A chat with Courtney LaPlante, lead singer of Spiritbox.
Originally featured in the 2022 Welcome To Rockville Official Commemorative Guide.
SIGT: Thank you so much for taking a little piece of your day to chat with me.
Courtney: Oh, yeah. I haven’t done any interviews in a while. I just got so used to it before we put our album out. Just like that was my first time really being a part of the press machine and it was so much. But now they’re rare and few and far between, so I really enjoy it.
SIGT: Cool. The press machine goes hard, man.
Courtney: Yeah, it’s a lot, even for someone like me who is good at pretending to be an extrovert. It got me good. It’s hard.
SIGT: Well, I’m happy that you got to see how it works. It’s just another skill you learned. Now you’ve got some good practice and armor in for the next round whenever that hits you.
Courtney: Oh, my God. Yeah. It’s so funny how you say something in such a flippant way but then that will probably be the headline of the article. If this person is good at their job and they want clicks on it, they’ll probably put that as a headline. That always cracks me up because I think that most additions, at least internally, are, like, a protection thing. We’re all very self-deprecating. It doesn’t translate well to an article headliner.
SIGT: Well, this one should be super easy. We’re actually featuring this in print. We’re doing the Official Commemorative Guide for Rockville.
Courtney: Oh, I really hope that we can get one. Do you guys give them to the artists?
SIGT: Yeah, we hook everybody up. We put boxes backstage. So if you see, like, a random brown box, it’s probably the magazines.
Courtney: Awesome. I will definitely be trying to find them this time.
SIGT: You’re actually releasing some print media of your own. Let’s talk about that. A graphic novel, Eternal Blue, a Spiritbbox Graphic Novel drops May 31. Congratulations! https://z2comics.com/products/eternal-blue-a-spiritbox-graphic-novel
Courtney: Thank you. I’m so excited. It’s so interesting. There’s never been a piece of art I’ve been a part of before where I’m collaborating with different mediums of art. We have an artist making these beautiful pictures for the book and then this amazing writer, Jim. As an artist myself who’s never written a book before or drawn pictures like that before, I’ve humbled myself and really trust these guys. It’s been amazing. I’ve learned so much. And then the most surprising part to me is just how seamlessly these guys are able to allow me to be a part of their process and to have agency within it and to actually feel empowered in the process and feel like I’m getting to create my own story. But it’s a collaboration. So I’ve never done anything like that. Doing a song, collaborating on that is just so different than creating a physical piece of art that’s a full story and world that expands upon art that you’ve already created. So it’s been a wild experience for me, and it made me appreciate just how difficult creating a visually appealing comic book is in general, because every panel is so important. I was just thinking about that. If you have an animated movie you have millions of frames to tell your story, but in a comic, the story that I’m giving to Amilcar Pinna [the interior artist], he has only five panels to create that story. I guess it made me appreciate it more and more. How every panel in a comic and every brush stroke is so intentional and important to them. I love it, and it makes me want to make more with them because I just feel like they understand me.
SIGT: Coheed and Cambria was a band I got into at a young age, like, 15. I’m 35 now, so maybe 20 years I’ve been into Coheed and Cambria, and I remember buying their first comics and just being so enveloped in the stories because their whole band is a story. And in a similar parallel way without the crazy characters your entire band is a story, too. And the way that you put yourself into your lyrics, the honesty that you share, the layers that you shed through your thought process, it’s all very visual. Hearing about it being translated into a visual sense just gets me so stoked to hold one of these things and actually see.
Courtney: Well, I really appreciate that. And it’s funny because I don’t know what it is, it’s like the lead singer syndrome. I don’t mean to speak for every singer in the history of music, but I feel like a lot of people that are lead singers, they have this fear of really discovering that they’re a narcissistic person. I really wanted the story to reflect a lot of my fears and anxieties and then kind of interpret that into a magical world that just kind of pushes further the themes from my lyrics and Eternal Blue. It’s funny because I didn’t intend for the protagonist to be me or anything. As we progress the story, it’s made me realize, I think it’s probably really difficult for authors to not put a bit of themselves into whoever in the story they’re most passionate about. Usually, the protagonist. At the end of the story, as we’re wrapping it up, I’m just like, oh, my God, I couldn’t help it. Eva, she and I have so much in common, but I’m hoping that a lot of my fears and worries, even though they seem unique when you get down to them, are very universal. I think a lot of people will resonate with her and her fears and hopefully her triumphs as well. They’ll resonate with those, so I think they will because I couldn’t help it. I didn’t mean for it to be like that, but some of me just slipped into that story.
SIGT: Organically, as the kids say.
Courtney: Yeah. I would say the protagonist, Eva, is a pop artist. As in, she’s a painter, so I thought we wouldn’t have as much in common. But she’s like me if I got all my shit together earlier on in life. She’s like me in a parallel universe where I got it together.
SIGT: So something interesting. I’ve only been given the little snippet, the preview of the story, and it says that “she allows the spirit box to transport her to a surreal world where she finds herself trapped in a realm where all our false shadows become real and dangerous.” And my initial interpretation of Spiritbox was more like, our bodies are a box for our spirits, literally. But this kind of suggests the spirit box is more of a device, perhaps. Can you give me insight on that?
Courtney: Yeah. This is kind of our own little twist on where the band got its name. So a Spiritbox, it’s not an official name of this device. The real device I think is called an SB7. It communicates with other worlds of people that are no longer in this realm through very quickly scanning radio frequencies. So if you ever hear anything that sounds like radio chatter in any of our songs or anything weird like scanning radio wave noises, they’re actually kind of a nod to the band name. It’s using the sounds from a spirit box to kind of give an eerie feel to whatever part of the song that we’re listening to. If you watch an episode of Ghost Adventures, the chances are you’ll definitely see they’re called a paranormal puck or SB7 and then the casual name would be a Spirit Box. So that’s how we got our band name. That’s why we have a physical item in this. Personally, in stories, I really like there to be a physical object in there because it creates urgency. There’s so much that could happen to that physical object. It could break, it could get lost. To me, even if nothing happens to the precious spirit box, every time we decide a bit more of the story, my knuckles are turning white. I’m thinking, what if it gets broken? What if the evil forces get it? I really like the spirit box being a physical item. That was something we tossed and turned about a little bit, but then we’re like, there needs to be a key that grounds someone to their world or the other world, like a tether to the other world. And so that’s why we have the box. But what it really does… that you will have to find out.
SIGT: I’m so stoked. It’s so cool it’s a physical item, too, that you can buy the package where the graphic novel comes inside an actual box. I noticed some Underoath lyrics rubbing off on you… knuckles turning white.
Courtney: Yeah, I can’t help. Every night they burst into my subconscious now.
SIGT: It’s so awesome. You wrapped up that tour almost a month ago now, and it ended right here in Florida, which is so sick, and that’s their hometown. The first time they actually broke up and called it quits was at that same venue, which I was there that last night, and it was so emotional. But when that tour was announced, Every Time I Die was the main support, and you guys were the special guest under them. And then, of course, Every Time I Die disbanded and you guys were bumped to main support and I knew that you guys had made it because no one talked shit!
Courtney: I was worried about that. I was really worried about that.
SIGT: Everybody was like, oh, yeah, this is awesome. We were all stoked. How awesome was it for you and your band to be welcomed in with open arms like that?
Courtney: We are so obsessed with our band that we just want one thing to go as planned, and we’re finding that’s not really how the music industry or reality will ever work for anyone for all of time. So we were like, oh, my God, we have never toured before. Our tours kept getting canceled. We’ve barely even gotten to have practices. We really wanted to be the opening band on the tour specifically, so that we would get to play for 30 minutes and build up our stamina and have a sound check, because we’re so desperately in need of a sound check. So the second that all this started happening, we were like, oh, God, what are they going to do? Are they going to make us be direct support? Like, we need production and we don’t even have the crew to have production to help us roll lights off the stage, to have a lighting person like all that. And I’m sad that it had to happen in such a dramatic way because I’m such a huge fan of Every Time I Die, and everybody on the tour was really sad about that because other people were looking so forward to it but if there was ever a band for us to have to kind of rise to the occasion to and then still have a lot of support and get to learn a lot from them. I can’t really think of a better band than Underoath. They’re very helpful. Not only the band, but their crew was so helpful to us. Everyone pitched in to try to get us feeling confident and, like, we could get on stage, get off the stage. And the other thing I thought was so gracious under Underoath is they still let us have a sound check every night. That cuts into their sound check time. So even though we were a middle band, they still let us do that. So it was awesome. We learned so much. I think we became a lot stronger, better musicians on the tour, and most importantly, got confidence and learned so much from these other bands because they’ve been doing it for so long.
SIGT: That’s so awesome. Well, you all certainly rose to the occasion. How do you feel leading up to Rockville and getting back in front of 50,000 people on the festival stage?
Courtney: Well, weirdly I feel more confident now. We feel security, because we have data now. We have the data that we could go out and do these shows and didn’t mess up. Now we have confidence in our team because we’ve been touring with them for a month, and we found people on our team who we think are going to make us sound the best live and who are going to help behind the stage and get you on the stage and have your monitor sounding good and all that stuff. So I feel so much more confident now. I feel really excited. And that’s the thing that I missed about the last year in the band. It’s like I was so focused on not fucking up that I never had a chance to be excited. So this is like a novelty feeling for me. I cannot wait to go. It’s going to be so fun.
SIGT: I can’t wait to see your face after you finish the first song.
Courtney: Here’s another reason why I’m so excited! Last year, I had to do three days of dental surgery the week of Rockville. I have a bunch of shattered teeth so I have composite dental implants on my teeth, like a poor guy’s veneers essentially, and they all started crumbling out before Rockville. I think Rockville was Thursday, so Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I had to keep going back to the dentist, getting my full mouth injected with the numbing stuff, like in my gums. And then they kept falling out! So that day we played I had to go back to the dentist and get my mouth numb. They tried to do it without numbing my mouth because I was like, I have to go sing, and I need my mouth to calm down. So they tried it without it, but it was so painful that they had to put the injections in and by the time I got to the, luckily this was in Alabama, so I was very close to Florida. I don’t mean that I couldn’t sing, but I will tell you, I’ve never done coke or anything, but I imagine that is what it would be like if you were coked up trying to sing. You’re like, I don’t have any control of my mouth. So I think I pulled it off last year. I did a good job. I had a fun day, but it was so stressful. It was like I was stoned trying to pronounce the words to the songs. My lips didn’t have full feeling yet.
SIGT: The Weeknd wasn’t joking about not being able to feel your face.
Courtney: I get the song now. I get it. The song is about three days of dental surgery.
SIGT: That’s it!
Courtney: As long as I don’t have to go do three days of dental surgery before I feel like I’m going to do a good job and it’s going to be really fun. I realized now, upon seeing all these big festivals, being there first hand and seeing these tours, I now realize that I was naive to think any tour will ever go exactly as planned. Any show will never go as planned. But I feel now that excites me instead of terrifies me. I’m looking at it as a new experience that will make us stronger musicians, and I think therefore, will make us continually inspired to make music. So that’s why we love these festivals. I always walk away just feeling so inspired by the other acts. It’s like being at this amazing summer camp with all these kids you don’t normally get to hang out.
SIGT: And the culture. Like, you’re going to Daytona Beach and then you’re going to, like, Malta.
Courtney: Yeah, I know. I never thought I’d get to go there.
SIGT: It’s insane. And then you have such an awesome run coming up after that overseas. And weren’t you on tour overseas when Covid hit?
Courtney: Oh yeah, that was our first tour.
SIGT: Have you been back?
Courtney: No, the most shows I think we had was with Underoath. They’re all looking at us weird because we were like, oh, my God, guys, we did eleven shows in a row. Finally it’s our longest streak. And they’re like, Are you serious? Yeah, because it got canceled in Europe. And then Limp Bizkit canceled three shows in last summer. So we are so excited to go back to Europe and redeem ourselves and play in the UK because that week was the week that everyone in the tour was looking forward to because everyone was gassing up. All the shows were going to be so cool. And then they got canceled.
SIGT: And you had just won Best New Band from Kerrang! People were like, yeah!
Courtney: I want to go there and see are you guys going to show up? Let’s see. So I really want to go over there, but every place we’re playing, it’s just such a cool experience. I miss being over there. So this is really exciting for us.
SIGT: I’m so excited for you guys. I think my favorite thing about attending shows over in the UK is the fact that the fans sing the guitar notes.
Courtney: Yes, they do. Oh, my goodness. I never thought about that.
SIGT: I was over there. I was like, what the fuck is happening? But it’s so awesome.
Courtney: You know what it is? Maybe it’s because the football chants. They do the football chants to music. They don’t sing the words a lot of the time when they’re in the football arena and there’s a song playing, everyone hums the guitar part.
SIGT: Oh, true. Damn.
Courtney: Maybe that’s why they do that. My British father-in-law and mother-in-law might tell me I’m very dumb for saying that, but I think that’s it. We can’t wait. We really like going over to Europe. It’s fun. It’s kind of hard sometimes getting between all those festivals, but we just want to go over there and redeem ourselves because we’ve only gone over there little baby, one of four bands, and now we’re going to go and try our hand for the first time at doing longer sets where we can actually play all the songs that we want to play. So I’m so excited about that.
SIGT: Well crush it. Be safe out there. Be careful. Have fun. I feel like I’m talking to you like, I’m your dad, but I just became a dad.
Courtney: You did? Well you need practice.
SIGT: I appreciate you allowing me to practice.
Courtney: That’s great! How old is your kid?
SIGT: He is five weeks and two days old now.
Courtney: That’s so cute. My friend just had her baby a little while ago and I can’t believe how small the baby is and she says it’s freshly baked. Fresh baked baby.
SIGT: I’m trying to get fresh baked today.
Courtney: A fresh baked baby and a fresh baked dad.
SiGT: That’s the perfect combo. Deadly.
Courtney: Yeah, that’s so great. Congratulations man!
Spiritbox Interview by Mitch Foster.
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