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Spiritbox’s Mike Stringer: “I try to keep the chords as simple as possible and push things in the layering”

Mike Stringer
(Image credit: Kyle Joinson)

Digital recording has enabled bands to layer a seemingly endless number of tracks on a song, but Spiritbox guitarist Mike Stringer can confirm there is, in fact, an end – he reached it while recording Constance, the closing song on Eternal Blue [Pale Chord/Rise], his band’s 2021 debut album.

“I think Constance maxed out our producer’s Pro Tools session for tracks, which is ridiculous,” Stringer says. Yet Stringer’s goal in layering was not to create an orchestra of guitars.

Instead, layers of cleanly arpeggiating lines flutter over dozens of ambience tracks and reverb tails, leading to an otherworldly dense expanse of down-tuned guitar sounds and textures. Most songs on Eternal Blue, though, contain a more manageable five to six tracks of guitar ambience to accompany his seven-string riffing.

Playing the grinding foil to vocalist Courtney LaPlante, Stringer puts a lot of work into figuring out which guitar chord voicings best showcase her vocals.

“Being in a melodic band, the singing is so important – it’s probably the most important aspect,” he says. “I think for the most part I try to keep the chords as simple as possible, and then where I try to push things is in the layering.”

Armed with an Aristides baritone seven-string outfitted with an Evertune bridge, and sometimes a multi-scale model, Stringer tunes down to F sharp, which necessitates a .73 gauge string at the low end and a conventional .10 at the high end. “You kinda get the best of both worlds,” he says, “where you have that low end and that low register, but then the rest isn’t too floppy and or too low for a singing part.”

The guitar tones behind Spiritbox’s crushing melodic djent on Eternal Blue are all plugins from Neural DSP’s Archetype: Nolly, which he says “fill up the mix perfectly”. For the live show, Stringer opts for the Neural DSP Quad Cortex with a model of an Omega Granophyre amp he captured.

In between playing riffs and chords, Stringer is a master at placing pick scrapes and harmonics where they add an aggressive edge.

“I love bands like Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza and Gojira that use those pick scrapes,” he says. “It just becomes a different part of the instrument, [and] it’s so much fun to throw in extra harmonic scrapes and try to get a little deeper with it. ‘How can I make this sound even more unique?’”

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Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs (opens in new tab), a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.