Two of Victoria’s bands will cement their place on the global music map later this month when the annual edition of the iconic JUNO Awards goes live.
And, it’s fair to say, 2022 JUNOS nominees Spiritbox and Ocie Elliott have both ends of the music spectrum covered.
The headbangingly good Spriritbox has been described as alternative heavy metal and “metalcore” by singer Courtney LaPlante. The band is nominated in two categories: Breakthrough Group of the Year and Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year.
Ocie Elliott, on the other hand, is an indie folk duo, whose enchanting, acoustic-based melodies and layered harmonies will have you swaying in the sun. It, too, has a JUNOs nod for Breakthrough Group of the Year.
While their sounds are remarkably different, the life-forces of both bands come from real-life couples who are clearly living their dreams.
Spiritbox, named after a ouija-board-like device, was formed by LaPlante (vocals) and husband Michael Stringer (guitar) in 2017. Bassist Bill Crook and drummer Zev Rose have since joined to make it a four-piece. Incredibly, they amassed 66 million streams before dropping their debut album Eternal Blue—to rave reviews—and grew that number to 155 million.
Now back in the studio making new music, the band was unavailable for an interview. However, LaPlante says on their website: “The experimental aspect of our music is a key part of Spiritbox. All we do is make the music we feel compelled to create.”
And of her hopes for the JUNO-nominated Eternal Blue, she adds: “I’m incredibly passionate about what we’ve created, but becoming the biggest band ever isn’t my aim. For people to find hope and comfort in this music and truly connect with it is far more important.”
Currently on tour in Europe, Ocie Elliott—consisting of Jon Middleton (guitar and vocals) and Sierra Lundy (piano and vocals)—were thrilled with their JUNO nomination.
“It means a lot to us,” said Middleton, who is also well-known as the singer/guitarist in the popular Victoria-based band Jon and Roy. “We are very grateful to be recognized on a national scale.”
The pair met in 2015 via a chance encounter at Salt Spring Island’s Tree House Cafe where Middleton was playing.
“From the first time we sang together, two years later, we knew it was something we had to keep doing,” Middleton said.
And why the name Ocie Elliott?
“The ‘Ocie’ part came from a 1920s online name generator,” said Middleton. “The name Ocie became a kind of nickname for me and we added ‘Elliott’ because we liked the sound of it, and we’re both fans of the musician ‘Elliott Smith.’”
Creating an early ripple for the duo was a collection of videos—acoustic renditions famously recorded within the confines of their 2001 Honda CR-V. So what was the inspiration for these videos?
“It was actually more out of necessity,” said Middleton.“We live in a small basement suite and needed a space to practice. We could both fit comfortably in the CR-V and it allowed us to sing as loudly as we wanted. It also enabled us to hear each other really well. For whatever reason, the acoustics in the CR-V are amazing. After practicing in there for a year or so, one day we had a brainwave to film a version of the Gillian Welch song ‘Look at Miss Ohio’ It looked and sounded great and we had a good response, so we kept making them.”
Ocie Elliott started out doing cover songs before creating their own music, which now amounts to dozens of songs included on two EPs, plus full-length albums We Fall In, In That Room and Slow Tide. They currently have close to two million listeners on Spotify, and their songs have appeared on numerous television shows, including two Grey’s Anatomy episodes that featured “Run to You” and “The Less We Know.”
In April, Ocie Elliott performed near the base of Switzerland’s Matterhorn Mountain at the Zermatt Unplugged festival, and this month they start a European tour with fellow folk duo Hollow Coves.
“We love writing and recording new music, playing to live audiences where we get to meet and connect with so many different walks of life, and travelling/touring,” said Middleton.
The 2022 Juno Awards take place at 5 pm (PST) on Sunday, May 15 at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto. To learn more, visit spiritbox.com and ocieelliott.com.