Breaking through the walls of genres, Spiritbox has melodies that would blow anyone away. There is a beauty in their suffering and it needs to be heard.
Courtney LaPlante, formally the vocalist of iwrestledabearonce, collides with her husband Michael Stringer to give the world Spiritbox. Spiritbox was first released in 2017 and created a fresh sound, with unique screams, vocals, and incredible time signatures. Spiritbox vocalist, Courtney LaPlante sits down with Loud Hailer to discuss quite a bit. She talks about her former band vs. her new band, music videos, and a ton more!
LH: I just want to throw out there before I start this interview, that I love your band. You guys are amazing.
Courtney: Oh my god. That’s so weird to hear!
LH: Every single song is phenomenal. I just can’t believe how good you guys sound.
Courtney: Oh, we’re still so new, it’s so crazy to hear people actually physically get to hear someone’s voice say that, because right now were just such an internet band, it’s all of those comments on YouTube and stuff. I don’t get to actually hear that from somebody in person or on the phone. That’s amazing to hear.
LH: Well, I think I found you guys on my recommended for “Belcarra” on the Dreambound YouTube, and I actually fell in love. I actually have already streamed you guys over 150 times in the last seven days.
Courtney: Oh my god. Well, thank you. Thanks for the plays.
LH: You guys released the “Belcarra” music video and, along with a vocal cover that you did live. What has the response been and how did it feel to finally get that song out there, because it is powerful?
Courtney: We are so excited because we shot that music video in December and we had this song done since, god, I guess June or something like that. Yeah. So the song’s been done since June of 2018 and we shot the video in December 2018, and so we’ve just been sitting there wanting to put this song out for a long time, but we just kept pushing it back, because we just wanted to make sure it was a good release and we had all our artwork looking good, and we added our own video, so we wanted to make sure that it was looking as good as possible, right? So, it was so awesome to finally put out that really more heavy song, because we led all of our releases with a bit more of a groovy, more prog song, so it was nice. This song is a little tornado of heaviness, so I’m happy to dump this one on the world.
LH: Yeah, and I do agree with that. Songs like “Perennial” and “Electric Cross” and then you put “Belcarra” out there and it’s just like, “Whoa.” That was definitely a song that had power!
Courtney: It’s definitely a 180.
LH: Yes, definitely for sure. You mentioned that you guys edit your own videos. I would like to say that, as a person that has definitely dove into you guys head first, you really take pride in the music videos. They’re edited well, they’re unique, and I sort of get a ’90s vibe in some of the music videos.
Courtney: You know what? You probably get the ’90s is probably because aesthetically, the more low fi something is, the easier it is to pull off, you know what I mean?
Courtney: We really lean into the fact that our stuff is very low fi visually, because we’re literally just doing it ourselves on our iPhones, except for, of course, you can see if you were to look at all of our videos, I don’t even have to say this, because it’s so obvious, but our video for “Perennial” clearly was shot by a professional. Our friend Dylan did that one and so we’re hoping that he’s, we have one more song to put out, and we’re hoping that Dylan is going to direct that one, as well, so we can begin and end with Dylan doing our videos.
LH: What goes into making the videos? I’ve always been one to say that visuals are very important, and you guys seem to have an emphasis on visuals. Do you always try to make the best visual for the song, or do you make something a little different?
Courtney: Yeah. We don’t do it because we are truly talented at making visuals and stuff like that. We do it purely out of necessity, because we’re such a new band that any way that we could get more people to find out about our band and have sharable content that we can stand by is gonna help us so much rather than just putting out one song and hope people buy an EP. So, throughout the last year or so, Michael, my husband and our guitar player, we just taught ourselves how to do that and, obviously, our first and our only love is just making music and we’d rather focus on that. But, because of the necessity of needing to get people to be aware of our band, he’s really stumbled into finding that he’s actually quite good at doing music videos. But, in a perfect world, we would rather just pay the professionals to come up with, work with them to come up with something more finessed, but until that day comes, we want as many people to see us as possible, so we’re gonna continue to put out that visual aspect of our band. And it’s been really fun to learn how to do all that stuff.
LH: Now, what would you say has been your personal favorite music video to film?
Courtney: Well, obviously the one that our friend Dylan did, “Perennial,” was really cool because we got to watch a professional work, but I loved shooting… you know what? I think my favorite one was the one from our previous EP release that we put out last year. It’s a song called “The Mara Effect, Part One,” and I like that one because that was the first time that we got to make an actual performance music video. Before that, it was just more of a storyboarded video, because we didn’t have a full band to do a live performance then, and so I was so happy when I got to do that one, because it was really, really simple, because we finally got to perform a song as a band in a more traditional sense. So, that was my favorite one to do, I’d say. It’s like an all black and white video and we’re in an old warehouse. If you get time to check it out.
LH: Oh, I’ve seen all the videos. I’ve seen every single one of them.
Courtney: Oh, cool!
LH: I’d have to say that my personal favorite, I think, would have to be, I’d definitely say “The Mara Effect, Part 3” would be my favorite. I thought just the white water around your face and how you moved around, and it was appropriate for the tone of the song, as well. Just the movements that you had and I felt like, especially at the end, when you’re mixing the screams and clings together, it all meshed together so well and I just felt like it was very artistic.
Courtney: Well, that one was literally just Michael just standing above me on our bathtub and me lip syncing the song, which I couldn’t hear, because my ears were under the water and I had to just hope that I was on time. And then, we spent $10 on a couple gallons of milk and then $10 on some flour, and that’s all that, and he just shot it on his iPhone.
LH: Wait. So you were in a bathtub filled with milk?
Courtney: Yeah. You put in half water and then a couple gallons of milk and it all works out.
LH: Now, one more general question about the video. In the “Perennial” video, when you were actually in the body of water, you had this effect on your face. It was really bright and glittery. How did you guys manage to get that effect? It was really cool.
Courtney: Oh, well, I literally had glitter all over my whole body. I was covered in glitter. So, if you saw me in person, I looked crazy, but Bill, our bass player, his wife happens to be a professional makeup artist, so she was kind enough, for that video, to come and do my makeup for all the scenes. She put glitter from my whole head down to my chest and my arms and my fingers, everything, so I was covered in glitter, so it looks very, I’m so glad that you could kind of see that, because it was really subtle, but it makes me so happy because it was very uncomfortable to be covered in glitter for 10 hours, because I had to wait. She was leaving that day to go back to, we live on the island, and she was leaving that day to go back to Vancouver, and so she had to put the glitter on me before she left, but we had to wait till sunset to do that scene, so I had to just sit there all day covered with head to toe with glitter.
LH: I want to dive a little deeper into the music. Now, these are some crazy comparisons, but honestly, especially you said that your bass player, his name is Bill, correct?
Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LH: Okay. I want to say that he is definitely a big force in the music, because those bass lines that he’ll drop throughout these random parts of the song and your husband bending up on a string, that’s crazy. They’re just wildly talented and you guys all mesh so well together.
Courtney: Oh, yeah.
LH: I wanted to point out that I have actually been a fan of yours for quite a while!
Courtney: Oh, no way. You liked IWABO (Iwrestledabearonce]?
LH: Yeah, I loved them.
Courtney: Oh, that’s so cool. Thank you.
LH: Yeah. When I found out you were in iwrestledabearonce, I was like, “What?!” I even remember you guys playing at a small venue when you were part of it, and it was really cool. So, just to see that transition is pretty great. So, my question would be, obviously you still have a lot of the screams and there’s an emphasis on heavy, but there’s also a more art. If I could give you a genre, I would say art metal, because it’s just so well constructed.
Courtney: Oh, that’s a good genre. I like that.
LH: Thank you, thank you. What was the transition like, as far as writing, when you wanted to change it up a little bit, what was the mindset going into Spiritbox versus iwrestledabearonce?
Courtney: Hmmm. You know what? For me, since I’m always the last to touch the song, so whatever Michael creates, I lend to that to try to make the part as good as it can be, so I never think about, “Oh, I want to sing more, I wanna scream more.” I just look at the part and I’m like, “What would serve the part?” Luckily, I’ve been getting to write music with Michael for a long time, because he was also in iwrestledabearonce. He wrote our last record that we had called Hail Mary. And so, the transition there, it’s so different I think, because, finally I’d been in iwresteledabearonce for years, which was obviously the coolest thing I’d ever done. It was so fun. But, it was weird. I had never been in somebody’s shadow like that before, and so I was always the replacement vocalist, right?
Courtney: And so, getting to transition back, which is great, because if Krysta, the singer, just come in there and kick ass for so many years, then I never would’ve gotten that opportunity to be on that platform. But, at the same time, after a while, it wears on you. You feel like the other woman. People don’t really receive you as well as the original person. So, it was so nice to finally go back to playing my own music that I wrote every single note and every single lyric on there and I wasn’t ever singing anyone else’s song and there’s no one to compare me to, because I’m the only person that’s every been in the band. So, that transition was very refreshing for me because, as positive as an experience with iwresteledabearonce was, being in someone else’s shadow, especially someone that I looked up to so much, it just really kinda wore me down after a while, you know? It sucks when you’re out there, you’re giving your all, you’re playing your heart out, and then someone’s like, “We love Krysta!” I’m like, “Ah, come on, guys. Save it for after the show amongst yourselves. Geez.” And like I said, the positive experiences vastly outweigh the negative, but I’m happy that I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
LH: Well now, you’ve talked about how you write the song. You get something from the other band members, and then you kind of morph, and doing research,I was listening to a prior interview with you after the release of Spiritbox, and you were saying how you’re different in writing than most. You approach it how you like to give the instrumentalist all the space and freedom they need, and you will morph your voice into their song. Does that tend to present a new challenge that maybe makes you work even harder to create the best song?
Courtney: It does, because Michael always throws me for a loop with his writing, and I think, for this band, it’s really weird, because iwresteledabearonce was so, it’s more frenetic energy and it was so spastic, and this is the right hand stuff. The groove part of the band really throws me for a loop, and Michael, the way that he writes songs, the time signatures that he uses I find so weird and it’s always a challenge to figure out where the beginning of the part is and where the end of the part it is for me, and it’s always quite the challenge for me. But, I think it makes it so I have to think outside the box a little bit. So, in that way, it can be quite stressful, but I think helps me maybe pull a little bit more creativity out.
LH: Yeah, definitely.
Courtney: Yeah, I think it helps me in the long run.
LH: And I don’t know how you feel about direct comparisons, but the one thing that your band kind of reminded me of, I always said if Tool would’ve been more of a metal band, they would have had the sound like you guys.
Courtney: I love that, yeah. I love that. If I could ever get a comparison to Deftones meets Tool, that’s the biggest compliment, because I love bands like that that have such a fluidity in what they’re doing, because a band like Tool, they can do anything. They can have a really heavy metal part or they can really let the groove just ride and have more of a funky groove influence, and that’s my dream, is that we can just put out whatever we want and on one will ever second guess it, you know? I love bands like that, because they don’t live in a little box. They’re very fluid in what they put out.
LH: What you guys do especially mixing different genres together, I think it can be a risk, but I think, if executed well, I think it turns into something magical like you guys have ended up creating.
Courtney: Ah, thank you.
LH: Your vocals are insane.
LH: Especially the higher pitched screams, and I was watching your live covers of “Belcarra” and “The Beauty Of Suffering,” which is my personal favorite song, by the way.
Courtney: Oh, thank you. I love that song. That one I listen to every once in a while and I still am in love with “The Beauty Of Suffering.” My heart skips a beat when I hear it again.
LH: It’s great, and I really feel like if someone would say, “Give me one song to see what Spiritbox is all about, in one track,” it would definitely be “The Beauty Of Suffering.”
Courtney: Oh, yeah. I agree.
LH: When you’re performing, even in those live covers, you were just so talented. You make it look super easy to bust out these haunting screams.
Courtney: That makes me happy that you think that, because I’m sweating so hard in those, because by the time I nail it, I’d probably done it four or five times. I’ll go and then I’ll mess up and I’ll be like, “Ah, shit. All right. Let me try again. I was a little flat on this part.” So, by the time the recorded part comes out, I’m just sweaty and I’m a mess, so I’m glad that you can’t tell. I guess the camera’s far enough away from me that you can’t see that I’m out of breath and sweaty. It’s also a lot easier to stand there and sing versus jumping around on stage, so sometimes when I’m practicing, I jump up and down and I make sure that I’m getting that cardiovascular workout. Then, when I get actually just stand there and do my singing, I’m like, “Ah, so much easier. So much better.”
LH: Now, what in the world do you do to keep those vocal chords fresh and to be able to take care of them? What’s your secret?
Courtney: Well, I think, for me, I would love to know what the secret is, because if I were to critique my singing, I don’t scream or sing properly and I really, really have been working hard to have a more protective way of doing my vocal style, and I’ve worked very hard for the last six years and I’ve come a long way. But, I think, for me, the main thing is to preserve my voice. I only practice for 20 or 30 minutes at a time and when I’m done, before I do a show or after I do a show, I don’t talk very much. I’m on vocal rest all the time, and that kind of helps to preserve my vocals. People that have a more protective way of screaming, singing like they don’t scream so loud and it’s not so much in their throat, their trade-off is they get to talk after the shows and have fun, have a couple drinks. But, I have to put myself in a little purgatory jail, because I have to always think about conserving my voice, which is really annoying on tour, because I wanna go have fun and stay up late and stuff. But, I’m still trying to figure out that magic formula. That was a long-winded way of me saying I still need to work harder to figure out how to become better at vocals, because I haven’t figured out that perfect formula, yet.
LH: Well, you wouldn’t be able to tell listening to the music or watching the performances.
Courtney: Thank you.
LH: When you scream, are you exhaling or are you inhaling?
Courtney: Exhaling, and I really have a lot of that false chord fry in my voice. It’s really a lot of power and from my chest and my throat. Now, if you were to take the people that are really, really, really good vocalists, and you were to take me and them and put us side by side and have a decibel measurer next to each other, they would be 50% of the loudness that I use, or 20% of the loudness that I am, because they’ve figured out a way to have that really maximum, really powerful sound without using so much volume, because that takes so much energy and force on your voice. So, the way I do it, I’m just so loud. My scream without a microphone is crazy loud. The more breathiness I can get in there, the more protected on a 60 day tour and the better my voice will be, but I think that’s why I sound the way I do, because I just have so much, I’m so tense when I do it. If you look at videos of me, my mouth isn’t relaxed, my chest isn’t relaxed. I’m really tense. That’s the only way I can explain it.
LH: Well, you’ve got some good moves. When the bands doing some breakdowns, you usually have some good moves there waving your arms. You’ve got some good dance moves. I think it adds a little bit to the performance.
Courtney: Oh my god. Thank you. I look like somebody’s mom. I look like someone like, “Who let their mom into this metal show?” I’m just dancing like a weirdo, but I just feel the music and I don’t care. I think as soon as you start thinking about how you look onstage, you’re like, “Oh, I’ve gotta walk over here and do this move at this time,” and it starts to look really forced. But, in that “Belcarra” video, I purposefully wanted to look like a weird, my goal was to look like a weird cult leader, preacher guy who is trying to get everyone all riled up and have the holy spirit running through their veins and stuff. But, everyone told me that I look like a mom doing Fortnite dancing. That’s okay. I embrace it.
LH: Well, I want to ask a sillier question. Did you plan it, or was it just a coincidence that you were wearing the exact same thing in the “Belcarra” video as you were on the live vocal performance?
Courtney: Yeah, I planned that, because I have that yellow dress and stuff for the “Belcarra” video. I have a yellow sweater that’s the same color, so I was like, “Oh, I might as well just keep with the scene.” And I also am broke and I really don’t have a lot of clothing, so it’s possible it’s all gonna look the same. We’re probably gonna do a photo shoot today and I’m like, “What do I wear? I’ve already worn all this stuff in all these other photo shoots?” So, I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m just gonna repeat my outfits.”
LH: I gotta ask you, what is in the future for Spiritbox?
Courtney: Well, the future is looking very bright. One of the things that’s been holding us back this whole time, which we don’t really ever talk about is me and Michael started this band, just the two of us, and then we were very fortunate enough to get Bill, which was great because we have someone else to bounce ideas off of and write with and stuff. And then, finally, after so long, we finally found our knight in shining armor of a drummer, Ryan, whose actually ordering me a coffee right now and getting me McDonald’s and driving me around while I’m talking to you.
LH: What a good guy!
Courtney: What a guy. And it was so amazing to finally have a drummer click, because I’m not a drummer, but I think it’s very difficult to play and it was so hard to find somebody who could play it. And now we have him and he is so good. We finally get to practice together and just make our lives to the best it could be and we were so fortunate to have him, so thank you, Ryan. You’re the best. Yeah. And, so it just really brings a lot of positive, creative energy, because now we can write with an actual drummer. Michael is very great at writing drums, but he’s so happy to actually have a drummer to bounce ideas off of now. The reason that we’re all, we all live in different places, but the reason that we’re all together right now is because we’re gonna have one last practice before we have our first ever show on March 12th in our hometown, and then we’re gonna go out to Alberta and do two shows with one of our favorite bands, Misery Signals.
LH: Oh, nice!
Courtney: Yeah. We’re so excited about that, because I’d like to go watch Misery Signals play a show anyway, so now I get to play with them, so that’s very special to us. And then, after that, we are gonna get together and do some live, I’m telling you this now to hold us accountable to actually do it. We’re gonna do some live studio sessions of our songs, and I want us to do “The Mara Effect One,” “Two” and “Three” all together and do a studio session. And then, we have to shoot another music video for our last song that we have to put out. And then, after that, it’s just time to find that really perfect, comfortable tour that everyone feels comfortable sacrificing their time and their money for. So, we’re just waiting for that opportunity, because we love, love, love playing live and we wanna get our music out on the road to gain a bigger audience. So, I think when that opportunity presents itself, we’re just open to the opportunity right now. Once it presents itself, I feel like that’s just gonna really take things up to the next level. I have nothing planned yet, other than just doing content and vocal playthroughs and stuff to put up on our YouTube channel, but my dream is that we can start touring. And also, Ryan and his wife are having a baby in May, so that’s another giant thing happening for the band. We’re welcoming the next generation in.
LH:That’s right, to keep Spiritbox going.
Courtney: Yeah, and we’ll have a baby on tour. We’ll bring the wives and babies on tour. We’re a family band at heart.
LH: That’s right. And I do wanna point out that when you do get that plan, please, please put Florida on there somewhere. Please.
Courtney: Oh my god. We have to. Everyone loves playing in Florida. We get to go to the beautiful nice weather, instead of being in the shi**y weather everywhere else and go there in the winter. So, we will be there. Yeah. We wanna come sweat in Florida.
LH: After the music video is released, do you guys plan on releasing another EP or do you guys have any plans for another collection of music to be released?
Courtney: Yeah, yeah. I think what we’ll do, and we’re all gonna get together and try to write a couple best songs we’ve ever written and use that as a platform to try to get as much notice from labels and all that, those kinds of people that might be able to help us financially and showcase ourselves, and hopefully that will give us some leverage and show that we’re ready to go up to the next level. So, that’s my goal, but first we’ve gotta write those perfect songs. We’re just gonna put all of our blood, sweat and tears into that. We have a lot of ideas and Michael has so many things in the vault, but I think we also got to get together and figure out what we want the next step to be. I think whatever it is, it’s just gonna be, I think my number one goal is trim the fat. I wanna always have one foot firmly planted in progressive metal and groove and letting a song progress and take it the time to become that ear worm, but then I wanna have another firmly planted in trimming the fat off the song that isn’t necessary to be there. I think that’s why “Belcarra” is such a fun song, because it doesn’t groove a lot.
LH: Right. It definitely is a fun song and it’s definitely an anthem and the lyrics are incredible.
Courtney: Thank you.
LH: One thing I want to ask you for my own personal curiosity, I notice you have a lot of cool tattoos. Which one of your tattoos is most personal to you, and have you ever written any songs around, or has any of your tattoos been a thought process in any of the writing that you’ve ever done?
Courtney: Oh, cool. I never thought of that. No, I’ve never thought of that, but I think my favorite one of mine is the one on my forearm, because that one’s for my grandparents. It’s a harp that’s on the back of an Irish penny farthing that my grandma brought over when she moved here from Ireland. And then, the harp has 13 strings because my grandpa is the 13th of 19 children in family. So, I think that’s my most favorite one. But, I’ve never written anything about that. Maybe you’ve given me some inspiration for my next song.
Be on the lookout for this band in the future! They have bright things ahead of them.