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Rules, Rituals & Regurgitations: In Conversation With SPIRITBOX's COURTNEY LAPLANTE

Plus how it feels to have blown up over the past few years.

Spiritbox

When publications feature a group with attaching tag-lines that read "believe the hype" and "the band that everyone is talking about," there's bound to be lovers and haters. Haters gonna hate, as they say. But where there's smoke there's fire, and Canada's Spiritbox have been burning up stages across the globe to live up to the lengthy expectations thrust upon them by the modern-press.

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Bookending their critically acclaimed full-length debut Eternal Blue with a mountain of live dates alongside the likes of Ghost, Mastodon, Every Time I Die, Underoath, and Lamb of God, just to name a few, the trio of vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer (both formerly of iwrestledabearonce) and drummer Zev Rose (alongside touring bassist Josh Gilbert), have been shot out of the proverbial cannon in 2022.

LaPlante, in a sit-down from her home in Vancouver Island, dove into the oddity of fame and media attention in a candid one-on-one with Metal Injection, touching on everything from recording rules, road rituals and, yes, stories of regurgitating on stage (not vomiting though! there's a difference).

This is Metal Injection in conversation with Spiritbox's Courtney LaPlante.

I guess that to say the last couple of years for this band have been a whirlwind would probably be understating it by a long shot?

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Yeah, it's been really exceptionally strange I think just because logistically like not as physically being able to ever get together. I say this in interviews all the time, but this whole thing feels very abstract because we were just going about our normal day to day operations, working our jobs and then now last year it's become like not abstract anymore. It's become like a physical, like identifying it physically at a show, looking at people reacting. 

So you know, it's so different now. These are normal identifiers for every other band I've been in. You're physically seeing these things happen. You're at a show, you're seeing people enjoying it or not enjoying it or caring or not caring. There's all these identifiers that you visually see, and we also haven't seen them because of the Internet world. It makes me realize how those two worlds are blending in the real world and the online world. Now people's identities are the same throughout. 

And it's such an interesting thing that, your fan base in particular, I feel like has been with you through so much of this process; from Patreon to following you on social media. It feels like they've kind of grown up with Spiritbox. The dynamics of outlets like Patreon, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have changed the way fans can interact with artists. It's no longer just buying the T-shirt shirt or the record. You can kind of be a part of the process, indirectly.

I think the metal community has so much agency. There's at least perceived agency within … even though there's a lot about it that's very manufactured, but at a high-up level. At the DIY level, I just feel like the fans feel so much more in control and have agency about the band's music. You can relate to the musician that you like. 

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A lot of times you're like a fan of someone who lives with their parents and has a full time job. It's so different because whether you know that about them or not, you can relate to one another so much more because there's not as much of a class barrier where by the time a lot of people find out about an artist in a different genre, you're probably a bit of a less relatable person because you're living this really crazy lifestyle and you can't maybe relate to people that aren't living that, that are working at their jobs. 

I think it's unique because I think there's so many people in the metal world that can access musicians they like. They can DM them and be like 'hey I like this song' and the person will get back to them and be like 'hey man thanks!' and see them at shows over and over be like 'oh yeah! I met you last time. I remember your name' and all that. 

Thinking back to the progression of this band since 2017, was there a moment where it was like okay, there are levels of what's happening here. It feels like "Rule of Nines" took off and then the "Holy Roller" video was a massive hit. Was there a moment in time where it felt like things had changed, with the benefit of hindsight?

Yeah. I think that there's just like this moment where we had recognition from people that were listeners, and then no recognition from establishment and industry. And then all of a sudden had that industry validation. It was like a flip switched. 

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I think it was just the band becoming like proof of concept, us going on a tour for the first time. And seeing people commenting 'oh I'm excited to see the band', on the first tour that we opened for After The Burial. Unfortunately that was in March 2020, so it didn't last very long. Those little things, and being played on the radio. 

To me none of those things really actually change, as much as people think it does look about a band's day to day, the amount of money that they're making and all that. It's just like these little things that are easier for people to quantify, if that makes sense?

You mentioned the industry side, and it feels like you had been gaining the steady appreciation of the fans, particularly in the live setting. But then with the media it feels like everything's coming at once with the interviews, being referred to as the 'the next great band in metal' or whatever. Does that present, I don't want to say unrealistic expectations, because with any artist the sky can be the limit, but is that a situation where you'd appreciate it more when you didn't have kind of the weight of the world and all the expectations on your shoulders? I feel like that has to add pressure.

It's so hyperbolic. I don't know what it is. I feel like our community is waiting for that band. And also everyone wants to be the publication that was right about that and breaks that. But the interesting part is that the reader of that thing projects that onto the artist saying that about themselves and it really makes me want to be like 'I just work here man. I'm just making music in my little studio, in my basement. I didn't say that at all.'

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And so I don't know, I just try not to really worry about that stuff because number one, I feel like any headline's going to be hyperbolic so that people click on it, because no one is going to click on a thing that says 'bands make album, I kind of liked it,' or 'I kind of didn't like it.' Strong emotion is what people want to read. 

I, as a protective measure and just that's how we've always written stuff, we try not to think about that. It's very micro focused just like, Michael has created a song. I like this song. This is what I'm going to write and I'm not going to overthink it. I don't want to use our music as a marketing, research and development thing where we go 'oh, people liked this and didn't like this.'

The second that I start feeling like that I think that I would probably lose the thread of why I've chosen to make this type of music. And so I'm very micro focused on each song and album and I feel like that's the only way, and Michael too, that we can not overthink stuff, you know? Otherwise I think we're going to get lost in the songs if demographics and stats and numbers all start being things that we plug in to be like "Holy Roller" was our most played song, so we're going to make 10 "Holy Rollers". 

Everything we do is very reactive. I'm very pleased that at this point in our career it feels very pure and innocent and created in a vacuum still, from my perspective, when we are making music. Even if perhaps we're getting older and becoming better songwriters because we're getting more practice each time, knowing what we like and don't like to play live and what we like and don't like to listen to and listen back to. But other than that, we'd be making the same music if we never had anyone hear it. 

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I feel like a byproduct of the creativity and the fact that no two Spiritbox songs really sound alike and have different influences and tastes, it's allowing you to jump on all these different tour packages and festivals. You can get the offer to support Limp Bizkit or go with Mastodon and Ghost, or Every Time I Die. You can get play to hardcore fans and the punks and the metalheads and the deathcore lovers. That's a cool byproduct of making whatever music you want.

For me a lot of the tours that always stood out to me – and I didn't get to go to them because I live on Vancouver Island, so it's not very accessible – but a lot of the shows, I think most of us that grew up in local bands and didn't tour a lot, the shows are a mashup of just whoever is playing, you know? You have a pop-punk band and a deathcore band play a show together because there's only a couple of you that can get together to play a show. 

As a fan I always really enjoy a blended bill. It's not just that our music can go anywhere, it's also getting recognized by people that I think are super passionate about the tour that they're building. Those headlining bands have a lot of agency of who they're picking. So I think that's really cool too. 

That's very inspirational to me when I get to do a headliner, like who can you pick? Like how do you pick a perfect bill that resonates with you and your fans? So I'm very inspired by that. 

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Yeah, and maybe give young up and coming bands a leg up as well? It's always a cool thing when you see bigger bands help bring along the next generation.

It's kind of surprising to me how hands on a lot of those bands are that are playing all these festivals. It's so surprising to me because those people are so busy and they're being punished all day by people, like us musicians are fans and we see someone like Slipknot or someone walk by [mimics excited face].

But all of those people are really passionate about new music, which is very cool to me. I'm so shocked at how hands on all those big iconic bands are about doing their own research and watching young bands play. I couldn't believe it. Like all the big musicians at Download Festival and stuff that all were watching all those smaller bands. 

It seems like the love of heavy music is not jaded or dead for those guys in all those bands, because they really do enjoy watching. I feel like if I'm in Metallica I'll show up and play and leave, but those bands I've heard are just constantly watching younger bands play, which is actually very surprising to me as someone who had never been around those bigger bands before. 

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Keeping on that trend of validation and the next generation, all this stuff recently with Harper and America's Got Talent. As an artist, that has to be the most validating, career affirming thing ever, right? Like you put out this music and a ten year old is covering you on an internationally televised show. Above anything else, that to me would be like damn, that's the coolest.

When it aired and I finally got to watch it, I was ready. I was in defensive mode. I figured that if anyone was mean to her or something she would have told me about it or her parents would have told me. But maybe as a kid she doesn't perceive stuff that I would perceive or the way they edit it. So the second the song starts, I see they show people in the audience like covering their ears. So I was loving that. 

But the respect is what I was surprised by. The respect from the judges and the crowd for what she was doing and actually appreciating it as a musician and the technique and how good she is at screaming. I couldn't believe it. It was so cool to me. I think people that make this kind of music, the normies don't like this and the joke always is if you did like it, I wouldn't be making it. That's always my defensive mode if someone goes ‘I just don't understand why you make this weird music, but no offense, I just don't get it.’ And my retort is 'well, if you liked this music, I would not make it.' 

We all have that, it's like being in the room of normies that don't understand you, like it makes you sweaty. You're already ready to be defensive. So it was so cool to me because she's a kid and she's approaching it from such an innocent place where there's like no ego in it. She's just really good at it. And so she's showing her talent to people. It was so cool that people weren't just treating it like oh haha, funny novelty. 

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When I watch some people that are normies reacting to my band, I tried to explain to people who are like ‘you guys are so mainstream and generic.’ It's like guys, if you show a normal person who's not into this music our music they will laugh. It makes them laugh because they're so uncomfortable and they think it's funny because they're all so far past all of us that like this kind of music, our gauge of what is mainstream is so messed up, you know? 

So that's so cool to me because of the respect that she commanded and the confidence she had because her parents have instilled this confidence in her that you are a musician, this is valid music you're making, you're talented. That's so cool to me. The coolest part was her confidence, because that shows that her parents never did what our parents probably did when we grew up discovering that. Most of our parents didn't listen to this music, so they're like 'what the hell are you thinking?'

You guys have been pretty tirelessly on the road this year and have another three months or so of gigs beginning in August. Are there any kinds of rituals or any must-haves on the road or things you've learned? Are there things you need to have on the tour bus or things you need to do before a set? I think, because you guys were kind of shot out of a cannon the last couple of years, people think you only started yesterday where in reality you've been in the business for years at this point.

I love being on a real tour, which I count as every day the same thing and the same bands, versus we just went to Europe and that was every day a different set length. Some festivals, some headliners, some supporting another band in a club, sometimes in a field, every day is different. I love being on a bus so that my home stays the same every day. My home is my bunk and I don't have to pack or unpack from my home. 

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Being on tour is like Groundhog Day, and I crave that because it allows me to just focus on the 30 minutes that I'm on stage and get really focused. It's the same time every day. I see the same people every day. It's the same set up every day. And I think that will allow me and the band to get better and better at what we do is having consistency and being exposed to a band like Ghost and a band like Mastodon. I'm going to try to watch them as much as I can. 

And my favorite part of being on tour and festivals and stuff is honestly standing on the side of the stage and watching something go wrong and watching how all the techs communicate with one another to fix the problem and the band on stage, how they figure it out while still entertaining the crowd. I feel like I have to be writing down notes. I love that. I love watching that. 

The routine is I sleep in, so much. The more I'm sleeping in, the less I'm talking and asking questions and stuff, which I'm using my voice. So I like to sleep in as much as I can and then I get my coffee to warm up my voice. I barely eat during the day when I'm on tour if I'm an opening band because the more I eat, the more I'm likely to like puke when I'm singing. The way I sing is very abdominal muscle dominant. I eat a little bit, and then I like to stretch. 

I like to try to get into the mentality of it being like an athletic event. It's not like I'm out there doing an amazing dance routine. I am still sauntering around. But then I like to go on a run or go to the gym if I can. Doing my makeup, that's like I'm zoned out and just enjoying it. I do it for like three hours sometimes, my hair and makeup. Again, it's like I'm having my own time and then I'm onstage and then my routine is someone will order me like the most giant dinner while I'm on stage before all the restaurants close. I'll get off and I just eat like I'm a professional eater, you know? I get my full calories in at that point. 

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When I'm on tour, I guess it's like the adrenaline after the show. I just find myself staying up later and later and going to bed at like two or three in the morning … I wake up when the bus moves anyway. Then the whole night on the bus is really comfy, but every time it goes over a bump or something you just kind of wake up like 'we're dying!' The whole night is just like 'well, here it goes, take me now lord!' and then go back to sleep. That's like my routine for a full month and I love it. 

I have a quick follow up to that. It's been the only thing I've been thinking about through that entire answer (laughs). Have you actually puked on stage? 

Yeah, oh my God. All the time. All the time. If I ate too much or if I'm sick. I was puking at one of the biggest shows we ever played at Rock im Park in Germany. As an experiment I ate a little bit later because I wanted to see if it would give me more energy, because sometimes I'm so tired when I go on stage because I haven't eaten enough, if I don't plan out my calories enough. I need energy. 

And so I ate a little too late and I was like throwing up in my mouth and having to swallow my puke. I don't think anyone noticed. But if you look at that, if you watch that set, you'll notice that my screams are shorter. Like I end them sooner, because I have to give myself time to burp and then throw up.

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I've never puked where anyone's seen me. No one has seen me puke. Throwing up and puking is too strong of a word for it. I'm regurgitating on stage. That used to happen more, but I'm getting better at planning my digestion during the day. 

Courtney, thank you. I could chat with you for hours, so thank you so much for taking the time. I know you're finally getting a couple of weeks away from the road coming off this massive first half of the year of touring…

I sprained my ankle really bad last time out …I sprained it onstage in London. It was during "Blessed Be", it was like not even halfway through our headliner set. All I did was step forward and I rolled it. Honestly though, it's so bad, I kind of wish I just told people it was broken. 

It's gnarly, and so I'm just trying to get back into physical shape as much as I can before this next tour. It's going to kick my ass. And now that's my goal for next month. If you don't have aerobics, like your heart rate can't stay steady, it's really hard to sing properly. Even though again, It's not like I'm doing a dance routine, I have to be in somewhat ok shape.

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*Catch Spiritbox on tour throughout the remainder of 2022 in North America with Ghost, Mastodon, Lamb of God and more!

w/ Ghost & Mastodon

8/26 – San Diego, CA – Pechanga Arena San Diego [Tickets]
8/27 – Tucson, AZ – Tucson Convention Center Arena [Tickets]
8/30 – Austin, TX – Moody Center [Tickets]
8/31 – Corpus Christi, TX – American Bank Center Arena [Tickets]
9/2 – Huntsville, AL – Von Braun Center's Propst Arena [Tickets]
9/3 – Duluth, GA – Gas South Arena [Tickets]
9/4 – Asheville, NC – ExploreAsheville.com Arena [Tickets]
9/6 – Tampa, FL – Yuengling Arena [Tickets]
9/8 – Danville, VA – Blue Ridge Rock Fest (no Mastodon) [Tickets]
9/9 – Trenton, NJ – CURE Insurance Arena [Tickets]
9/10 – Belmont Park, NY – UBS Arena [Tickets]
9/12 – Providence, RI – Dunkin Donuts Center [Tickets]
9/13 – Bangor, ME – Cross Insurance Center [Tickets]
9/15 – Quebec City, QC – Videotron Centre [Tickets]
9/16 – Laval, QC – Place Bell [Tickets]
9/17 – Toronto, ON – Coca Cola Coliseum [Tickets]
9/19 – Saginaw, MI – Dow Event Center [Tickets]
9/20 – Youngstown, OH – Covelli Centre [Tickets]
9/21 – Peoria, IL – Peoria Civic Center Arena [Tickets]
9/23 – Green Bay, WI – Resch Center (w/ Carcass, no Mastodon) [Tickets]

w/ Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage & Fit For An Autopsy

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10/9 – Vancouver, BC – Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre [Tickets]
10/10 – Kent (Seattle), WA – Accesso ShoWare Center [Tickets]
10/11 – Portland, OR – Theater of the Clouds [Tickets]

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