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Spiritbox: An eternity in the making

If we’ve found one sole upside to being stuck in lockdown, it’s all the free time we have to get our heads around the bands we never would have had checked out otherwise.

We know a lot of you out there feel the same, because in the past 18 months, there’s been a handful of bands that we’ve seen absolutely explode in stature. Spiritbox are certainly one of those, thanks in no short part to the cataclysmic eruption of grimy riffs, gory screams and glittery production that is ‘Holy Roller’. The Canadian alt-metallers have maintained a solid following since their 2016 inception – and deservedly so, with singles like ‘Perennial’ and ‘Trust Fall’ putting forth a band with incomputable potential – but it wasn’t until ‘Holy Roller’ dropped last July that Spiritbox’s hype train truly took off.

In the year or so since then, the trio – born from the ashes of vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer’s tenures in Iwrestledabearonce, and bassist Billy Brook’s in Living With Lions – have grown into one of the metal scene’s most exciting acts. Their soundscapes reign with combination of bruising, down-tuned crunch, soul-numbing cymbal crashes, kaleidoscopic synths, and vocals that span wistful, Disney-esque melodies to vicious, barbed-wire bellows. Every single that Spiritbox have dropped since ‘Holy Roller’ has shown us a different corner of the band’s musicality; it’s been a little polarising for those wanting big, ripping breakdowns and callous angst every time, but the unpredictability is honestly part of the charm: you never know what’s coming next with Spiritbox, and that’s exciting. 

In just a couple more days, fans will have a whole album’s worth of idiosyncratic intensity to unearth: Spiritbox’s full-length debut, Eternal Blue, is set to land on September 17th via Rise Records. And before it does BLUNT caught up with LaPlante to chat about the band feel on the cusp of their breakthrough, how the creative dynamic in Spiritbox differs from anything else its members have experienced, and how this fierce and fiery frontwoman found the strength to bare her soul completely in the studio.

After such a long time coming, how does it feel to be in the home stretch with Eternal Blue?
It kind of feels like there’s all this hype that we didn’t even intend to build! We wanted to put this record out last year, but we didn’t even get to make it until this spring, and now it’s like… It’s time for us to put our money where our mouth is, y’know? We’ve spent so long saying, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s coming, you’re gonna love it, we’re working so hard on it,” but now there’s no excuses to hide behind. The baby’s done, and it’s time to birth it, y’know? There’s no going, “Oh, we can’t put it out yet, you have to keep waiting” – it’s go time! So I’m feeling really excited; obviously a bit anxious as well, but I’m mostly just so excited to start sharing this music with the world, go on tour, and do all the fun things that surround releasing an album that I just desperately miss. 

To borrow from your own metaphor: how exactly did this record benefit from spending as long as it did in gestation?
I think we just had the privilege of being able to really micromanage everything. Sometimes that can be detrimental to whatever it is you’re doing, but I think it helped us feel more focussed, to compartmentalise the songs and just start to change things for the better – even if it isn’t something as severe as a tempo change or a bridge change. When you listen to a song over and over, and then you have the luxury of taking a long break from it – for months at a time, and in some cases even a year at a time – it really helps you look at the song again with a different perspective. And then maybe something you thought was cool a year ago, you realise it doesn’t really have a place in that song. It’s a luxury to have that time – I don’t think it’s something that most bands in our position have, y’know, because everything is just go, go, go!

So did the record go through much of a shape-shifting process between what you thought it would be when you started writing it, versus what it is today?
I think it just went from the demo stage to the final product. The demo stage is where it’s like everything you write is too slow, or too this, or too that, y’know? It’s always too something – and then something clicks where that thing you thought was too this or too that, you realise that all you needed to do was change the tone a little bit or change the BPM, and then all of a sudden it sounds great. I think it’s more just about having that “ah ha” moment with every song.

How did you want Eternal Blue to really encapsulate and embrace what Spiritbox is at its core?
I wanted it to be something you could listen to from the first song to the last. Obviously there are songs that we put out into the world that are… They’re singles, because we chose to make music videos for them, therefore it’s a single, in single format – but to me, that’s just a technicality. I feel like each one song this album is meant to be listened to from front to back – that’s my true intention for the album. I love the visual medium, and I think the songs can lend themselves so well to that, so of course I still want to make the music videos and put things out as singles – but if I had it my way, I’d do 12 music videos, one for each song, because they all belong together.

“I’ve always written about weird stuff, but I’ve also been hidden under a bunch of weird reverb and all these different effects, so now it’s like… It’s naked, y’know?”

How would you compare the creative dynamic of Spiritbox to the one you had with Iwrestledabearonce?
There’s just so much more room for creativity, because we’re not coming in there as, like, the cleanup crew. When you come into someone else’s band, no matter how open they are to all of your ideas, you’re still going to respect that it’s their band, and you’re catering to the already-built-in fanbase of that band. Of course you’re going to write whatever you want, but you also want to respect what’s already been cut and pasted there. Whereas in Spiritbox, y’know, I just find that having nothing to base my success or failure on is extremely liberating. 

Everything we do is the first X, the first Y, the first Z – it’s going to be a while before it’s the second or third time that we do this, that and the other. And so right now, it’s just… I find that it’s scary, but it’s also liberating to not have to have to sit there and say, “Well, we must play this song in the set, otherwise the fans will be mad!” It’s all those little things that bands have to think about as they get older and their fanbases develop; we just don’t have those issues right now, we can just go with the flow. It’s just very pure – we can just make music and hope people like it. And if they do, lovely! 

I think as far as the lyrical themes go, it’s clear you’re not afraid to explore some really heavy and poignant themes. Did this record take you very far out of your comfort zone as a songwriter?
I think lyrically, I felt very comfortable with most of what I was writing. The thing that I was more uncomfortable with was just letting my singing take the front seat. As a vocalist, I had always been a lot more hidden behind the instrumentation or vocal effects, and for this album, on a lot of the songs I’m really pushed to the forefront, and I can’t hide behind the guitar and the drums and stuff. So I actually felt like that part was a lot more stress-inducing – I have always had much less confidence about how my voice sounded. 

But I’ve had a lot of great changes happen to me in the last couple of years, with a lot of vocal injuries that I’ve had healing, so this album is like my chance to dunk on my vocal injuries and just be like, “Bye, bitch! Thanks for hanging out for ten years, I don’t need you anymore!” I’ve always written about weird stuff, but I’ve also been hidden under a bunch of weird reverb and all these different effects, so now it’s like… It’s naked, y’know? Everyone can see all the weird shit I’m saying, so I definitely feel very vulnerable. 

How do you reckon with the knowledge that once this album comes out, there’s gonna be hundreds and thousands of people out there that you’ve shared all these super personal emotions with?
I don’t [laughs]. I try not to think about it like that, because I think a lot of musicians that write really heavy stuff, who have very emotional music, the way they seem to be able to live with that is, once the song leaves them, it’s now their fans’ song. It’s not their song anymore. I think that gives you a bit more objectivity about the song, and you can view it with the ears of the person listening to it instead of as a songwriter. So I don’t get scared about that. I think it’s honestly the opposite – I sing in metaphors and I use a lot of imagery, so I still get to hide in that way. I think it’s a lot more soul-baring to go out and actually say what all those metaphors mean, and all the imagery that I put in my songs. Usually it comes down to things like sadness and depression, or alienation. But people that sing in more straightforward terms, that’s actually… That’s terrifying to me! That’s a goal of mine, to get to a place where I can do that in a non-cheesy way.

I know you just finished two years of slaving away at Eternal Blue, but I did want to suss the vibe – have you guys already started thinking about album LP2?
Oh man, no! In my opinion, I feel like we’re a very low-output band. We are extremely high-input – we’re always acquiring and thinking and brainstorming, and we have all these things that we want write about – but then the output is, like, extremely low. Y’know, you meet some band who write 100 songs every year! We write, like, five songs every year [laughs]. It’s just Michael writing all the music, so we really only have one predominant songwriter, and then I’m the only one that writes all the lyrics. But that’s another one of my goals, now that we’ve taken away some of those barriers like having to work our day jobs full-time – I hope we can have a higher creative output, and write way more stuff for the next album. But right now, that thought alone makes me go, “Oh, fuck…”

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Eternal Blue is out September 17th via Rise Records