Spiritbox’s Mike Stringer on the high-tech modelling solutions and innovative guitar behind the band's breakout album, Eternal Blue

Mike Stringer
(Image credit: Kyle Joinson)

Spiritbox are one of the breakout bands of 2021. Led by husband and wife duo Mike Stringer (guitars) and Courtney LaPlante (vocals), the Canadian quartet have enjoyed huge success with their debut album Eternal Blue, which hit the US top 20.

Stringer describes their brand of modern metal as “very dark and very melodic”, and reveals to Total Guitar how he discovered the right tools for the job...

For anyone who hasn’t heard the album yet, what can they expect? 

Eternal Blue is definitely something that we wanted to have the listener listen to from start to finish. It’s got the heaviest songs we’ve written and the prettiest songs we’ve written.”

How do you balance heaviness and melody?

“A lot of the time, we end up in drop F# on my seven-string, which is very comfortable for Courtney because, if you remove the bottom F#, you’re basically in standard C# on a six-string. But, for instance, we have a song called Blessed Be and that’s half a step down. So sometimes we’ll go a bit lower, but never higher. 

“I have a Quad Cortex and the pitch shifting is incredible. A lot of the time, if we’re messing around and something doesn’t feel right – especially for her – I’ll just pitch it down, instead of having to tune down. We have a lot of tuning changes, even within our songs. Holy Roller has four tuning changes in it and the Quad Cortex enables that.”

What are your main guitars and what makes them right for you? 

“I started playing Aristides guitars back in 2015 and they’ve been with me ever since. Their whole thing is that they don’t make wood guitars – they make guitars out of Arium, which is a whole other thing they developed. 

“The material has these crazy qualities that really complement low tunings. There’s a lot more high-end snap and a lot more sustain. I have two multi-scales: an 070sr and an 070s. They built me one based on our album artwork and it has our Eternal Blue eye on it. 

“They built me a blue sparkle one as well which has an EverTune, and that’s my main live guitar. I was so used to having to tune 24/7 during our set, and now, I don’t tune once.”

You really only see these instruments in specific genres – at what point did you commit, and did anyone in particular inspire you to do so? 

“I’d have to say Aaron Marshall from Intervals. Back in 2015, we were on the road and I was playing this guitar where every show we turned up to, the neck was bowed, and everything was completely out of whack. He was playing the Aristides stuff and I kept seeing rumors online advertising it as ‘the guitar you’ll never have to set up’. 

“With the issues I was facing, I was like, ‘That sounds awesome, I would love to get my hands on that!’ What we do is so niche, we require such particular gear in order to do it right. I look at a lot of this stuff as tools – like what a carpenter would need. Now I know that all I need is: one volume knob, a five-way switch, really hot pickups and an EverTune – then I’m probably good to go!”

And what about the other tools in your arsenal?

“Right now, my setup – for everything – is just a Quad Cortex. I carry it in a backpack, show up and we just mount it. It takes care of all the clean stuff, all the heavy stuff and it’s switched via MIDI from our sessions so I don’t touch it. For recording, we use the Neural DSP Nolly plugin [Archetype: Nolly], and that’s it!”

We recorded Eternal Blue in an Airbnb kitchen!

It’s an increasingly popular approach...

“I think a lot of it has to do with the people you’re working with. If you’re working with a producer who’s a purist, they’re going to be adamant about having to use a tube head. But Dan [Braunstein], our producer, has been using plugins since Guitar Rig days. All of a sudden, everything started shifting towards plugins and DIs, so I think we’re at a point where you can make full albums with these things and it’s super convenient. We recorded Eternal Blue in an Airbnb kitchen!”

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.