 2020 | 2:47 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

"I am not sure if writing the songs helps me deal with it, but sharing them with others helps me feel more confident about verbalizing my feelings."

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Alongside the ranks of Loathe and Sleep Token, Canada's Spiritbox are one of the freshest and most exciting new acts in heavy music. To quote that ever-popular GIF, those are the facts. Even though they formed back in 2017, they've grown incredibly in their short three years together as a band, and that's not looking to change anytime soon. Tech-metal, pop, djent, art-rock, and progressive sensibilities are the pieces of musical armour that Spiritbox don themselves in before heading off to battle, with ethereal melodies in one hand, and fierce heaviness in the other. Off the back of their first self-titled EP in 2017 and a series of kick-ass singles - 'Trust Fall,' 'Bleach Bath,' 'Blessed Be' and 'Rule Of Nines' - they've garnered huge acclaim and a loyal, ever-growing fanbase. Build it and they will come; write good shit and listeners will flock. Simple as that. And Spiritbox's output so far has been all killer, zero filler. 

Finally speaking with the band's talented vocalist, Courtney LaPlante, we cover everything from COVID-19 impacting the group, Iwrestledabearonce, how her mental health fuels Spiritbox's music, her relationship with guitarist Michael Stringer, fan pages, vocal techniques, and excitingly, their debut record and the promise of new music soon. So what are you waiting for, go read it!

First off Courtney, how are you and the rest of Spiritbox doing during this COVID-19 pandemic? 

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Well, our feelings about this evolved pretty quickly. Although countries around us were getting shut down left and right on our European tour, it was still a horrific shock to realize that your tour is being canceled halfway through and that you have to scramble to get home before the travel ban comes into effect. It is an expensive and sobering decision. Those were very pricey tickets and a very depressing flight home.

But after a day or so of shock and sadness, I think most people in the world, in every profession, realized that everyone has been deeply affected by this, across all walks of life. There is a solidarity there, as we all have something dramatic or at least disappointing in common, and there is strength in that, at least for us. There is no use for "woe is me" in these times, as so many have it so much worse. We are just thankful and fortunate to be home safe, in good health.

Well said! So Courtney, for 'Blessed Be,' I love the songs’ wholesome theme of compassion and support and am wondering whether that’s a song about Michael, your friends or family pulling you up when times are tough? Or is my own reading of the song way off base? 

Interesting! I don't interpret this song in a positive way at all, but it makes me very happy that you do. I deliberately write my lyrics to have a sense of ambiguity, That is where I am most comfortable. I want the listener to be able to project their own feelings onto the words, kind of like a little Rorschach test.

To me, this song conjures up imagery of romantic melancholy, like someone who is trapped in their depression and kind of enjoys the "romantic" feeling of that. Someone who is completely powerless to escape an uneven power dynamic in their relationship with their partner, or with themselves. So, I love that you have a completely different interpretation. Sometimes it takes me years to figure out what my lyrics are really about, like I am in denial about the true meaning of them. That is why I love poetry and songwriting, as time goes by the meaning completely changes for me sometimes, or it can bring me back to a nostalgic moment.

Thank you for explaining that one. Back with 'Rule Of Nines,' the name referring to the treatment of burns and treatment, it seems to sum up the intent of Spiritbox: dealing with past pain and then trying to move forward. How cold or hot do you think my assessment is of that song?

Now for this one, I couldn't have said it better myself! I am going to have to steal this, thank you in advance.

Ha, welcome. Lyrically, 'Belcarra' was about feeling over-pressure and meeting exceptions. On Bleach Bath, you talked about a toxic, manipulative relationship. With 'Trust Fall,' I loved the honesty about intimacy and vulnerability in the intentions of relationships. With all of that in mind, has writing and creating these songs helped put those experiences behind you or maybe placed any new perspective on them?  

This kind of ties into what I was saying before. Sometimes I do not realize these things until months or years later. The song really can be helpful and therapeutic for me to write and record, helping me work out and verbalize some things I have put off dealing with. Thank you so much for the kind words.

No worries! Many of Spiritbox's songs from 2018 and 2019 dealt with mental health, with feeling depressed but also with moving forward and surviving. Genuinely, how are you going now Courtney? Have you been able to work through what all of those songs discussed? 

I will always be a work in progress. Right now I am doing ok because I feel very focused on making new music, and I am very motivated. But it changes very suddenly. Depression is a bizarre thing that I am still navigating. You can't pinpoint when it became a part of your life, and you have to wonder "Is this just a part of my personality now, forever?" I am not sure if writing the songs helps me deal with it, but sharing them with others helps me feel more confident about verbalizing my feelings. I think that is the most helpful part!

Despite the band's young age as a unit, it already has a fan group on Facebook, which is becoming so much more common for artists these days. (Sleep Token had two groups already well before their 2019 debut album dropped.) Have you guys interacted with the fans via that group much? Do you think that can be a real tool for even better social media engagement? Given how terrible Facebook reach can be most of the time. 

I personally try not to interact there too much, but often I let my curiosity get the best of me. I want them to have a space where they can be honest and not worry about me looking over their shoulder. I do not want to monitor them too much, because I want them to voice their opinions, even if it becomes a negative opinion someday. I think fan pages are great, but I like ones that feel authentic and like a community created around the band, not something created BY the band. They let loose a lot more that way!

Any authentic connection is a useful and natural tool to help social media engagement, no matter how big or small. I love it because it is an equalizer. It doesn't matter how many connections or how much money you have, it is something that is very hard to fake, and almost impossible to "buy".

I couldn't agree more. I also love that Spiritbox isn’t a direct musical follow on from Iwrestledabearonce, aside from some tiny musical similarities. Do you think that that’s helped to make the band its own separate entity and therefore not live under the shadow of your previous band for those older fans hoping for more of the same old?  

I feel the same way, and so do Michael and Bill. When Michael and I joined IWABO, there was already an established dynamic there. They had their way of doing things, and though we managed to compromise on a lot, they were set on their ways. They were also all quite a lot older and more experienced than us. We also didn't casually "date" in that band, we got "married" right away. I did not get to have my first rehearsal with those guys till I had toured for over a month with them! We jumped into bed right away, same thing when Michael joined. There was no trial period. If there was a trial period we may have all decided not to go on a third or fourth date... or at least signed a prenup! [Laughs]. Hypotheticals aside, it was some of the best years of our lives and they were a very special group of musicians.

It all sounds a lot healthier and easier now that you're in Spiritbox. So were there any big takeaways for yourself and Spiritbox with the band's first series of live shows? What was it like bringing these songs to life, songs that mean a great deal about a dark time in your life, in front of an audience? 

It was like stepping out of a dream, into real life! Like we were finally able to be ourselves! Aside from a few shows in 2019 and our opening spot on After the Burial's 2020 European tour (it still stings to think about this one being canceled) we have only been able to connect to our listeners through visual media and chatting with them over live stream. Being able to meet our listeners in person and interacting with them while performing is something I will never take for granted. Even though we want to, of course, become better performers and improve our musicianship, we feel so fulfilled being able to play live. Those memories will get me through these quarantine times.

That's great to hear. I've always wondered what your vocal training is like, Courtney? In terms of rehearsals and such. Switching from singing to that kind of screaming must have a toll on your voice, no? Do you feel you’re a much stronger vocalist now after having been in IWABO before? 

I think I keep improving, with every release, but this year I want to invest my time and money into working with a vocal coach to help me learn how to navigate through all that comes with being on tour. Most importantly for me, I want to learn everything I can about how to maintain vocal hygiene OFF stage. That is where I need the most improvement. It is easy to say "just do not ever talk", but the smaller your band, the more integral talking over loud music, selling your merch, meeting fans, settling with promoters, and bonding with your tour mates is to the development of your career.

I do not practice as much as I should, but I am always improving. 2020 has been the year of practicing for me!

I want to master the transitions between singing dynamically and screaming. You are correct, it is challenging, and there are not a lot of useful free tools online for such a niche thing like this. Most people who sing and scream have both vocal styles turned up to 11 the whole time. I go from 1 to 11 and back over and over. It can be tricky.

A personal question now, but does the relationship between yourself and Michael make the songwriting and performing that much smoother, whether in IWABO or Spiritbox? Does that personal nature make that musical chemistry easier, if at all?

I think it does, but it is hard to say. Michael and I were musical soulmates before we realized we were in love! I do know that we are fortunate to enjoy spending every moment together. We even have the same job and work the same hours at our day jobs! A lot of couples would have a hard time being in a band together, but it works very well for us. There are not really any boundaries between us as a couple and us as bandmates. The lines are very blurred at the moment, but I am very happy with that, at this time. Is it sustainable to be this way? I do not know, but I love it.

Lastly in 2020, and with the way records are being pushed back because of COVID, do you think that releasing singles and smaller EP’s is easier, more digestible, or more beneficial than doing one big full-length record? 

I just feel strongly to meet supply and demand. Recording a full-length album is time-consuming and expensive, so why supply something that no one has demanded, if money is not growing on trees for you. Start small and build a base. Make the expensive recording when someone pays you to do it. Edit yourself and only put out the best product you can, not just whatever 10 songs you made this year. Our listeners demand a full length, so we are giving them a full length, but only after 3 years of developing a base for it. Now we know what we are looking for in a full-length album. We were going to record this thing for 2 weeks in April, but have postponed it for now, until we can get together again once the travel bans are lifted.

Lucky for us, we are used to being resourceful and unconventional by metal world standards, so we are getting creative and will still be recording, shooting, and releasing a song and video soon. I hope you love it!