FEATURE INTERVIEW – SPIRITBOX “It’s a different era for the metal genre and whether we like it or not, time moves on and we have to move with it ” COURTNEY LaPLANTE

Posted on by Oran

Get used to the name “Spiritbox”, because pandemic or no pandemic, this band are going to dominate 2020/21. Overdrive caught up with vocalist Courtney LaPlante to discuss the highly-anticipated new album, the current state of the music industry and so much more…

Having formed in 2017 from the ashes of vocalist Courtney LaPlante’s former band, iwrestledabearonce, Spiritbox accumulated a great deal of attention thanks to their mesmerizing 2017 self-titled EP.

For those in the know, the band almost immediately recruited an impressive amount of interest from around the globe, due to their dark, atmosphere and heart-stopping melodic interpretation of progressive post-metalcore.

And now, thanks to their new single ‘Holy Roller‘, Spiritbox are rapidly moving in that much-coveted 45-degree angle upwards, as did Code Orange and more recently, Sleep Token.

Speaking from her home in British Colombia, Canada, to whom she shares with fellow bandmate and husband, Michael Stringer [Guitars], Courtney is in good spirits and happy to kick back and candidly talk about her exciting new project…

OD – Spiritbox has to date, released an EP (2017) and most recently, the stomping single ‘Holy Roller’ which is, I’m assuming going to be featured on the yet-to-be-titled debut album; due for a 2021 release. Would that be correct?

COURTNEY – Well, a month ago I would have said; “YES!” but everyday things are changing so much that it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. The only thing that is keeping us from putting an album out is geography because of where we live. There are certain people that we want to work with and right now, we can’t be with them because of the situation in American and the borders being closed.

We have borders keeping us apart and I just don’t know what’s going to happen. We are not really shocked anymore but very saddened on how America is handling the Pandemic and because of this, it’s having a direct effect on us and countless other bands, as well as a whole host of other industries.

I just don’t know if we are going to be able to get together this year. The album is ready to go and has been since April, but we just can’t physically get to work on it. It’s very frustrating.

If everything goes perfectly and the borders open back up then yeah, there will be a new Spiritbox album early next year, we’ll see, but I’m not really convinced at this point.

OD – And if things don’t go to plan?

COURTNEY – [Sigh…] Well, we’ll just have to compromise some of our goals, which ultimately was trying to get the album recorded with all of us in the same room together. We’ll just have to go back to our roots and do it all ourselves, then send it away to be mixed and mastered. So, yeah, there’s lots to think about here.

Every day I wake up and like; “What’s gonna happen today?” It’s a very crazy time right now. I feel like I live in an alternate reality because we live on Vancouver Island near Vancouver, Canada and there is a population of about 1 million people and we’ve had very little presence of the pandemic here. It’s not a requirement to wear a mask or anything. It’s really weird looking at the news and seeing a totally different world outside of our small little island.

OD – Obviously the pandemic took us all by surprise.  When you were out on the road and performing before the tour was cut short, did you have a realisation about the reaction of “Holy Roller” from the live sets and did that in retrospect, have an impact on the material that you had written, or were already working on for the LP; as you have mentioned in the past that it was a “dark and moody atmospheric album”?

COURTNEY – It’s one of those things that we’re gonna go with what we feel is the best fit for the album and then the other tracks, well, we’ll just have to see what we can do with them. With this track [Holy Roller] it’s a lot more Deftones than say Acacia Strain energy if you know what I mean.

There are a lot more electronics and a lot more singing/screaming on this track, but that’s been one of my goals from the beginning, to never feel self-conscious about what we’re creating. My thinking behind that is if we just stick to that creative energy from the beginning, then people will accept us for who we are, rather than what genre we fit into.

Mick and I are really craving heavier dissonant music these days, so who knows where that is going to take us! At this point, anything can happen. [Laughing]

OD – It’s going to be very interesting to see how you feel about the album between now and when it’s released due to this period of reflection on the material. For instance, will it be rearranged, or perhaps new material will take the place of existing tracks that you’ve already decided for the tracklisting.

COURTNEY – You have just made me think of our situation and you know, we’ve kind of been in our own self-imposed quarantine since we’ve been a band. I think the music that we’ve been making for this album has the feeling of being very ‘far away‘ from anything else that’s out there. Do you know what I mean? It’s kind of like being sort of disconnected from our audience and peers because of where we are; geographically speaking. We haven’t toured year-round like other people/bands that are from a similar genre.

We live in a place where people don’t really understand what we’re doing, so it’s really refreshing when we get around other musicians or people like you, for example, people that really get what we’re about and what we’re trying to achieve.

ODSpiritbox gives the impression of a more contemporary style of heavy music, almost without borders. Much like Code Orange for example. A project that is very much directed not by just one style or genre, but multifaceted. Would that be a good assumption?

COURTNEY – I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to make it in this industry and it’s so weird to be so passionate about a genre of music that became stale and underwhelming. Then along comes bands like Loathe, Code Orange, Sleep Token, or even a bit more polished stuff like ISSUES or BMTH, it’s just different and so refreshing.

Although we all live very far away from each other, we are all connected with the same vision of what we’re creating.

That really old-school mentality of the ‘gatekeeping‘ in metal is just stale and somewhat exasperating. Like people that just can’t get past liking just one style of metal, do you know what I mean? One of my favourite things about Metal as a genre is that really at the end of the day, it’s very progressive. It’s open to new experiences. It’s uninhibited and open to exploring new sounds and experimenting with genres. And then at the same time, there are so many closed-minds that just flat-out refuse to understand/accept new music/ideas and won’t give it a chance.

OD – Do feel that heavy much has evolved over the last decade with regards to the ‘blurring of lines’ amongst genres? For example, you already mentioned BMTH, Sleep Token etc, they are all pushing boundaries and exploring new ‘guilt-free’ avenues to explore.

COURTNEY  – In a lot of ways, the ‘old-school‘ impression of the metal genre is being left in the dust by the newer bands such as BMTH and Architects, who are pushing boundaries and trying new things. These bands are staying true to themselves but also are branching out into the unknown and doing things that were once upon a time done in what we consider ‘classic metal’, but just with different results. It’s a different era for the [metal] genre and whether we like it or not, time moves on and we have to move with it.

OD – Of course, paradigms change from generation to generation, that’s a given within music, literature, fashion, popular culture etc. Would you agree that heavy music will continue to shift and change dramatically going forward?

COURTNEY – Absolutely! For example, I’m from the millennial generation and I’m now looking at people younger than me and I can see the current Generation Z people. For them, their idea of a ‘Rock Star‘ comes from the Hip Hop world.

That’s where the experimental/weird counterculture is happening now and they are trying to strike a chord with mainstream popular culture. Like my generation’s parents were all about Metallica and today the younger generation is looking at the R&B/Hip Hop artists and I believe that the heavier alternative genres of music could benefit from looking to those artists to see how they have adapted to the current climate and how they are communicating and marketing both their music and their overall influence to the world.

That’s who I’ve learned and got a lot of inspiration from. These [Hip Hop] artists have basically created their own empires by doing things the way THEY want to do it and have created a pathway in today’s modern and ever-changing world.

OD – From your own experience and history in this industry, do you find that things are shifting more towards bands having a more secure future in doing things on their own, rather than jumping on to the first record deal that’s offered to them?

COURTNEY – I think it’s just so hard for me to answer that because we are so privileged to have the team that is behind Palechord. That label was started by my manager who started the label out of pure frustration when trying to get some kind of recognition for a number of bands that had so much potential.

OD – So, Palechord is essentially a small organisation?

COURTNEY – Yes, it’s almost like a kind of family. [Laughing] It’s a collaboration of minds and music.

It’s very hard to get to where we want to be and I’m sure there are millions of bands around the world that feel the same way. The metal world is so behind the times in some ways. There’s a different vibe to the [metal] genre. The industry as a whole seems to crave authenticity and then in the metal world, it’s like a dirty secret to let people know that you have a job in a bar when you come off tour. Like they don’t want people seeing them in that fashion or seeing what the actual struggle of being in a band is.

To me, I really look up to people who are honest. So, when people ask us; “Hey do you guys have normal jobs outside of being a musician?” we answer honestly and say; “Yes we absolutely have to work to survive“. Any of these bands that are at our level, that say they don’t work are idiots! They’re either nineteen and live with their Mom, or they’re idiots!

It’s always been the joke in any successful band; “Okay, which one of you has the rich parents”? [Laughing] Honestly, it’s just so hard to survive as a musician when you’re making $8 per hour.

OD – With reference to your vocal approach to Spiritbox, do you feel that you have much more freedom than when you did in iwrestledabearonce?

COURTNEY – It really does feel like we have a lot of freedom now, it’s nice to remove that pressure from that whole thing, it’s one aspect that I just don’t have to think about.

OD – The EP was pressed on Vinyl with only 500 units, are there any plans to re-release that again?

COURTNEY – Yes, we are going to do that for sure. The only thing that’s holding us back is just a pragmatic thing and we didn’t have the funds to produce more. Now, things have changed and we are making money, so we can afford to print as much vinyl as we want and there are plans for a re-release or second pressing of the self-titled EP as soon as we can.

OD – When can we expect to see that?

COURTNEY – Well, it’s gonna be a little while because of the pandemic, everything is backed-up right now. We’re just gonna have to wait and see when we can get the green light to go ahead and get them pressed. We are not intentionally trying to use a scarcity approach to the album, so rest assured that we will have this on re-release as soon as we can! [Laughing]

OD – Speaking of labels a lot of how they screen bands/artists these days is based on the numbers on their social media platforms. What are your thoughts on this?

COURTNEY – I think that we are moving away from the Facebook numbers thing. I remember a time when it was almost as important as the music itself. A few years back, it was totally normal to be somewhat consumed by how many people were liking the official band page, so much so that people were buying likes and it was painfully obvious that this was happening.

For example, if you go onto a random metalcore band’s Facebook page, say a band that’s been around for the last 10 years or so, if you go on their page and they have 150k Facebook likes and when they post something, they only get like, 6 likes! Clearly, something is not right. It’s very easy to fake numbers in certain ways. Luckily, people are starting to move away from that trend and people are starting to smarten up to this and especially labels, who realise that at the end of the day, that’s so unimportant.

So, a band like Spiritbox, our social media number is nothing impressive but our engagement is impressive. I view it as the online engagement is almost a gateway to the music and if it’s interesting to some people, the chances are very high that they will proceed to check out the music and that’s where we have the true essence of who we really are and what we really do.

I think that people these days tend to listen to the music first and then check the aesthetic of social media because it shows what you’re trying to put forward. I can tell you, I was in a band that had over half a million likes but when we played live, 12 people would show up! [Laughing]. My point is social media is not the be-all-end-all of the industry today.

OD – If you could tour with anyone when things are hopefully back to normal, who would it be and why?

COURTNEY – Oh my God!!! Umm….I’ve got to say Bring Me The Horizon. The reason is that we are such a small band and when we get to tour with huge acts like that it’s almost like a masterclass in how to make things work in this industry from behind the scenes to front of the stage. I want to submerge my self as much as possible in these situations so I can learn what they spend their money on? What’s the best decision to make regarding touring costs, stage production, crew, merchandise etc? I want to learn as much as I can.

Oh, I nearly forgot Architects! I have been dying to get in a room with Sam Carter (Architects vocalist) and have that guy explain to me how he sounds so good every night! [Laughing]

Basically, I really want to tour with bands that I look up to, that we all look up to.

OD – Favourite or worst album cover of all time? Go…

COURTNEY – Okay, I’ll go with the covers that were the worst for me and I’m gonna pick three. The first is Butthole SurfersElectriclarryland‘. I think I was about 5 years old when I first saw that cover. My Mom had a CD copy of the album and it just really freaked me out [Laughing]. It’s this image of a pencil shoved into an earhole and there’s blood splattering out. It’s just gross! [Laughing].

I was also very disturbed by another one of my Mom’s CD’s I think it was the Goo Goo DollsA Boy Named Goo“. It’s so stupid now but it’s this kid with berry juice all over its face and I thought it was weird and strange.

The final one is actually from one of my old bands, iwresteledabearonce. This has to be one of the most stupid album covers of all time [Laughing]. For no reason, it’s a picture of a dog on a women’s body. The album was ‘Late For Nothing‘ and the idea came from one night when we were just hanging out and really stoned and came up with the idea. Then we put it out as the actual cover for the album. It’s so stupid! [Laughing]

We had a band dog called Mildred and we were like: “Wouldn’t it be funny if we put Mildred on the cover of the album? Or, how about we put Mildred’s head on a women’s body?

The next thing you know, there it is. It actually happened for real. Our label at the time was like; “Umm okay, I guess..sigh” [Laughing]. It’s such a bad album cover that every time I see it, I just laugh.

OD – Finally, are there plans for any more singles coming out and if so, can you reveal the song titles?

COURTNEY – Yes! There will be another single and the title right now is ‘Song 6‘ because there’s no title as of yet! [Laughing] I don’t know what I’m gonna call it yet. That’s the way I say goodbye to them before I let them go.

It all depends on when we can record the album so until we get a better understanding of what’s gonna happen either recording remotely, or we do it in person. Either way, I don’t think I can finish the year without putting out something new.

I can already hear people saying; “Oh great….Another single” [Laughing]

OD – And this single, will is it something that was recently written?

COURTNEY – This track was written over a year ago. It’s actually called “Track 6 Version 3” and I’d love to see it come out in the fall and I’d really love to do a video for it also. Stay tuned for more on that!

Spirtbox are:

Courtney LaPlante – Vocals

Michael Stringer – Guitars

Bill Crook – Bass

Spiritbox’s latest single Holy Roller is out NOW.


Oran O’Beirne

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