Interview – Spiritbox’s ‘Eternal Blue’ Is Our 2021 Album of the Year
Though the last two years haven't been normal life for any of us, many of us have started to adapt with how things have changed, artists included. Therefore, we've still had an abundance of great releases, but there was one in particular that came out in 2021 that we really wanted to highlight above the rest.
Spiritbox's Eternal Blue.
When the band dropped the crushing "Holy Roller" in the summer of 2020, they'd already accumulated somewhat of a following, but the song really solidified their stance in the metal community. A few months later, they did so all over again, but with the emotional "Constance," which went viral for making metalheads around the world bawl their eyes out.
By the beginning of this year, Spiritbox's endeavors became highly-anticipated, and they were one of the most exciting new bands to follow. They dropped a couple of more singles, were announced as the opener for Limp Bizkit's summer tour (which, unfortunately was cut prematurely) and played some festivals.
When Eternal Blue was released, everyone had high expectations. Not only were the expectations satisfied, but they were exceeded tremendously. The record debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, which is seemingly unheard of for a rock or metal band nowadays, especially a newer one.
Sure, Machine Gun Kelly and AC/DC peaked at the top of the chart in 2020, but when you compare their followings to Spiritbox's that feat is exceptionally impressive.
Not only did it chart incredibly well, but it sold over 22,000 units in its first week as well — 19,000 of which were pure album sales. A band hasn't had that kind of success with a debut album in years.
So despite all of the other fantastic albums that came out this year, we only felt it right in our hearts to name Eternal Blue our 2021 album of the year. Watch or read a full transcription of our interview with powerhouse vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer below, and see our full list of the Top 45 rock and metal albums of 2021 here.
Interview: Spiritbox's 'Eternal Blue' Is Our 2021 Album of the Year
Loudwire has named Spiritbox's Eternal Blue the Album of the Year, so congratulations on that!
Mike: That's crazy. That's so wild.
Courtney: Yeah, we just keep saying the same thing over and over. We just go, 'Wow, that's crazy.' It's just truly all we can say.
Mike: Total glitch in the matrix.
Courtney: Every cool thing like this, we don't really know what to do, and then this is like the cherry on the cake at the end of the year so it's really, really special to us.
Well you guys have received so many amazing accolades when the album came out — it debuted in the Top 15 of the Billboard 200. That's pretty much unheard of for a rock or a metal band in today's day and age. Was this something you guys were hoping for or even considered possible, and what was your reaction when you heard the news?
Mike: Personally, I was like, man if we could get in the Top 100, that would be insane. I remember we were in a hotel room and our manager Zoomed us. And anytime he Zooms us and I see that it's recording, it's always good news, like he's wanting to get our reaction or whatever. And he was like, 'Yeah I'm pretty sure we got in the Top 20.' And even then, I lost my mind, I was like, 'There's no way. There's absolutely no way.' And then it landed at No. 13 and it was just crazy, it was wild.
Courtney: Yeah, I think most people that make this kind of music, we don't think about where our chart placement is gonna be. I've never cared about that or thought about that because it was irrelevant to me.
Mike: [It seemed] like an unattainable thing.
Courtney: Yeah. And so it's really cool when you kind of get a seat at that table — however briefly, because we gotta remind everyone that when a band like us are on a chart like that, we're not like Lil Nas X where we're on the chart for six months. But even so, for however briefly you're there, it's really motivating. It just makes you see that there are so many people that listen to heavy music, and they're out there and they're willing to support bands and buy music, which is the craziest thing in 2021.
You guys are one of the artists that are kind of helping to — I don't wanna say bring it to the mainstream because nobody necessarily wants rock and metal to be mainstream — but into the spotlight for sure.
Courtney: I love the thought of mainstream, because to me it just... when I look at it like big picture, it just means compensation and opportunity for people to at least have the light shone on them from the mainstream. We might not fully ever step in there, but just to be on the perimeter, I just look at it like that because all those things, the numbers and stuff are just like a game. That doesn't really have anything to do with how you feel about your own art and how passionate you are about it and what it means to you personally.
You can't put a number on your connection with people that also like your music. So I look at it like a pragmatic thing, it's like any time any band that we know that's associated with heavy music, any time they get a little inch I think that it really affects all of us because it just allows the rest of us to possibly benefit from that either financially because you're selling records, or just those other things that that are harder to quantify — being able to have larger productions and have access to different stuff like that.
I think it's really cool, so I'm super happy. But I think it's one of those things too that because bands like us haven't really been invited to the table that much, I think that we have a nice, jaded head on our shoulders where [we're like], 'Alright, this time sure, but maybe next time no, we'll go back down to the little chart.' And that's okay, because I don't think that's why anyone you ever have talked to makes music. I think everyone just makes it because we like making music.
For sure. Of all the singles you released leading up to the album release, which do you personally think might have had the biggest impact on your success?
Courtney: 'Holy Roller.'
Mike: I think 'Holy Roller,' for sure.
Courtney: Our very first thing that was last year, a single before we even quite knew... a single of what? That's the first time that I've ever felt like recognition from our peers and that kind of stuff.
Mike: Something definitely started happening when we put that song out for sure.
Courtney: That was the first time we were like, 'Hey, this is cool!'
Spiritbox - 'Holy Roller'
And how did you handle the hype that started building around you throughout the year?
Mike: It was such a weird feeling because there was so much negativity in the world and there were so many boundaries. Everything just happened online, so all of this stuff is happening day-to-day online, and everything's growing and we're just sitting in our houses, not able to go anywhere or travel or travel to go record the record or anything.
So we just kept ourselves busy by writing and just putting out another single after that, and really trying to plan it properly because you have to strike when the iron is hot. I feel like we had to be really strategic in that sense, where it's like, 'Okay now people are starting to take notice and really care. We got a record to make.'
Courtney: It was weird because we were so focused on getting our record out, and then we had to just keep postponing it because of the pandemic and not being able to get together to make it. So we made 'Holy Roller' and 'Constance' by Michael just tracking, and our producer Dan was over Zoom watching us and giving us direction and helping. We did that twice, and it definitely really assured us that we did not want to do that for every song, because it was just a tedious thing compared to just being in person.
It was such a weird time because there was all this cool stuff happening, but it was almost like we were just watching a movie of our lives. I felt like we were playing Second Life, you know that game? And we were just on our computers clicking around and watching all this cool stuff happen, but it just felt so removed from our real lives.
So now, playing shows and transitioning from Spiritbox, the people that have day jobs and moonlight doing music and put all our time and money into it, to now it's like, we're crossing the little threshold, and now we've become the people that that's our job — our band. It's been really cool.
So I think that when we finally get to go on tour next year, that's gonna be like the thing that's gonna make it feel like we're now permanently in that world, and are our true selves — not playing Second Life on the computer. We're a new band, but we're older people, and that's not how we grew up playing music. We grew up playing music, touring around and physically being there, so that's what we really want.
Well the album's been out for a while now, you survived the pre-release hype and the initial commotion that comes after releasing an album. Now that it's been out for a few months, do you think that you've had any new revelations about the album or about your band since then?
Mike: Yeah, we're ready to move on! We're already starting to look to writing and stuff like that. I mean it's hard because we love those songs dearly, but some of those songs took two years to come to fruition.
Courtney: Or more.
Mike: Even more. We've heard them thousands of times, and by the time Sept. 17 rolled around, it would be my 2,000th time listening to 'Silk in the Strings,' but it was someone's first. So we're gonna spend the next year playing these songs. We're obviously happy to do it, very glad, but the timing and stuff has just made us realize what we want out of the new stuff that we're gonna start making. It's a weird thing with timing and everything, I'm very proud of the album, but I think it's just made me realize that I'm ready for a new chapter already.
Courtney: It's like, we did our celebration, but then I think that we've always felt that, and I think a lot of artists feel this way, but now the transition of power has happened. It's not longer our songs, it's now the listeners' songs. Whenever that happens, I give myself permission to move on. It's like, I carried the baby to birth, and now it's yours. And I'm trying to conceive again, a new baby.
Did you see any reactions or responses from either fans or critics that might've surprised you or made you guys realize anything different that you hadn't maybe noticed about the songs before?
Mike: There was a ton of positivity, especially when the record first came out. There were a lot of unreal reviews that were pretty mind-blowing. And then slowly, a lot of negative ones started coming out, too, which, I'm all for it. But [there were] just a lot of misconceptions that were printed as fact and a lot of things that just weren't true.
I think that's just like the game now, where people will just make their mind up. They'll make decisions and state things as fact without actually fact-checking or anything like that. It's just the internet these days. But I tend to try to ignore a lot of that stuff. You can go crazy reading stuff online, reading peoples' crazy comments.
Courtney: Well that's our problem, we have too much spare time right now. We read too much. We're gonna be on tour soon and won't have time, we'll be sleeping. But right now we're just always on our phones.
Mike: For me, ultimately, it made me realize that no matter how detail-oriented you are, someone's always going to interpret it differently. So when we're focusing on this part where Courtney is doing this like pitch-yell and she does it on the recording, and people have heard it millions of times, but then she goes and does it on a video, people are like, 'Wow, this version that she's done is so much better because she does this' That's the way that it originally was, that's the way that it is on the recording. People just kind of have different interpretations of stuff and it just made me realize that no matter what you're trying to convey, it could be misinterpreted.
Spiritbox - 'Circle With Me' Courtney LaPlante One Take Performance
Courtney: You know what mine is? Sequencing. Album sequencing. That's the thing that I was surprised [about], that a lot of people really don't like the way the album is sequenced, and it feels very thrown together and not thought out. So that's the one thing that I was shocked [about], because I thought I would get a little gold star and everyone be like, 'Wow sweetie, you sequenced that so well!' Because we really put a lot of thought into it, so it's funny because that's the one thing that I was like, 'I can't wait for everyone to hear the sequence.' A lot of people were really like, valid criticism, being like, 'This is crazy, what have they done here? What is the sequencing of the songs?'
It just goes to show you and helps to remind you how subjective a lot of that stuff is. You just gotta keep doing whatever makes you happy and not try to overanalyze everything. I think that's the thing, the second you start doing that and playing to your audience, making decisions based off of... [like a] focus group. When it starts feeling like a focus group and you're sourcing opinions so that you can make songs that you know your fans will buy, I think that's when you start running into trouble.
So it's okay, but that's the cool thing about the internet. Sometimes you shouldn't be reading that stuff, but I look at it like a good tool to be able to really see what people are truly thinking, and then also to remind ourselves that those are just two extremes — the good part and the bad part. Most people are just, like myself, aren't gonna comment anything. We just go, 'Oh that was cool,' and move on. So I think in that way, it's been a very valuable tool. But there's been some funny stuff.
You're not gonna please everyone, and like you said, most people who do like things and agree with them, they just keep scrolling. So most of the comments that you're gonna see are the ones who're just finding something to complain about. So obviously getting the debut album out was the band's goal the last couple of years. Now that it's out, what are your goals going forward, and what's next? What can we expect from Spiritbox after you go on tour?
Courtney: I really want us to prove ourselves because I feel that we need to prove and show people that we're a really good live act. That's what I think I really need. And also just personally, I need the human connection element of our music because I think that everyone in the last two years has realized how much they need that and how important that is to them.
We haven't been on tour really, well we tried a couple of times, but we haven't been on tour since 2015 in our old band. It's just a big part of us as people, that we've not been able to explore. So selfishly, for my own love of performing, for [Mike], I really need that. And then also I think it's high stakes, I want to rise to the occasion and do a good job and show people that we deserve to be here. But you gotta earn that, you gotta show, not tell. We have to show that and do a good job live.
Spiritbox - 'Sun Killer' (Live)
Mike: For me, after touring it'll be the sophomore release and just working on the second album. I feel like so many bands kind of get this opportunity, and maybe they nail it on their debut, but the second one, struggles. It's difficult, it's really hard to rise to the occasion on that front. So I think that's my main goal, just to work on it for as long as humanly possible and be overly critical of it because it's very important, for sure.
Courtney: We want to write in tandem with being on tour and not stop. I think that seems to be, I look back in time and that seems to be the problem with the 'sophomore slump' album. You're just touring a lot and capitalizing off of the success, and then the record's due and you're like, 'Oh my god, we don't have any music.'
But honestly, you know what really inspired us this year is Ice Nine Kills, having their second [album] The Silver Scream 2 even just blowing their first big hit out of the water. That was so inspiring to a lot of bands that always fear that you can't do it twice, you can't have a really great response to one record and then have the other one be even better. It's so up and down. So that made me really excited, that was super inspiring to us.
And being that you two are married, does that come into play at all when you guys are writing an album, and has it taught you anything about each other in the process?
Courtney: I mean yeah, it's always weird because it's all we've known. We were writing music together before we were even dating. So it's very blurred in our relationship, but I don't know. Personally, I think that since Michael is my husband and we have such an intimate relationship compared to the average people that are all in a music group together, I feel like we're just so honest with one another.
I think Michael has really shown me, because he's my husband, that I really did have a confidence problem. So having Michael always call me out when I'm being super self-deprecating, being really down on myself and very negative on my performance, it's really held me accountable to... I wouldn't let someone else talk to me that way, why would I let myself talk to me that way? So I feel like because we're so close and we're married, [Mike is] able to say that to me in a way that really resonated with me. What about you? Tell me all the nice stuff I do for you.
Mike: It's a trip getting to work on music with your significant other. Obviously there's a lot of challenges creatively when you're trying to separate the two, when you're like, 'Bandmate me is saying this, not husband me saying this.' But it's amazing, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
It's awesome getting to work with Courtney because the way that we do it now, we'll include her within the riff-writing process. I'll make a riff and then she'll get on the microphone and just do gibberish just to hear what might be there vocally, if it's in the right key for her or if it's comfortable for her range. We never used to do that before, I used to just give her full songs and be like, 'Good luck.'
Courtney: Yeah, I'd be like, 'Aw.'
Mike: Our two songs "Blessed Be," "Rules of Nines" and Eternal Blue have all been that process of including Courtney, and I think it's helped so much. It's made the process so much better and easier. It's just made for a better product, so I love writing with Courtney. It's difficult sometimes to separate the bandmate and the significant other like I was saying, but it's a very rare thing and I think it makes the music better to be honest with you.
Courtney: I think at this point, it's not hard to separate bandmate from husband and wife, I kind of feel like it's impossible. It's not even like an objective of mine anymore because I just embrace that that's just who we are. There's no transition between the two, it's just who we are. We're very fortunate that we are around a lot of people on our team that can hang with that, because it's a lot to deal with.
I'm going to put you in the mentor position and we'll end on this one. Now that you've achieved the success that you have, what advice do you have for bands who are entering the position that you were in, say a year ago?
Mike: Don't quit, honestly. For me, you can't fail if you don't quit. I've been trying to do this for 14 years, same with Courtney. And I just now am at the point where I can confidently, when someone says, 'What do you do for a living?' I won't be like, 'Oh I work here, but I'm also a musician.' I just tell people I'm a musician now, which is great and is the ultimate goal.
But it's just one of those things where you have to just give it your all and you can't let the voice in your head being like, 'This isn't working, what're you doing? Your friends are becoming doctors and lawyers, you're in your basement writing an album.' You just have to push through, and eventually it's just gonna pay off. Just keep going.
Courtney: My advice is less optimistic.
Mike: You have to have balance, I suppose. You have to have good cop, bad cop.
Courtney: I just think that people that are starting out making music, and they have something that they feel is special, it's like you have to walk a line, always, behind a healthy dose of being completely delusional, but also have a bit of self-awareness. They're both very important.
You need the delusion part to get through some tough times, to keep going, but then you also need the self-awareness to be able to not get caught in the sunken cost fallacy of like, 'Oh, I put so much time into X, so I can't stop.' Whether it's a relationship with someone, 'We've been together a long time,' or a job, 'I've had this job for a long time,' I feel like it's the same thing with music.
I think it's very important for people to really look and assess how much time and effort they're actually spending on their music, and try to be realistic with themselves and self-aware, like, 'Could I be spending more of my time and resources on what I'm doing if I'm putting the rest of my life on hold for my music?'
And then also, I think the most important thing is just... as people who live on an island, if you want to be successful really, you can't let geography limit who you work with, who is making music with you and who is on your team because if we did that, we wouldn't have a band still. It would just be Michael and I. I think that a lot of people really get into the trap of trying to be the most successful local band, and I think that that's great if that's your goal. But that's probably not going to... most peoples' dreams are to go past that and become an international band.
So I think that people need to just work with people that they like in whatever capacity that is. Maybe you can't afford to fly someone out to direct your video, but maybe you can figure a way to send footage to them that you shoot yourself. Maybe you can't work with this mixing engineer and fully go into their studio, but maybe they can mix one song you send them the stems.
Just little things like that. I think that's a really big thing. But I think that's advice for our generation, and I think the new generation doesn't need to hear that, they know that already. They grew up connecting online with other people. The millennials, I think that we need that advice, but the Gen Z, they'd be like, 'Yeah, we know,' because they're just so connected and their collaboration online is just incredible.
Grab your copy of Spiritbox's 'Eternal Blue' here.