As for many people, the extended quarantine period changed their lives. But for Spiritbox, the effects weren’t all negative.
Unable to go out and play, the band focused on building their online presence. They dropped huge tracks such as Holy Roller, Constance and Hurt You that, accompanied by intriguing videos and a carefully curated social media presence, saw them go from a band no-one had ever heard of to one metal fans couldn’t stop talking about.
“I thought the band was done when [lockdown] happened,” says Mike. “Like, ‘We’ve got all this debt, we need to figure this out.’ It was the most negative time mentally for the band, but then these doors started opening. All these horrible things were happening in the world, yet our career as Spiritbox essentially started at that time. Looking back, I’ve always asked myself: ‘Had that not happened, would we be here?’”
Given the phenomenal quality of Spiritbox’s debut album, Eternal Blue – a Top 20 hit in the UK, U.S., Canada, Germany and Australia and the most grippingly essential metal record in many a year – the answer is surely, ‘Yes, probably.’ But after all that success – so rare for a debut release in this day and age – some would see playing support as a backward step.
Not Courtney and Mike. Talking to Kerrang! from snowbound Salt Lake City, snuggled up on their tour bus with cute sweater-wearing dogs at their feet, they display no sign of rock star pretensions. They give up on the dodgy WiFi to use Courtney’s data for the Zoom call (“Anything for Kerrang!”) and position the phone to shield our eyes from the passing naked crew members.
Not only are they thrilled to be back on the road and, for now at least, problem-free – Salt Lake City is their 11th gig in a row, the longest streak the band has ever completed – but they also see this foray as “proof of concept” for the music they cooked up and released in isolation, deprived of the usual real-world feedback bands rely upon.
“We’ve been obsessed with this thing since we started writing music in 2015,” says Courtney. “We’re a very different group of people now; we’ve gone through way more stuff than I thought we would as a band. This whole time has felt like we know some secret and hoping that people understand what we’re trying to do.”
And, as it turns out, they do. Courtney and Mike seem genuinely taken aback by the ecstatic crowd reaction to them at every stop (“Now when I stick my microphone out to the crowd, I have a 50 per cent belief they’re actually going to sing!” laughs Courtney). Meanwhile, although she cheerfully admits to suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’, she says the respect from other bands is something she’s never experienced before. But there is zero chance of Spiritbox’s heads getting as big as their riffs.
“No matter how quickly you ascend to something, you still have to earn it,” Courtney stresses. “And we’re still earning it. We’ve been given a gift – one that we deserve – but we still have worked really hard. And now the hard work has begun.”
Mike admits to feeling the pressure of living up to the heightened expectations that come with being what Kerrang!’s 2021 cover story called “the hottest band in the world”. But while the first few shows were “nerve-wracking”, they’re now starting to relax and even – whisper it – enjoy themselves.
“A couple of days ago, we were like, ‘Are we having… fun? Are we laughing and goofing around right now?’” chuckles Courtney. “We remember from our old bands that this is what it’s like when you finally get in the groove of something. It feels weird to not have a nervous breakdown before I go onstage every day, but I could really get used to this!”