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Spiritbox are the hottest young band in heavy music, and as such, they're among the cover stars of our new Fall 2021 Issue. (The issue's other cover stars? Oh you know, just two little bands called Metallica and Mastodon.) For the cover story, we visited singer Courtney LaPlante and her husband and bandmate, guitarist Mike Stringer — both formerly of Iwrestledabearonce — at home on Vancouver Island in Canada. We learned a lot from our time with the couple, from the twists and turns of their pre-Spiritbox days to the otherworldly location that instilled their new album, Eternal Blue, with "a weird feel." Below are 10 takeaways.
1. The viral video of a nine-year-old girl covering Spiritbox's "Holy Roller" still brings tears to Courtney LaPlante's eyes
In July, a young musician named Harper uploaded her very first video to YouTube: a professionally-recorded cover of the Spiritbox heater "Holy Roller." The nine-year-old legitimately nailed LaPlante's ferocious range and brought the power of a vocalist twice her size and with many more years of experience. The clip quickly went viral and eventually reached LaPlante, who is still emotionally affected by Harper's performance. "I can't even think about it without tearing up," the Spiritbox singer told us.
2. LaPlante moved from Jacksonville, Alabama, to her current hometown, Vancouver Island, as a teen — and she adamantly did not want to go
"I didn't even know that this place existed," she recalled. "I didn't get to that part of learning about Canada. I was just like, 'British what? An island? Are you guys fucking with me? I was like, 'The second I turn 18, I'm fucking leaving this place [and] I'm moving back [to Alabama]. This is bullshit!' But my uncle was like, 'You're not going to understand this now but trust me — you've grown up in a very sheltered place and you're about to be about to be exposed to a lot of new experiences and people. You're never going to come back here. You're going to love it there.' And he was right!"
3. Before enlisting bassist Bill Crook for Spiritbox, Mike Stringer was a fan of his band A Textbook Tragedy
As a young guitar player, Stringer fell for Canadian prog-metal bands like Protest the Hero and A Textbook Tragedy, the latter a frantic, Vancouver-based band featuring Crook, as well as Baptists/Sumac/Genghis Tron drummer Nick Yacyshyn. Stringer's first band, Fall in Archaea, closely followed in those groups' head-spinning, polyrhythmic footsteps.
4. LaPlante had never played with Iwrestledabearonce before her first show with them in 2012
LaPlante's first band, Unicron, put the singer's skills into the ears of metalcore deconstructionists Iwrestledabearonce. When that band's original vocalist Krysta Cameron unexpectedly split in the middle of a Warped Tour in 2012, LaPlante was contacted out of the blue to fill-in for the rest of the dates. With only 24 hours notice, she nailed that first gig — though she was flying blindly behind the mic.
"We never played together," LaPlante explained. "When I walked out onstage, you think I knew how to sing those fuckin' songs? Hell no! I tried to learn what I could on the plane, but I didn't know all the words. I was like, 'I'm just going to yell some shit!' It's just this complete inflated sense of self you have to have, to have the audacity to just walk out there and be like, 'I can do this!'"
5. After Iwrestledabearonce, LaPlante and Stringer consciously wanted to write catchier, less technical music
"My first band was very technical and dissonant — all over the place," Stringer told us. "Iwrestledabearonce was that, and so much more. I had a moment of being like, 'I just want to write a song and not worry about how many notes I'm putting in,'" the guitarist reveals of Spiritbox's M.O. "Before I was just so into shock value — how fast something could be, or how extreme I could push an instrument. When we were starting Spiritbox, it was more like, 'Could I have that same attitude, but with songwriting? How catchy can I make something?'"
6. Spiritbox recorded Eternal Blue on an isolated, 20-acre property in Joshua Tree, California, and the desert setting gave the album a ghostly vibe
Recording Eternal Blue in the middle of the pandemic, Spiritbox wanted to work in a remote location. They found one in the middle of the California desert. "You would go outside and you couldn't hear a single thing — pure silence," Stringer recalled. "It was like being in a sound proof room. You could see some cars in the distance, but that's about it. To live like that for 30 days gave the record a weird feel, I think."
7. LaPlante sometimes spotted eerie figures in the desert
Every once in a while, the singer thought she'd caught a glimpse of a stranger in the window — bringing up thoughts of the cannibalistic desert-dwellers from The Hills Have Eyes. "I'd get up, turn around and look at the mountains — in my head, I [felt] there'd be a guy just standing there, waiting to get you," LaPlante recalled. "That creeped me out!"
8. LaPlante's vocal performance was challenged by the aridness of the environment
"One thing I didn't anticipate was that it's so dusty there," she said. "By the end of the trip there started to be dust storms — I couldn't leave the house because it would affect my singing. I'd be like, 'Shut the patio door! I've got to do my thing!'"
9. Eternal Blue's title track is about feeling closed-off from the world after falling out with a friend, and it's based on a real-life experience
LaPlante dug deep for Eternal Blue and delved into some painful personal topics. The title cut, in particular, drew on dark days. "I was going through a really horrible, painful friendship breakup during that time, [but] that song [is about] being OK with that, and not feeling like there's something wrong with me," she explained. "It's me at my lowest point, but having comfort in that lowest point."
10. LaPlante hopes to help uproot entrenched sexist attitudes in heavy music
"All of us have chosen to surround ourselves with the good part of the metal world [but] there's still a fucked-up, misogynistic, sexist problem with our world," the singer told us. "As I'm getting older — more confident — [and] because of Harper, the girl who made the "Holy Roller" [cover], it makes me want to fuck it up and burn down the establishment, and the people that have gate-kept it from those who look different."