Whether they’re immersed in true crime podcasts or creating horror in their music videos, genre-splicing Canadians Spiritbox – named, quite literally, after a device that supposedly helps you contact ghosts – immerse themselves in all things unusual. “It’s weird but I’ve always been interested in dark stuff,” says vocalist Courtney LaPlante. “I think it’s an anxiety thing; it’s a way for me to explore things that make me anxious, but in a ‘safe’ way.”
Following their 2017 self-titled debut that established a love for progressive metal, their more recent singles Blessed Be, Rule Of Nines and Holy Roller eagerly indulge other stylisations, borrowing a few metalcore-styled riffs and dropping in nuggets of industrial sounds. Courtney takes a page from her inspirations Deftones and Tesseract, stressing that Spiritbox won’t be limited in their creative endeavours by the pressure to be conventionally heavy.
“What those bands both have in common is fluidity,” she explains. “They can pretty much do whatever they want throughout the song; it can become heavy, they can do screaming vocals, but then also the song can take a turn and be very beautiful, uplifting and melodic. There’s never a sense from their fans of, ‘Oh, you guys sold out, you have singing!’ or like, ‘Oh, this is too heavy.’ Those are the bands that are my biggest inspiration as far as not having boundaries of how they sound.”
Spiritbox’s journey is something the singer describes as a “very unique band experience, unlike the traditional way.” Founded by her and husband Mike Stringer, the band is a labour of love born from the frustrations of Courtney not finding her identity in her previous music. She and Mike played in metalcore crew IWrestledABearOnce, and Courtney has opened up about that time and how the lack of creative input weighed heavily on her.
“It was weird; we were out playing shows [with IWABO], playing these songs nobody on stage wrote,” she explains. “[It was] like, ‘What is this? I don’t want to do this, I don’t connect with this song.’ It just hit us after a couple of years that we wanted to have our own identity and start fresh, make our own music.”
Courtney gushes that her latest venture has garnered a reaction that even she couldn’t anticipate, saying “it’s found an audience and they’re growing with us. The freedom of having a new band is like the freedom of having no baggage and having no preconceived notions of what it should sound like. It’s been very freeing for me.”
Courtney’s career gave her two pivotal entry points into the industry, both at the start and end of the 2010s. Transitioning from the internet’s sparse resources of pirating sites to a world of online, 24-hour accessible streaming or Youtube videos that can teach anyone how to be a sound engineer in 10 minutes has certainly refined her approach to music.
“I’m very happy with how technology has taken us now,” she says. “I literally don’t think our band would exist without the technology and the accessibility of today. We’re almost as DIY as you can get. We do send music out to be mixed and mastered, but we record everything and edit it ourselves. We’re all in our late 20s, early 30s and we’ve all collectively toured a lot. I can’t afford to go on a DIY tour across Canada. Like, if we have one bad tour I’ll just be ruined and our band will have to end. We’re DIY, not by choice, but by necessity.”
You might already be familiar with Spiritbox following the viral success of Holy Roller, smashing rock radio charts, earning more than a million views on YouTube and nabbing more than twice that many streams. Courtney is still unable to wrap her head around it all, especially considering the whole song was written in two hours. “It was just something that was fun for us to play on tour!” she laughs.
Touching back on their love for all things horror, Courtney explained that the Holy Roller music video was actually inspired by Ari Aster’s blockbuster folk horror, Midsommar. “That movie is scary towards the end,” the singer says. “Honestly, one of the most chilling parts about it, to me, is just the main protagonist: how she’s unsure if she’s losing her mind or not, because that’s something that resonates with a lot of people who are battling a mental illness.”
Courtney describes how other real-life situations, like losing a family member, can also be the things that keep you up at night. “That honestly stuck with me a lot in the movie,” she says, “even more so than all the visual horror. We wanted to explore something like that. It’s something that I find even scarier than a ‘scary movie’ because it hits closer to home.”
The next release on the horizon is something for fans to get excited about in 2021. “We’re going to put out a full-length album,” Courtney reveals. “[It means] we don’t have to have every song we create feel like a single; we can experiment more and have more fun exploring different song structures. I just feel like, over the last couple of years, everyone in the band has decided that we also sometimes want to have fun when we’re playing our music!”