Spiritbox (ex-Iwrestledabearonce) Is Where Serene Art-Rock + Metal Savagery Meet
There remains an air of uncertainty surrounding the current status of Louisiana metalcore heroes Iwrestledabearonce. Since vocalist Courtney LaPlante confirmed her departure from the group in 2017, there’s been no official word from the remaining members of the band as to their current status.
LaPlante, along with guitarist Michael Stringer––also a former member of IWABO and LaPlante’s husband––has since pressed ahead with a new project, the eerily-titled Spiritbox. An intriguing blend of ethereal post-metal and straight-up metalcore, it’s a chance for LaPlante and Stringer to step out of the shadow of their former band.
“It just wasn’t working out,” LaPlante says of the pair’s decision to leave Iwrestledabearonce. “The way we joined that band was very intensive: Rather than us meeting them, becoming friends and practicing together, our ‘trial’ with IWABO was playing shows––we didn’t have a practice together until we’d been touring for two months. I met the band, went straight out on Warped Tour and after that to Europe. Eventually, we all realized it was time to give it up and move on. We liked everyone in the band, but we weren’t progressing to the next level––we were very stagnant, and Michael and I wanted something different. The reason we didn’t announce that things were ending was because we wanted to put that in the hands of the people who started the band.”
The duo’s current musical project, Spiritbox, has seen LaPlante and Stringer find that ‘something different’ they were searching for. Named after a device that supposedly allows spirits to communicate with the living world, it’s thanks to the intimate relationship between the band’s founders that Spiritbox has the sound and feel of something truly unique.
“Even though bands become close, there’s a connection between us that most musicians working together don’t have,” LaPlante says of the husband and wife dynamic of Spiritbox. “We’ve literally dedicated our lives to each other: We’re musical soulmates, and it just so happens that Michael is my soulmate in life, too. We’re very sensitive to one another; there’s no-one I’m more honest with than him, and that feeds into the music we make.
In Iwrestledabearonce, we were the ‘replacement people’ for original members, and being that eventually wears you down. We needed to figure out our own identity, and Spiritbox is us coming to terms with the creative aspect of our relationship. This band is like our kid––it isn’t separate from our everyday lives.”
The identity, at least with regards to genre, of Spiritbox is hard to pin down. At one moment they sound like a serene art-rock band, the next they’re dabbling in heavy metal savagery. But, according to LaPlante, that eclecticism is very much by design.
“This can be whatever we want it to be,” she affirms. “Excuse the bad pun, but Spiritbox can’t be boxed––this band is so fluid. The difference between this and IWABO is the fact that we don’t have anything hanging over our heads as to what the band needs to be. There’s no history with Spiritbox, whereas with IWABO, there was a preconceived notion of what the music had to sound like.
At this point, our priority is less to do with shock value and more focused on writing good songs, without necessarily being flashy with it. We want to connect with people on a base level and have them feel something when they hear our music.”
In terms of connection, anyone who’s experienced mental illness will likely relate to LaPlante’s lyrics across Spiritbox’s recent Singles Collection released via Pale Chord. A five-song set released throughout the first half of 2019, the tracks find their creator laying bare some of her darkest moments.
“It’s about me being depressed and feeling really bad about myself,” LaPlante explains. “I was at a very low point, to the extent that I could barely get out of bed because I was so unhappy. The thing that brings the songs in the Singles Collection together is this vision of a person that’s really sad. It’s tough for me to listen back to––there are times when I barely recognize myself in those lyrics.”
Now in a much better place, LaPlante is looking to the future of Spiritbox with hope. The band plan to write more music over the course of the year, as well as plotting more live shows, and with a feverish and growing fan base spurring them on, there’s no telling where LaPlante and Stringer could take this project next.
“I’ve never been in a band that’s felt as connected to their fans as Spiritbox is,” LaPlante concludes. “We have a relatively small following at the moment, but these people love our band and really connect with us on a human level. With Spiritbox and our fans, it’s been like love at first sight, which is a pretty cool thing for a jaded old musician like myself to experience. This band makes me feel like I’m 16 again, and for that, I’m very thankful.”
Top 50 Rockers Who've Been in Multiple Successful Bands