Named after a paranormal device used to contact ghosts, Canadian post-metalcore trio Spiritbox have been hailed by fans and critics alike as one of the best new bands to watch in 2021. Arriving on the scene back in 2017, Spiritbox found themselves spiralling into greater success following the release of their 2020 single Holy Roller – its Midsommar-style music video has over 2 million views and counting.
Now signed to Rise Records, Spiritbox are in the midst of recording their highly-anticipated debut album, and vocalist Courtney LaPlante has started a brand new podcast Good For A Girl. The podcast is an inside look at the realities and challenges of being a woman in the music industry, with a sharp focus on the male-dominated world that is the metal scene. LaPlante was in metal band Iwrestledabearonce before starting Spiritbox, and on the podcast she speaks to other women who are claiming their space within the business, like musicians, Radio DJs, record executives and more.
In conversation with the Spiritbox leader, we learn about her industry life lessons, her experience with ultra-sexist record labels, and the state of the band's upcoming new record.
When and why did you come up with the idea for the Good For A Girl podcast?
“I came up with it because I was trying to figure out something to offer our patrons on our Patreon page. It’s also an excuse for me to hang out with other women, as I live on an island in Canada so I haven’t really come across many women in the industry, and I haven’t on my travels either. It was a way for me to learn from them and I got such a great reaction from our patrons too. Plus, every musician in the industry during the pandemic has made a podcast. I didn’t even think of doing it as I didn’t wanna clog up the radio waves, but then I thought about it more, and realised that one like this was missing.
“It’s an escapism thing, too. I thought that it would be important for other people, not just women, to listen to us and humanise us. I think people forget that women are 50 percent of the population of the world, so there’s not really an excuse to be so out of touch with us being actual, real, multi-faceted people.”
Is this why Good For A Girl is important to you?
“Yes because that’s all of us. It’s a thing [as women] we all hear. Like, ‘Yeah you’re good...for a girl.’ The only people that we put in a different class are children. Like, ‘He’s a really good guitar player for a 5 year old’.”
Working in the music industry, what would you say has been the most important thing you’ve learnt and what has been the biggest surprise?
“I’ve biggest thing I’ve learnt is to really advocate for yourself and to not be so caught up in being worried about pleasing people. Because honestly when it comes down to it, if it’s not an authentic thing and you’re just trying to make sure everyone’s getting along, it always bites you in the ass in the end. I’d much rather someone think I’m a bitch and not want to work with me, rather than me work with them under a condition that I’m not really doing what I want to do.
“And a big surprise for me has been the amount of amazing women behind the scenes. That there’s all these women working out there that are there for me, that I didn’t even know existed.”
In metal especially, there usually seems to be a community of individuals who tend to react negatively to anything they define as “woke”, like women-led, political, etc. What has been the reaction to the podcast so far, and have you experienced any of this backlash?
“A little bit, but that’s what is so interesting about it. Sometimes you get so worked up about people being negative towards what you’re doing, or being frustrated because they’re clearly not understanding what you’re saying. Then you look at it and it’s the same people that are the loudest, so it’s really not that many people. I’ll go through and think, ‘Look at these mean comments’, and then I’ll be like, wait a second, this the same three guys, commenting the same stuff over and over.
“And then the day before International Women’s Day, I wrote a piece for Kerrang!, and it’s so ironic if you read it, because the article is basically me just explaining some of my negative experiences. The article is not really speaking to men, it's speaking to other women, specifically white women about how we need to actually hold ourselves accountable to have all women to be a part of feminism, and not just post infographics on our Instagram to make us feel woke and superior. We have to actually protect each other and have some intersectionality in our feminism. But the comments are literally just guys saying that I’m making up my experiences. They are there to invalidate my experiences, and it’s so ironic because there are no women in there going, ‘Wait a second, don’t paint all women the same way, we aren’t all a bunch of performative-wokeness ladies!'"
Would you say it's similar to being classed as a “female-fronted” band, as opposed to being known for your genre?
“Yeah, it’s so bizarre. And also, there’s the other side to it, the swing of the pendulum is that guys will think they are complimenting you by saying, ‘I hate all female metal vocalists they are all horrible and they suck, but you’re good. All the other ones are all slutty whores, but I like that you wear a turtleneck.’ I’m literally butt naked in three of our music videos. Just because you chose not to sexualise me in that capacity, doesn’t mean that I’m not a sexual being.
“And it’s so interesting because if I am doing what I want, and maybe another time I dress more revealing because I think that’s fucking awesome, then those people are gonna feel betrayed in some way because through seeing you like a flat one-dimensional being, they think you can’t be both.
“But I think we can all be both professional and sexy. Just like a guy can be very responsible and non-sexual and then when he chooses to be objectified he can take his shirt off and choose whether to be objectified or not, where he feels comfortable.”
What are you aiming to change through your work on your podcast, if anything?
“I want to change the music industry and hold all these people accountable that have been gatekeeping it. Every success that a metal band has helps the rest of us. The women, or those who identify as women, or even non-binary people who are moving forward and succeeding helps all of us because it makes our voice bigger. I just want to keep growing and dominating so I can start to make a change from the inside.
“Like when we were going around to labels, there were so many labels that were so sexist, and they didn't even realise they were being sexist because they don’t understand it. So it feels so great to prove all those record labels wrong, and then actually get to revisit working with them and tell them why I chose not to work with them. Because worse case scenario it’ll make me feel I got to be like ‘fuck you’, and then best case scenario it helps change their behaviour."
What happened at those record labels?
“One time when we were shopping the band around two years ago, this label felt completely comfortable in saying, ‘Oh you know what, this band is cool but we already signed a girl metal band and it didn’t do very well.’ And I was like, ‘You also signed a 100 shitty guy metal bands that didn’t do very well, are you gonna not sign any more bands with men in them?’
“My manager said to me, ‘You know this is great, these people are making themselves loud and clear to us, and we know that we never need to entertain working with them. I’m happy they are being vocally misogynistic and sexist because we don’t have to waste our time.’”
In your first episode of the podcast you said men usually look at women in bands as “gimmicks”. What needs to change to get men to stop viewing women in this way?
“I think one of the things that need to change is that we just need metal to become a more diverse group of listeners. I was watching an old Metallica concert, and I looked out, it was during the Black album phase, and half the crowd was women. And if you look at heavy music, if you look at Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, half the crowd is women. And I feel like metal, if I’m just going off my own listenership, the 50 percent has really moved away from women and metal has become a very monolithic group of listeners. It’s straight white men. And there’s nothing wrong with those people listening to it, but I always feel that when a music genre has a very narrow scope of listeners, it usually has lasting problems on the genre for its staying power, because I don’t think you can really succeed in making lasting music if you’re not creating it for all different types of people.
“But I think it’s changing. I think metal is becoming more diverse and therefore the genre itself will become better and stronger, because I think that diversity creates better art. I really truly believe that, so I think that the pendulum is swinging back. Because that was the heyday of metal music; there were more people that listened to it. I feel now it's lost its way sometimes, but I think it's finding it again. I think metal really is becoming more powerful and good.
“That’s a long winded way of explaining why we’re looked at as a gimmick, but basically it’s because there's not a lot of us. And for some reason a lot of people only see the identity first when they see someone who looks different to them.”
You also mention that there’s a pattern of men or “haters” putting women down through belittling them or patronising them, etc. What do you think is the intention behind this?
“I think the reason why they do that is because men have been taught by society that they are superior to us, and they don’t really have a lot of evidence to dispute that because that's what most of us have been brought up thinking. And I think that as a musician, especially as a lead singer, you are like the ringleader, you are the commander in chief of the whole show, and that's generally a masculine trait, at least that’s what we’re taught.
“My experiences are just like everyone’s else's, and when people are like, ‘What's it like? [being a woman]’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, it’s the same as your job or any job, there’s a lot of stuff that's annoying and some stuff that's actually physically dangerous, and you’re actually in danger. And it frustrates me so much when people are surprised at that like, ‘Oh really? I didn’t know that you had been assaulted by a guy?’ and I’m like, ‘Have you ever met a human woman? Literally all of us have been.’ The math isn’t added up guys, all of us have had something bad happen to us but somehow none of you have done it.
“If I found that my whole demographic was doing some horrible thing, my first thought would not be, ‘Well, I don’t do it’, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, we gotta figure this shit out.’ I think it’s getting better though, I think not my generation but the next one, Gen Z, they are more humanist, I think they don’t see categories of people as much, they see you as human and then your sub category.”
So what can we expect in your later episodes of the podcast?
“Well in my first couple of episodes I’m talking to people that are more like myself, frontwomen, such as Caity [Babbs from SiriusXM] who is an amazing radio host and like a leader. I talked to Booka [Nile] from Make Them Suffer, who’s very much in front of the scene. And soon I’ll be talking to my friend Chaney [Crabb] from the band Entheos.
“The last couple episodes of what I’ll be putting out from this season will feature the people behind the scenes who are actually running everything. Those are the people that I’m the most fascinated by because it’s not really my experience. I think of them as the faceless puppet masters controlling everything. I’m learning so much from these women who are so badass, they’re like who I want to be someday with the power that they have and the integrity. They trust their intuition so much because that's their job.”
And lastly, can you give any hints on what the new Spiritbox record sounds like, what state it’s in and what people should expect?
“We’ve done our album, we’re done physically tracking it. Now we’re about to get into the monotony of mixing it, but I can’t believe it. This is the first time I’ve said it out loud. I’ve only listened to it fully a couple times as of now, but at least till we have all the track placement, you can expect to get pummelled with full anger and sadness. Like over and over.
“I’ve got to figure out the tracklisting because it's too much, it's too intense, you need breathing room in an album. This is a product of something that we didn’t want to have two years to develop, but we got about a good year almost 2 years, so the songs feel very lived in. They feel very familiar because we’ve been working on them for so long. So Constance and Holy Roller are the two singles that we put out in 2020, which we consider the outliers of the album, and the rest is everything in between that. I told someone else it’ll be like you’re in the mosh pit but crying. Crying in the mosh pit.”
Spiritbox’s debut album is due for release this year via Rise Records. The first three episodes of the Good For A Girl podcast are available now.