Spiritbox: Rising Canuck Metal Trio Is a True Labor of Love | Page 2 | Revolver

Spiritbox: Rising Canuck Metal Trio Is a True Labor of Love

How former members of iwrestledabearonce took hold of their destiny
spiritbox PRESS 2020 collage
Spiritbox

When Courtney LaPlante and husband Michael Stringer were finally given the time and space to form the band of their dreams, they had more disagreements than their years of marriage combined. What should the artwork look like? Fire or flowers? Black or blue? Working through those nitty-gritties felt much like marriage therapy, or even parenting for the first time. "We disagreed on so much," LaPlante reflects, "I'm talking, like, the color of the corner of a piece of artwork. All of the little things." While fundamentally aligned on all the big-picture stuff, LaPlante and Stringer weren't prepared for all the hours spent bickering over color palettes on Photoshop that were in store for them. But the fights have been worth it. Having recently entered their thirties, and with two decades of experience in the music industry between them, the couple finally have a band they can truly call their own: Spiritbox.

When their former group iwrestledabearonce broke up around 2016 without so much as a goodbye note, LaPlante and Stringer, who weren't founding members, were determined to recreate the success they enjoyed during the Myspace metalcore era on their own terms. Two years after iwrestledabearonce went off air for good, the couple moved to a small island in Canada and reemerged as Spiritbox in late 2017 with their self-released, eponymous debut EP. Spritzed with the sound of the device they named the band after (a "spirit box" scans AM and FM frequencies, and can supposedly pick up ghost voices in the white noise), their reintroduction to the world showcased the couple's omnivorous, genre-cannibalizing approach to metal, as the sound of industrial electronica clattered alongside mathcore riffs, shoegazing melody and pop-inflected hooks. They've developed a steady cult following since, with a legion of Patreon followers eager to take in their every move, and have become a firm favorite of metal radio stations across the globe, with their most recent single "Holy Roller" earning the a spot on Liquid Metal's "Devil's Dozen" list. It's an achievement, LaPlante and Stringer can finally say, they've earned all by themselves. 

Before she met Stringer, LaPlante saw herself as an actress, not a metal frontperson. That changed the day she learned the necessary lesson so many "gifted" kids have to face. She was good, but she wasn't the best. "When I was 15, I moved from a town in Alabama where I had 150 people in my class, to Canada where I had 1,500," she recalls. "I was the type of person, who, if they knew someone better than them was trying out for the role in the school play they wanted, they just wouldn't try out." Having written songs when she was younger, "but never having the audacity to release them into the world," she redirected her creativity toward making music with her younger brother.

While LaPlante was listening to "lame hipster, indie shit" à la The Garden State soundtrack at the time, her brother was attempting to induct her into metal. Rage Against the Machine was a core early influence. "One day my brother wrote a song that had a breakdown in it, and I was like, 'What should I do over this?' And he said, 'You should scream, you know, like the music I showed you.'" She gave it a try. The result was a little like a lion trying to roar for the first time. "There's always been something very primal about it. There's no stronger way I can express myself other than when I do the screaming vocals," she says now. "There's no singing note I could sing that compares to the feeling of it. It vibrates through your whole skull. It feels very powerful. It's almost like removing gender from the sound." She kept practicing that obliterating, genderless sound and soon began showcasing it across her small town, taking her down a path that would not only lead her towards the rest of her life, but towards the love of her life, too. 

Having grown up in the same small, sleepy part of Canada, LaPlante can still vividly recall the moment she met her future husband and Spiritbox's co-founder. "It was June 2008," she says. "His band and mine were playing at the same anarchist bookstore." While Stringer was the same age as her younger brother, the LaPlante siblings both looked on with awe as he showcased his precocious instrumental talent. "When you're his age, you'll be as good as him," an 18-year-old LaPlante assured her younger brother, unaware that the guitarist he was envying was also only 16. "He always stood out," she notes.

Having played the same circuit of radical bookstores and small-town venues, LaPlante and Stringer didn't significantly enter into one another's lives until they were 23 and 22, respectively. "It was at that point I realized that I didn't love him, I was in love with him," she says. It turned out Stringer felt the same. Their romantic and working relationships as musicians soon became inextricable — at which point, any moment they weren't together began to feel jarring. "It's all we've known, LaPlante says. "It's not out of the ordinary for us to spend 24/7 together." The ascending supercouple have intertwined almost every facet of their lives. They wake up each morning to go to the same health-data-entering day job, working the same hours there, before coming home to collaborate together on the band.

In her mid-twenties, LaPlante took time off from her day job when she was enlisted to replace iwrestledabearonce's former vocalist Krysta Cameron, while Stringer was brought in as guitarist. It was an exciting experience — which LaPlante describes as "a masterclass in touring the world and recording a record" — but the couple's creative dreams weren't being fulfilled. "It just wasn't the same as starting your own band," she reflects, "because we were coming into something already established, the vision of those people." 

Iwrestledabearonce wasn't paying the bills, either. "I literally didn't have enough to buy a pair of pants. I couldn't even afford to get them patched up," LaPlante says. "But people who aren't in the music industry probably think we all have houses and cars and stuff." It'll be a while before she and Stringer are able to leave their data-entry jobs in order to pursue Spiritbox full time, but they don't intend on stopping until they get there.

They have a real shot at that goal. Rounded out by bassist Bill Crook, Spiritbox present a unique, soft-hard, progressive version of metal at a time when the genre seems to be permeating popular culture more and more. For LaPlante, though, the band's greatest value is personal. "I'm very plagued by depression and sadness a lot, and I'm lucky that my coping mechanism also happens to be marketable," she says. Spiritbox have fortified her marriage, too. "Yes, the lines are very blurred in our relationship, but being in a band together has made us more honest with one another," she reflects. "Even if we weren't together, we would have found each other and made music together. We're music soulmates, too."