My Chemical Romance rang the alarm of authenticity and aggression in a way that was digestible for their maturing audience. Bishop Briggs may not have seen the group while they were dominating the world on their Black Parade tour, but that didn’t stop her from idolizing them and allowing their music to influence her as an artist.
As an outcast, Briggs recalls feeling an instantaneous connection with MCR after seeing their “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” video. Unfortunately, at the peak of their career, Briggs says her mother wouldn’t let her attend Warped Tour to see the bands with her braces at the time. Briggs spoke candidly to Alternative Press following My Chem’s reunion show and how much they continue to influence her artistry.
When did you first hear My Chemical Romance? Describe that experience to us.
I’m laughing because I have this vision of what I looked like at that time. I had buck teeth and braces. It was such a contrast because it was between My Chemical Romance and The O.C. It was such a sexual awakening for me. I just didn’t know what to do with myself. One of the first big introductions that I had was the “I’m Not Okay” music video and the dialogue that happened right before where he’s being told off. And he’s just saying, “You’re never going to make it.” And he turns around and says, “I don’t want to make it. I just wanna…” That was really one of my first memories. There was something about My Chemical Romance. There was this part of them that felt like the outcast, so you felt like you could relate. But there also was this really dreamy quality about them that made them so out of reach and totally in idealization mode that was really alluring. And Gerard Way‘s stage presence was also something that, when I look back at it, was so flamboyant and so gender-neutral. There is something about seeing a guy doing that. That was really, really exciting.
And I think that was one of my biggest takeaways from the [reunion] concert. Their songwriting was so strong and obviously was really powerful. But what I looked at completely different when I was at the show was [how] their branding and marketing was so solid from day one, before it became such a well-known thing that having cohesive branding can create a strong image or can make people understand your music in a different way. They were doing that in such a casual way that I didn’t even realize it was happening when it was happening. But [with] that whole music video and that whole era, there are very specific colors and very specific uniforms that were worn onstage and in the music videos. And it was all really cohesive, which I think was interesting to notice all these years later.
They really fueled what it looked like to be a part of that new wave of emo and what you dressed like, how you did your hair and what your makeup looked like. They were the leaders of this. It’s crazy to think back to when their debut album came out in 2002. And they’re still using that imagery from their debut in 2019 and 2020.
Something I really enjoyed about going to the show was just seeing how timeless the songwriting was and how anthemic it was. When we were going to get on this call, I immediately had “Teenagers” stuck in my head nonstop. It’s just crazy how progressive they were and how sticky their melodies and hooks were. And, at the time, they were creating anthems that everyone was taking in and digesting. But I think the true test of an anthem is, “Can you go to 2020 and perform them and they still resonate in the same way? [Do] people still know every single word?” And that’s exactly what happened at the show.
How did you react Oct. 31 when the band rolled out their return? How did you feel watching it unfold?
OK, honestly—and I know this is such a privilege, but the person that co-manages me is Benji Madden [Good Charlotte/MDDN]—and the first thing I did was call him. And I was like, “Is this really happening?” You know, tell me everything. He is such a loyal person that he was not dropping any clues, any hints, nothing. He said, “Just keep an eye out.” And so I immediately started screaming and calling my sister. I felt like I had an opportunity for [an] inside scoop, but the truth about that whole genre of musicians is there is a brotherhood, and there is this secret world that exists.
Had you been to a My Chemical Romance concert before the return?
No, I hadn’t. My sister is a few years older than me, so when this was all happening, we were living in Japan. And so she has more experience of seeing them in Tokyo and the Warped Tour landscape. And I was just a few years too young. That’s my only excuse. But I have seen every single YouTube video in existence [of theirs] to death. And that was what was interesting [about] the show. Gerard asked, “How many of you is this your first-ever show of ours that you’re seeing?” And the crowd went crazy. There were so many people where this was their first time seeing it live. But everyone was singing every single word. The impact is still the exact same. But of course, the people that did see them live at Warped Tour or any festivals that they played, I give all the props to you and all the credit. I would have killed to have gone. But my mom was not going to allow me with my braces at the time.
What was the track you wanted to hear more than anything live?
At the time, I was on tour, and I was doing this medley, and it was “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” “Stressed Out” and “Welcome To The Black Parade.” And so I had been performing that every night for the past two, three months. And then I got back to L.A., and there was the show. So I had such an emotional experience every single night doing that. And the part that I would do in the song, I did a bunch of it, but I cut it up a little bit, and I would do the part where it modulates the key. And it’s like, “I’m just a man, not a hero.” And every time I would feel really emotional singing that part. So I was definitely really excited for that. And that was their second encore song. I definitely felt very connected.
It was just a really emotional experience at the show because I feel when you think about the structure of that song, it is so unique for a track like that to become so commercially successful. When you think of how many different elements are in that song. It was really emotional being in the crowd and hearing everyone singing it. I actually have goosebumps right now just thinking about it because it was such a distinct moment in time. Something I will always feel really passionate about is the lyrics that My Chemical Romance write. They’re just unreal. And they really are poetry and represent something bigger. And I think that song always represented something different for each person that heard it.
Yeah, absolutely. Aside from obviously hearing a song that you’re so deeply connected with such as “Welcome To The Black Parade,” what was the most memorable moment of the entire night?
I’m trying to think where to even start because I walked in, and the lead singer from Cobra Starship was there. That was how the night started. [Laughs.] This is so insane. I pretended to be a normal human being. I don’t think I really convinced anyone. The intro to the whole show was so insanely strong because what it started with was the audio of “I’m Not Okay,” that interaction. You know the way the music video has a punch to it? That was exactly how the show started. But I feel like a moment that really sticks out to me was during “Teenagers” and during “Helena.” Those were both really insane moments where there was not one word that people did not know and sing along to. And that was really, really surreal. We’ll never forget that it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment and experience. I was just a total wreck after the show. I think it was because it was an experience that I didn’t know I would ever have.
You’ve been following along with them for 15 years at least. What does My Chemical Romance mean to you as both a fan and an artist?
As a fan, I would say it means total emotional cleanse and release and freedom and bliss. I think it represents a lot of contained rebellion. It’s rewatching the music videos over and over, like when I was supposed to go to sleep or trying to watch every Warped Tour interview I could and every sound bite and just getting a glimpse into a world that I knew nothing about. So as a fan, it really represents a lot of emotional expression. And it was one of the first pieces of music that I could listen to that felt aggressive but digestible and something that was exactly how I was feeling without hurting my ear.
As an artist, what it represents to me is creating timeless music will always be in style. There are so many different trends that pop up in music, whether it’s production or even lighting. And I think it’s so alluring to get caught up in it. And to maybe adjust your lyrics or you can make them more contemporary or make them fit perfectly into the way people are talking today. But I have always tried to stay away from that. And I think one of the main reasons is because I do want to create music that has a timeless element, even if it has a nod to things that are on trend right now. It’s not sacrificing my individuality. And I think that’s something My Chemical Romance have done so well. They never sacrifice their individuality to fit in or to be “with the times.” They just settled into a space that rang authentic to them. And ultimately, I feel [it] has made them the most authentic band that have really continued to have success.