Courtney Laplante’s nightmare would be screaming one of Spiritbox’s alt-metal songs in front of judge Simon Cowell and the crowd of normies at America’s Got Talent. And yet last summer, Cowell, along with millions of viewers across America, was dramatically introduced to the intense sounds of Spiritbox — as LaPlante tuned in and cheered.
So how — in the infancy of their career, and after only one album — did this Canadian band from a small island in Victoria, British Columbia, manage to enter the small pantheon of metal acts who have had their mainstream crossover moment? And why was LaPlante so happy about it? It all began with a young girl’s scream.
It was a Saturday in June 2022, the day America’s Got Talent was due to air, and the day the world would witness the young screamer in question — 10-year-old Harper Jerret from Somerset, England — assault Cowell and the judges with her performance of Spiritbox’s breakout hit “Holy Roller.”
Everything appeared to align, like it was fated. LaPlante had previously befriended Jerret after discovering her on Instagram, and — on the exact night of the broadcast — Jerret found herself joining Spiritbox at their sold-out show in London to perform the very same banger from her AGT audition. As Jerret walked onstage, LaPlante imagined herself at that age: a timid child, years from realizing her identity as an artist, almost a decade out from finding her scream. “At her age I was just like, ‘I love horses so much, they’re so sick’ and ‘I wish Space Jam was real’,” says the singer in her typically self-deprecating manner. (LaPlante is also prone to laughing at herself, which she does frequently, and infectiously, throughout our Zoom call.) “But I think she’s a kid who’s a bit ahead of the other kids, emotionally, because she’s able to ask herself: Who am I? I am an artist.”
LaPlante was immediately protective of that nascent determination. “Don’t go near the front of the stage,” she recalls telling Jerret, desperate to keep her safe — to make sure she wouldn’t stray, to make sure she wouldn’t fall. The duet came off without a hitch, but LaPlante was still a little apprehensive that night. She knew that within hours Jerret’s America’s Got Talent audition would air — to an audience that she suspected numbered in the metal-hating millions. LaPlante, quite sensibly, didn’t trust Simon Cowell. She didn’t trust the normies. She was expecting the worst.
Alongside her husband and bandmate Mike Stringer, LaPlante headed to her hotel room. They braced themselves for the audition and were pre-pared to talk shit about the judges. “We were ready to defend … like, ‘Fuck you, Simon Cowell!'” she says. “Because we only have our own experience with normal culture and how they interact with what we do.” Instead, as Jerret’s performance unfolded, LaPlante watched with amazement as the judges’ initial, terrified awe relaxed into total admiration.
“Holy roller sits in the garden we fled/Blood into wine, take my body instead,” Jerret enunciated like a tiny Shakespearean thespian, before launching into a LaPlante-worthy scream that was all animal, that obliterated all boundaries of primetime decorum. A standing ovation. A thumbs up from Simon Cowell. Three yeses. LaPlante cheered for Jerret — and then sat up and took note. This is what happens when you don’t take away a little girl’s freedom to scream. This is what happens when you imagine the world as a stage from which to shout unashamed.
“It was amazing to see that girls can make this kind of music,” Jerret recently told Revolver of first discovering LaPlante’s performance on “Holy Roller,” which her stepfather had introduced her to around the time Spiritbox released their 2021 full-length debut, Eternal Blue. “I was really inspired by Courtney to start screaming and making my own music.” The song was Jerret’s introduction to metal, her gateway into the genre. “Holy Roller” has now become, for an increasing number of kids across the world, their gateway, too.
It was a surreal moment that garlanded one of the most rapid ascensions in recent metal history. Watchful eyes have been placed on Spiritbox ever since their inception in 2017. But it wasn’t until July 2020 — when they released “Holy Roller,” the first single from Eternal Blue — that they turned from a niche one-to-watch act to one of metal’s most exciting new prospects. They soon secured a No. 1 spot on SiriusXM’s Liquid Metal radio station as well as a significant, devoted fanbase — and for good reasons. Spiritbox were expanding the genre in both sound and scope, incorporating djent blasts and industrial breakbeats into hypnagogic dreamscapes while broadening metal’s emotional range beyond brazen anguish and rage.
On this point, LaPlante is especially passionate. “I feel like we’re one of the only remaining genres that has to be so binary in what the music is about and how the music makes you feel,” she says. “Other music has a wide scope: songs about partying, songs about heartbreak, songs about being angry, songs about feeling depressed, songs about feeling happy. [Metal] is a broad genre, but a lot of it feels like it’s on autopilot.”
If the success of “Holy Roller” wasn’t enough of a tell, by the time Eternal Blue dropped in September 2021 it was crystal clear: Spiritbox were on the rise — and steering their own plane. The record debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, marking that year’s highest-charting release for the genre at that point. Incessant, relentless touring followed, as they supported many of hard rock’s legacy acts and gained swathes of new fans from devotees of Ghost, Underoath, Bring Me the Horizon, even Limp Bizkit. Every metric and data point suggest it: Spiritbox are big. Their influence has both pushed the genre forward and opened it up to a new generation. All at once, everything has changed — and yet everything still remains the same. This is Spiritbox’s strange new reality.
When LaPlante logs into our video call, the singer is once again sitting in front of the exact same setup from which I interviewed her for a Revolver “Uprising” profile just over two years ago. A weak-tea-colored wall is behind her, precariously nailed to which is a black-and-purple Spiritbox poster that she and Stringer designed together over five years ago. But some things are different: A few empty moving boxes can be seen in the background — as soon, the band will be splitting their time between Victoria and Los Angeles. It’s purely a business decision; the cost of an apartment is cheaper than all the hotel stays they’ve splurged on while travelling down to California to record. “When I go away from my island, go to L.A., Michael and I get very shocked,” she says. “It’s absolutely bizarre for us. I think being here has kind of protected us, sheltered us. It’s a literal and figurative island for us.”