Nov. 07--Maria Brink, frontwoman for heavy metal band In This Moment, is a bona fide rock star.
Her band's latest album, "Blood," debuted at No. 15 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and No. 1 on the Top Hard Music Albums in August 2012, and she's toured with some of rock's biggest names today, including Korn, Disturbed and Shinedown.
Oh, yeah -- and she's from the Capital Region.
The Schenectady native, who still lives in the area, will be in front of a hometown crowd Saturday, bringing the Hell Pop Tour to Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, along with Motionless in White, Kyng and All Hail the Yeti.
I spoke with Maria by phone earlier this week about the tour, her music and what brought her back to the Capital Region after living in California for eight years.
You've been on the road quite a bit since "Blood" came out, and the Hell Pop Tour just kicked off. Is this run different from the others you've done in the last year?
Yeah, it's always different when you're doing a headliner. ... We can do a full production and have it flow the way you want -- and we're headlining. We've been waiting a really long time to do this and be able to have this show and people singing the words. It's definitely different.
What's it like to come back to play for a hometown crowd?
Oh, my gosh. It's always a little nervous for me, because it is hometown and it's all your family and friends. My whole family comes out -- my grandma, my grandpa, all of them. The whole family. I love it. It's always one of my most special shows. Always.
You have a pretty bold stage persona, and there are families that would have a hard time coming to terms with their little girl doing what you do. Was there ever a time when your family didn't get it?
Well, I don't have a father, so there's no daddy being protective of the daughter. My mom is a total free-spirited hippie flower child. Always has been. My mom always supports me in whatever it is that I do, and she loves me.
I think, for me, the biggest challenge is being a mother with my more provocative side. But to me, I'm an artist, and me and my son have a really beautiful relationship. My son's an artist as well, and we really have come to just let each other express ourselves through our art however we feel comfortable. And that's what it really comes down to: Expression, performing art. ... He believes me and supports me.
And my grandfather, he's kind of the king of the family. ... He comes to the show, and he supports me, and he has his hands in the air -- and my grandmother -- and they're just loving. They never bring it up, they never say anything about it, and I think they just know that I'm really an eccentric artist.
You've played for some pretty big crowds on big-production tours. How does a small venue like Upstate Concert Hall compare?
I love it because it's intimate. We got to play Madison Square Garden before. I mean, that was like a dream. There is something about the lights and the huge arenas that is really special, but nothing can quite compare to those intimate shows where it's sold out, and it's a thousand people ... and the energy is so tight because everyone is together and close and getting so crazy. I don't know, there's something special about them I really actually love. When you don't have as much room on the stage to do the full production ... it can be a little challenging, but we make it work.
Your shows have very strong visuals. How did that develop?
When we did this album, basically, we wanted to shift everything. Before this album, we almost broke up. We've been together for four albums. ... We'd been struggling so hard to get to the point where we are now for so long. It was right at that time, at the end of the last album, everything kind of fell apart. Half of our band quit. Our managers dropped us, and we almost stopped, but we couldn't let other people's disbelief in us stop us believing in ourselves. So we pulled together and pushed forward. But what I knew is I wanted to evolve everything. We needed to do something different with our music and special and evolve into something we've never done.
I wanted our live show to become a show. I think that when you listen to our music in the dark, it makes you evoke all these different emotions, from love, pain, torment, sexuality -- it doesn't matter what it is. I want you to be able to watch our show, to be able to, even if you muted it, you could still feel all of those emotions, just visually watching us. So that's my goal that I have with our show. And for people to be captivated and not be able to just turn and walk away. ... I want them to see something they've never seen for their entire lives.
What's it like to be a frontwoman in what's largely a scene full of men? Were there any specific challenges to get where you are today?
No. I mean, somewhat here and there, but I don't choose to look at it as like (that). I used to kind of look at it like, "Oh, it's kind of hard being a girl in this scene." ... But really, to me, that was a bunch of bull, because we're all so powerful. It's really about art, and it's really about the music and the show. And I think that it doesn't matter if you're a woman or a man. When somebody is really true in that, and they're doing something powerful, I don't think anybody could deny that. So, I had to start looking at it as, "I'm a powerful woman and I'm going to create whatever it is I want, in any genre of music it is that I want, and nothing's going to stop me." And that's how I had to really look at it.
I think for some people, they weren't always quite so used to it in the heavy metal scene, but women have been around in rock 'n' roll and heavy metal for a while. Even Janis Joplin. She was so strong and powerful, and I grew up with my mom loving her and Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner. So I grew up with my mom embracing a lot of strong frontwomen.
Were those some of your influences?
I think without me even knowing it. I loved music, always. At 3 years old, my mom had me at concerts at SPAC. I'd been to SPAC so many times as a little girl with my mother. I saw these strong women on stage, and they were expressing themselves in this big room of all these strangers coming together and nobody knows each other, yet everyone wants to celebrate together. That's why I love shows and music and concerts. We walk down the street, and most people don't even talk to each other at all. But yet, all these strangers come together in a room to put their hands together and sing together and celebrate. ... I love that more than anything.
What was it like to come back to SPAC to perform, having grown up seeing shows there? (In This Moment toured with the Uproar Festival in 2012, which stopped at SPAC.)
It was definitely a beautiful feeling. It was overwhelming. ... I performed on the main stage with Shinedown, and right before I went out, I cried. I was with my son and my mother, and it was just a really big moment for me. Now I have to headline there. That's the next moment, right?
Was there a moment where you really felt like, wow, I've made it?
I don't ever want to feel like that. ... I want to always strive, I want to always evolve. Nothing's ever perfect. But definitely lately, in the last few months, such big transitions are happening, where all these bands that I used to look up to -- I still look up to -- and have been inspired by, like Korn or Disturbed ... now when we play shows with them, they all come to watch our show. So all these people who I've admired and respected now are coming, standing side stage and wanting to take pictures of us, and I think that was a moment I had where I really saw, wow ... big changes really, really happening, and the crowd is singing all the words.
I have nothing but gratitude. Sometimes it's kind of surreal. I've been working so hard for so long to manifest all these things, so it's pretty overwhelming to see it coming to be. It's just beautiful, and I appreciate it, and it's happening right now. But I think you can't ever feel like you truly (made it). I mean, you've got to be headlining Madison Square Garden. I have very big goals and dreams.
You left the Capital Region to pursue a dream in a tough industry. That's a huge risk. What was it like to make commitment?
It was really scary, definitely, because I was single mom. It was just me and my son, who was very young, and we're moving to California, and we don't know anybody. It was definitely terrifying. I would get butterflies in my stomach. I drove up there about a month before I brought my son and started looking for jobs. I got there on the Fourth of July in 2000. It was so horrifying, it really was. And then when I got my son up there, we didn't know anyone ... and there were a few moments where I said, "Oh, God. ... Is this going to happen?" But my mom's always so supportive and helpful to me. And I think no matter who we are or what it is we aspire do, we have to take risks, no matter how terrifying they may seem, and we have to believe in something no matter how far away it seems. I always really just try to keep my mind set in the believing and in the knowing that I'm just going to manifest it. It's a long road up until now, but here we are. And it just goes to show people have to understand how powerful they really are. And great things take great risks.
Did you go to school here?
I did, but I only went to the ninth grade. I got pregnant very, very, very young. A young teenager. So I ... just went for half of a year, but we moved a lot, so there was never one specific school I went to for a long time. But again, my son. That was my road and my path. ... I had to learn how to take care of myself in order to learn how to take care of my son. But it was the most beautiful thing that could've happened to me, because I think I was on a dark road, and my son kind of gave me the strength and the inspiration. For my path, it was perfect.
What was the music scene here like when you were growing up?
I started getting into it probably right about 16, 18, 20. It was awesome. I started going to club shows ... and I started getting into the heavier, hardcore scene a bit. QE2 I think was the first gig I ever played. It was definitely a cool scene, and it was underground, and I was really attracted to it, and I knew that I was going to probably wind up getting into the heavier side of music, because with the type of life that I've led, there's a lot of emotions. That particular type of music lets me (let it out). ... You know how there are so many emotions bottled up, or things you experienced or traumatic things, and it's almost like the only way to express them sometimes is you have to just scream to let it out? Everyone who's terrified in a movie, you scream because you're so scared, and there's something in being able to express emotions in that way that I was really drawn to. ... I love beautiful soft stuff, the piano and melodic, but I also love being able to really let it out. I think that scene when I was young, going to all those shows, helped me.
Did you have any favorite local spots you performed at?
Oh, my gosh, I did the QE2, Bogie's, Valentine's, Saratoga Winners. Those were all the places I played at when I first started doing music in Albany, before I moved to L.A.
What's your favorite thing about the Capital Region? It brought you back from California.
My family. Obviously, it's all about my family. I grew up camping at Sacandaga. I love our camp so much. It's home to me. There's so many things about it I love. ... It's really beautiful in upstate New York.
Any teasers as to what we can expect Saturday night?
We're definitely bringing a show that nobody's ever seen, and it's a fearless show, and I think people like that. It's a visually really stimulating show, as well as the sound. And I think people are going to be really excited about the production. (There are) performers now, the dancers -- we're really taking this show to the next level. I think people are going to be really captivated with it.
Anything else that we should let our readers know?
Our single just came out, "Whore." It's a powerful song. I want people to know the meaning in that song. It's about taking the power back for something degrading and public humiliation -- when people are cold to other people or stoning other people because they're different or they don't understand them. ... It's about learning to love ourselves and not letting other people's words and harsh ways affect us, because that's really their perception and that's their world. The reason why I used such a strong word ... (is) so that they can really get the empowerment behind the song. The music video i coming out in a few weeks for it, as well.
What's next for you?
I don't know. I think that we'll do this headlining tour, and then see how the song does on radio, see where the album's at after that, and that's when we'll sit down and come up with a plan: Do we tour more, or is time to have a hiatus and start the new concept for the new album?
And a message from Maria:
Our fans there and our hometown are so supportive. I just want to say thank you to everybody. That means a lot to me.
In this Moment will be at Upstate Concert Hall with Motionless in White, Kyng and All Hail the Yeti on Saturday. The show begins at 7. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 day of show. Visit http://upstateconcerthall.com for more information.
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