THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Metal Hammer (UK) - - In This Moment - WORDS: MIS­CHA PEARL­MAN • PIC­TURES: JEREMY SAF­FER

From the out­side, it looks like an or­di­nary tour­bus, ca­su­ally parked out­side a mu­sic venue like on any other day of the week. Climb in­side, how­ever, and it’s any­thing but. Swathes of black fab­ric cover the fur­ni­ture, the smell of in­cense fills the air and can­dles adorn al­most ev­ery sur­face pos­si­ble, creat­ing a peace­ful, mys­ti­cal vibe. Even when Maria Brink, dressed in a long, black gown, sits down and ac­ci­den­tally knocks one of the can­dles over, she doesn’t panic at the thought of fire or im­pend­ing doom. In­stead, the In This Mo­ment singer sim­ply picks it up and places it back on the ta­ble. It’s a plas­tic flame af­ter all – if there’s go­ing to be a rag­ing in­ferno, it’ll be when they’re on­stage in a few hours. Be­cause In This Mo­ment have what must be one of the most in­cred­i­ble stage shows in al­ter­na­tive mu­sic right now.

Tonight, the LA band are bring­ing that show to The Pal­la­dium in Worcester, Mas­sachusetts, as they hit the home stretch of the first leg of their Half God/Half Devil head­line US tour. Doors aren’t quite open, and a huge line snakes around the block. There’s also a large group of diehard fans – known as the Blood Le­gion – wait­ing for a meet and greet. It’s a solid in­di­ca­tion that this tour’s been go­ing well.

“It’s been spec­tac­u­lar,” beams Maria, sit­ting across from guitarist Chris Howorth, with whom she co-founded the band in 2005. Her voice is chirpy and friendly, match­ing her de­meanour per­fectly. “Ninety-five per cent of the shows have been sold out. We’re so grate­ful. It’s blown our minds, be­cause we were off for a while and didn’t know what to ex­pect com­ing back.”

That must be some­thing of a re­lief, given the epic scale of their live show on US shores. There are props ga­lore, out­ra­geous cos­tumes, dis­turb­ing masks, mov­ing plat­forms, smoke ma­chines. And then there are the

Blood Girls, a cast of face­less women who dance through­out the gig, tak­ing up dif­fer­ent roles for dif­fer­ent songs, di­vert­ing at­ten­tion for when Maria es­capes to change out­fit, stalk­ing the stage like crea­tures from the Un­der­world. Each song is a true per­for­mance piece, with vi­su­als and chore­og­ra­phy de­signed to en­hance the power of the mu­sic and the mes­sage while also creat­ing its own unique scene. It’s some­where in be­tween the Thriller video come to life and the most fucked-up Katy Perry per­for­mance you’ll ever see. It hasn’t al­ways been this way, but it was al­ways meant to be this way.

“I think Maria al­ways knew it was go­ing to be like this one day,” says Chris, whose jovial tone is at odds with his im­pos­ing pres­ence, “but when we started out, we didn’t have any­thing but our own mi­cro­phone. And it’s evolved into this.”

“I al­ways had a big vi­sion,” con­firms Maria. “I’m one of those peo­ple who loves to seek out new things and learn and evolve and push our vi­sion as far as we can. At the be­gin­ning, I started telling Chris these things I was see­ing in my head and we started do­ing them with­out the bud­get. We were build­ing stuff in the park­ing lot with nails and wood from Home De­pot. And when I started see­ing that it ac­tu­ally was pos­si­ble, the sky be­came the limit.”

Twelve years into their ca­reer, In This Mo­ment are still reach­ing for the skies and push­ing those lim­its. Af­ter four al­bums on in­flu­en­tial me­tal la­bel Cen­tury Me­dia, they signed to At­lantic Records for 2014’s Black Wi­dow, some­thing that brought the re­al­ity of achiev­ing their vi­sion closer than ever. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re close to where they ac­tu­ally want to be, even in terms of the seam­less and pol­ished show we see later tonight.

“Right now,” says the singer, “we have a crew of 20, in­clud­ing the driv­ers. There are two buses and a semi. But in my mind, with the show I want to cre­ate, it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to be dou­ble that. There’s a bunch of new things in the show that we’re do­ing, and we’re still putting pieces to­gether and fig­ur­ing out some lit­tle things. There are so many lit­tle de­tails, and peo­ple be­hind the scenes work­ing in­cred­i­bly hard. By the end of this tour go­ing into the next one I think we’ll be at 100%.”

FROM GO­ING DIY TO CA­REER-THREAT­EN­ING MED­I­CAL CON­DI­TIONS, NOTH­ING CAN STOP IN THIS MO­MENT FROM RE­AL­IS­ING THEIR GRAND VI­SION. WE HEAD STATE­SIDE FOR

THEIR BIG­GEST-EVER TOUR TO FIND OUT WHY…

Maria Brink: kohl sur­vivor

in on just walked

Ei­ther we’ve weird­est

this is the a coven or high five ever Power Rangers Ripe, sweaty

crowds? Travis John­son

is pre­pared

Her fas­ci­na­tion with the the­atri­cal be­gan as a young girl, when she’d put on plays for fam­ily and friends. That de­vel­oped into a love of Madonna and Michael Jack­son, be­fore set­tling on the more macabre im­agery that dom­i­nates In This Mo­ment’s stage show. Equally in­spired by the aes­thetic of Mar­i­lyn Manson, Rob Zom­bie and The Rocky Hor­ror Show, an In This Mo­ment gig is much more than just a con­cert. It’s an all-con­sum­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for both the au­di­ence and the band, and Maria ad­mits her ul­ti­mate dream is to have a Las Ve­gas res­i­dency. But al­though the per­for­mance as­pect is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant – it’s not just at the cen­tre of what the band do, but of who they are – they’re aware that they can’t only rely on the vi­su­als. The songs also need to be good. More than that, though, they need to work to­gether as two sides of the same coin. So while pre-pro­duc­tion for the live shows starts a month be­fore a tour, the seed for the vi­su­als is planted in­cred­i­bly early on in the song­writ­ing process. Rather than de­vis­ing the live show for the song af­ter the fact, the two are pretty much in­ter­linked from the be­gin­ning.

“Be­fore we even go into the stu­dio,” says Maria, “I come up with a sto­ry­board for ev­ery­one. From there, it goes into the writ­ing the songs and then work­ing out how to bring it to life on­stage. You have to get the bal­ance right. If the per­for­mance is re­ally amaz­ing but the mu­sic sucks, it’s a flop. And if the mu­sic is great but we’re try­ing to do a per­for­mance that’s not quite work­ing and we’re trip­ping and fall­ing and it’s turning into Spinal Tap, that’s not great ei­ther.”

”It’s much more than just mak­ing sure you play or sing ev­ery­thing right,” adds

Chris. “She’s think­ing about the show while she’s writ­ing the songs. As this gets big­ger and big­ger, we’re go­ing into places and things we’ve never done be­fore. It’s a con­stant learn­ing process, and we’re learn­ing ev­ery step of the way be­cause things are al­ways de­vel­op­ing.”

That am­bi­tious vi­sion has led to some lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues, not least when it comes to tak­ing that gar­gan­tuan pro­duc­tion abroad, where the band aren’t as high pro­file as they are in the States.

“We want to take this as far as we can go,” in­sists Chris, “and we want the show to get bet­ter and bet­ter. Maria has so many ideas that we’re not able to re­alise right now be­cause of money and prac­ti­cal­ity. We also want to take the show over­seas, and we haven’t re­ally got to that point ei­ther.”

“What hap­pens,” ex­plains Maria, “is you can blow up here and have a cer­tain bud­get for all these peo­ple that you have to pay for, but we can’t nec­es­sar­ily af­ford it where we’re not as big. But we’ve got to go there any­way in order to get this big there, in order to bring them that show. We don’t want to cheat any­body of the full ex­pe­ri­ence of what it’s sup­posed to be, but we re­alise that we have to tone it down a lit­tle. You can still pull off some­thing mag­i­cal with­out all the bells and whis­tles.”

Be­ing so in­vested in their art doesn’t come with­out its phys­i­cal con­se­quences, ei­ther. Both Maria and Chris ad­mit that the spec­ta­cle of the band’s live show leaves them phys­i­cally drained, and it has caused their health to suf­fer. In par­tic­u­lar, in April 2016, the band were forced to can­cel a UK tour af­ter Chris was di­ag­nosed with acute arthri­tis. It’s some­thing he’d been suf­fer­ing from for years – and which had led to a painkiller ad­dic­tion – but it had gone un­di­ag­nosed. Al­though he’s bet­ter, he’s un­able to move his neck much be­cause it’s fused to his back. “I thought I was never go­ing to be able to do this again,” he says. “I was watch­ing [tour sup­port band] Avatar the other day and got de­pressed be­cause they’re all young and bang­ing their heads like crazy and I’m never go­ing to do that again.

But it is what it is. I did that at the be­gin­ning and that’s what got me into this sit­u­a­tion, be­cause I wasn’t tak­ing care of my­self prop­erly.”

“We never thought we’d be those peo­ple who have to get phys­i­cal therapy ev­ery day,” adds Maria, “but we took what hap­pened re­ally se­ri­ously be­cause it was dev­as­tat­ing. So now we’re dorks who get phys­i­cal therapy ev­ery day. It’s not just about the ex­er­cise and how hard you sang phys­i­cally, but when you’re con­nect­ing with a crowd, that’s a lot of en­ergy com­ing at you. You’re mov­ing your soul and your en­ergy, so you’re pretty drained at the end. We take care of our­selves and get mas­sages and do yoga, but we’re still in pain. You just have to push through.”

That’s ex­actly what they’re do­ing, both in terms of their show and the mu­sic. The band’s new al­bum even fea­tures a guest vo­cal from Rob Hal­ford on a song called Black Wed­ding, some­thing that hap­pened af­ter the Judas Priest singer saw the band live (“He wanted to come see us,” ex­claims Chris, “which blew us away.”). Clearly, things have come a long way since the band be­gan life over a decade ago, and even fur­ther from the pro­duc­tions

Maria used to stage as a child.

“She’s di­rect­ing a play that costs a lot of money now,” jokes Chris. Maria looks across the aisle of the bus at him.

“But when are we go­ing to make any money?” she laughs. “We spend it all on the show. It’s kind of like bet­ting on your­self.”

They shouldn’t worry too much.

At the rate they’re go­ing, the odds look very good in­deed.

“I’LL NEVER BANG MY HEAD AGAIN”

ACUTE ARTHRI­TIS THREAT­ENED CHRIS’S CA­REER

RIT­UAL IS OUT ON JULY 21 VIA AT­LANTIC RECORDS

“WE USED TO BUILD OUR PROPS IN THE PARK­ING LOT” MARIA HAD TO START SMALL WITH HER VI­SION

in hang­ing out Some­one’s been a bit too much Tor­ture Gar­den

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