Just a few days ago on July 30, a beautiful sunny Saturday in Milwaukee, the Metalcore band In This Moment hit the stage at The Rave on the ninth stop of the All Stars Tour.
The band graciously took a few minutes beforehand to talk with me about a variety of subjects including touring, music videos, the new CD they have in the works, the rise of social media and artistic adventures outside the band.
OnMilwaukee.com: Welcome to Milwaukee! You have 21 shows in 27 days in August, including a trip to Canada and dates coast to coast. It sounds exhausting on paper. What tricks have you learned as a band to make the time off stage as fun as the time on stage?
Maria Brink: First of all, thanks for interviewing us! That's actually a lot of days off, we get one day off a week. And we never get that. We're actually happy!
Chris Howorth: And it is exhausting, but that's still pretty good, you know? The amount of days off are nice.
MB: One day a week is good, though. Sometimes they'll push you for 20 days in a row and everyone is having a heart attack.
OMC: You get broke down and you're feeling it ...
OMC: Now that you've done some extensive touring, do you have certain stops along the way at places that you have to hit up when you're in any particular city to eat or visit or just enjoy the visual spectacle?
MB: Well yeah, I mean there's certain places where you know there's that really good restaurant there or there's cool vintage shops around. I like Portland. I like to always go walk around Portland.
CH: Like The Rave and Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment across the street!
OMC: Interesting fact, on a side note his last victim was just arrested for homicide a few days ago.
CH: Wow, that's crazy.
MB: His last victim?
OMC: The last victim that actually put him in jail.
CH: The one that escaped.
OMC: He's apparently homeless.
CH: Crazy, man, that's nuts.
MB: He's probably psychologically all messed up too.
OMC: Probably. You would imagine ...
What is the magic glue that bonds you all together as a band, beyond the music?
CH: That's a good question. These are good questions. We question that ourselves sometimes. I look at it like, and I know it's not the same thing as going to war, but like soldiers in battle, or whatever. Or a crew on a ship that's at sea for four months and dealing with storms, and scurvy and inner conflict and everything, you bond through that stuff. It's like family. It's like soldiers together in the battlefield, we're all in it together taking this crazy ride, so it kind of brings us together in a weird way.
OMC: The mutual shared experience ...
CH: All differences aside of everyone being an individual person, that kind of brings us together.
OMC: Storytelling is an important part of the lyrical content for In This Moment. Your CDs have been concept albums for the most part. I can only imagine that the upcoming CD you are working on will follow this trend. Do you have any general themes that are emerging that you don't mind sharing with the fans? I understand the need to keep a level of mystery to the project.
MB: I always, with the writing side of it, the lyrics and everything, kind of have like an overall concept or feeling to the whole thing. And it's also cool sometimes to write in metaphors so I can still write in a personal experience, but I kind of do it in a different metaphorical way so it's not boring. Like, "Oh I love you" or "Oh I'm sad today" because this happened. You know what I mean?
OMC: Right, not just black and white words.
MB: There's a more cool twist way to write it.
OMC: Leaving room for interpretation ...
MB: Right. So the next album is definitely, I think lyrically-wise things like that and the vibe, going to be a darker side of In This Moment for sure. More of kind of like the crimsony, alluring sinful side.
OMC: That's a great word, crimsony. That gets me excited that it's going to be crimsony.
MB: I know when I visualize it, because I kind of visually see things and think of things, that's what kind of comes to me.
OMC: Because you're a visual artist as well.
OMC: Given an unlimited budget, what is the video you would create if it was just a blank check?
CH: We'd fill in the zeros until it was like $500,000 and hire some crazy guy to do it. Maria usually has a lot of the concepts in her head for videos and stuff. We would like to make a really crazy awesome video.
MB: I mean if we had unlimited money it would be amazing!
OMC: Hire Peter Jackson!
CH: Dude, there you go! George Lucas!
MB: Yeah! It would be like, epic, iconic! You know, like the movies.
CH: And Steven Spielberg, why not?
OMC: Sure, if you're dreaming!
CH: Get Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Lucas to all come together as a team!
MB: It will be like a full Orc war!
CH: It will be a mixture of "E.T.," "Lord Of The Rings" and "Star Wars" all at once with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on top!
OMC: Speaking of George Lucas, Chris, I see that the "Star Wars" guitar has come together nicely. Being a fellow "Star Wars" fan, it's a joy to see you giving some onstage love to "Star Wars." When did the fandom begin for you?
CH: When I was like 10 or something my dad took me to see "Star Wars," the first one, and it was just like, I wanted to go get a "Star Wars" gun immediately after the movie was over and run around the yard playing "Star Wars." I've seen that movie probably millions of times in my life and it never gets old, I still watch it every couple of weeks.
OMC: That's about the answer I expected; for so many people it starts as a kid.
CH: It never ends. I get really excited when I see action figures and stuff in stores. I always look everytime we go to a department stores at what kind of "Star Wars" figures they have.
OMC: Absolutely, there is always something new. They never stop making new "Star Wars" toys.
CH: It's awesome.
OMC: Maria, tell me about the dresses that you have for this tour. Usually they are handmade. What was your inspiration or overall theme for this tour?
MB: It's always kind of the same type of thing. Well, I just like the little dresses, little baby doll-type dresses. I have one from the last tour I still wear, it's like baby doll but it's kind of shredded and beat up. And then I have kind of like the porcelain doll type dresses, I don't know why I love them, I just do! So it's those things, just different types, different colors, stuff like that.
OMC: Speaking of dolls and things, you have some really lovely paintings. The bleeding hearts are stunning! They're haunting too at the same time. The zombie dolls are exceptionally unique and I just read on your Facebook that you have some zombie Barbies coming in the future.
MB: Yeah, I'm starting to make them.
CH: There's one sitting right over there!
OMC: Tell me about where you find these dolls.
MB: I just take normal dolls that are old dolls that I find at like garage sales and things like that, and then I kind of just destroy them and turn them into zombie dolls or babies. The paintings, it's just basically a cool way for me to feel like I can still artistically do things when we have time off, and financially, until you're like selling 500,000 albums you're not really rolling in the money huge. You know, Jeff gives drum lessons. Everyone's got their thing. It's a cool way for me to still feel artistic and be expressive in that way, but still have a little bit if an income, and you know fans like to have something that's personable that's just made for them specially.
OMC: It's really a brilliant idea, as well. Maria Brink's Wonderland is open 24/7. Tell me what inspired you to create that online playground for your fans?
MB: It's just to have like the personal kind of connection between them. We have little special things that we do. We do chats and video chats. Just like an underground cool thing that isn't just for everybody type thing, it's more exclusive.
OMC: I grew up listening to punk in the late 1980s. Around that time punk and metal were sort of blurring the lines. There was this movement. The Exploited, Suicidal Tendencies, Agnostic Front, The Plasmatics and even The Misfits and Circle Jerks were blurring the lines of punk and metal. Being a melodic metalcore band, tell me about the punk rock influences in your music?
CH: Suicidal! I mean for me that's it, I mean I'm not a really big fan of punk. You know, but I will say like Blake does bring some punk influences in, he likes Blink 182 and some of the more modern versions of punk and stuff like that, and that element kind of has been brought into In This Moment by him. I like Suicidal because of the metal side of them, honestly I'm not a huge punk person.
OMC: I loved when Suicidal turned metal.
CH: Yeah, me too. They still always kept that punk element with Mike Muir's vocals and stuff. We don't really think about the influences, they just kind of happen in the band, you know, we're not really thinking about what our punk roots are but metal is rooted in punk and punk is rooted in metal so it all works together.
MB: Yeah, and just the attitude of you know, the Sex Pistols, it's the same thing as metal kind of as far as the freedom and not caring.
CH: Don't give a f*ck, telling the crowd to f*ck off!
MB: Kind of against what you see everyday I guess on MTV and things like that. I think they're all definitely inspired by each other and they definitely compliment each other, that's for sure, the same attitude and idea.
CH: Anti-trend kind of thing, which is cool. We try to do our own thing and not follow trends.
OMC: Chris, given an unlimited budget and not considering scarcity, is there a holy grail guitar that you would love to acquire and play?
CH: Yes! I'd like to have Blake come in and help me figure out which one, but some of the most exotic Fender Strats, maybe a couple exotic Les Pauls. I'd love to have one of Ace Frehley's vintage Les Pauls from like Alive One heyday or whatever. And you know, I wouldn't mind a Dimebag guitar or that Frankenstein Eddie guitar, just to have even one of the replicas would be sweet, you know?
MB: It would be cool if you had one with the whole thing a Darth Vader head.
CH: I could still maybe make that happen sometime!
MB: That would be cool!
OMC: Social media is such a huge part of everyone's life right now. Everyone has a computer and phone linked to a social network that wasn't possible even just a few short years ago. Are bands that don't embrace this new age of social interaction destined to fail?
MB: Well, I don't even think CDs will be let out besides on the internet coming up here soon and I think that unfortunately it is starting to take over. So I think you have to somewhat be a part of the internet as far as the music.
CH: I was gonna say, destined to fail is kind of strong words, but in reality, what else is there? This is the way the world is turning. I mean if there was some kind of huge apocalyptic event that wiped out all the electronics and then we're back to like banging on sticks and cans and stuff for music, I mean then maybe you know it would go back.
OMC: Back when I was a kid you just went to the record store and you made a choice sometimes on just the cover, you had no idea what you were buying.
CH: You bought cool album covers. That's all gone now.
MB: Yeah, it's not like that anymore.
OMC: What kind of pressure does it put on a band to share perhaps more than they are use to or comfortable with. It's hard to imagine say Motley Crue tweeting or facebooking their over-the-top exploits back in the day. Does it create a new kind of accountability?
CH: Yeah, it does, actually! In some ways, it's really cool because you have this really close interaction with people. Like every day they know where you're at, what you're doing, what's going on, that's what people love about Maria Brinks Wonderland. But also, it kind of takes away some of the mystery of being in a rock band. When I was younger you know there wasn't all this stuff and Motley Crue and KISS was this thing that you just wondered about and you heard the rumors about the exploits or you read the journal in a magazine about some of their exploits and it just became legend. Whereas now everyone is ...
CH: It's so out there.
MB: Back then you could only imagine and dream, and you had no idea. Now you're so involved, it's a little less mysterious and all those things. But at the same time, you get to have a personal connection with some of the fans and hear the personal stories that can touch your life, create personal new relationships with people who normally you wouldn't be able to tell you their story or get in touch with you like they can now. Some of it is really, you know, beautiful.
CB: It's got its good sides and its bad sides.
OMC: It's all real time. I know you checked in for some sushi the other day, Blake.
Blake Bunzel : Oh yeah!
CH: He's the checker-inner!
MB: He is the checker-inner.
CH: All these big rock stars in big bands, when I see posts on Blabbermouth now and stuff like that on news posts, it's like a tweet from somebody that they picked up, and they're like "Oh they just tweeted there is a problem within the band," and, wow!
MB: We don't ever put if there's a problem with the band.
CH: We don't really tweet that much.
MB: We don't do anything personal.
CH: But they do like, I mean like big bands!
OMC: It doesn't seem necessary to air everything. There has to be some shroud of mystery.
CH: I don't think anyone in this band is really that far gone. It's like I just had lunch and had sushi and it was fun. Now I'm gonna go back to my bunk and lay down and smoke a cigarette.
MB: Even last night is a good example. I had to do a personal apology on the internet.
OMC: I saw that. There was a misunderstanding of some words spoken onstage.
CH: It was the punk rock side coming out! People got offended.
MB: I feel bad. But it was just, you know, I've never said that to a crowd. Have I? I don't think I've ever said that before.
OMC: But you know it's so great that you can right away ...
MB: Say sorry! Here's the good side to the public.
CH: And all the people b*tching about it can be instantly like, "Oh well."
OMC: You can silence the haters right away with the truth.
CH: And also stir up a little controversy too because all the people who weren't even involved are like, "Yeah, cool, Maria! Tell them to f*ck off, and you can tell me to f*ck off anytime you want!"
OMC: I saw that!
MB: There were a few mean people that were out in the crowd, but I shouldn't have spoiled it for the good people by yelling at the bad people. But once in a blue moon you know you just friggin' lose your top.
CH: People need to be told to f*ck off every once in a while.
MB: What are ya gonna do, you know?
OMC: Absolutely, I see nothing wrong with telling it like it is sometimes, especially if someone is disrespecting you.
MB: I know but then I could find them later and tell them to F off. I feel bad saying it onstage because the people that are there having a good time ... So I'll try not to do that again. I'll just say "Hey you, in the red shirt!"
CH: Meet me outside!
MB: You F off!
OMC: I guarantee that the real fans had a good time.
MB: Yeah, exactly, and they know who we are, who we represent and how much we appreciate them.