In astrology, the sign of Scorpio contains a dual meaning. On one hand, scorpions are considered a harbinger of death, sex and transformation; a sting powerful enough to kill a human being within minutes and a mating ritual that results in the male’s death but the beginning of a new generation. At same time, the scorpion is also a devoted and protective mother, which makes them influential symbols of female power, maternal love and rebirth, meaning a pregnant Bishop Briggs and I immediately start talking about her star sign, the baby’s due date and, of course, the giant scorpion tattoo covering her entire left shin.
Pants: Kiki Montparnasse, Bra: Jenna Leigh, Top: Custom
As it turns out, Briggs and her baby are Cancers, but the revelation still makes us shiver. Cancer, after all, is the sign of motherhood and family, its natives conceived during Scorpio season with a similar emphasis on feminine strength, life cycles and transformations. To Briggs though, this symbolism is made even more poignant due to the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy journey, which has been intertwined with death, darkness and emotional rebirth since the very beginning. And that, as she said, was something hard to ignore.
Currently in her third trimester, the 29-year-old musician will take the stage at Coachella next weekend to perform new songs created over the past few years. Her latest material is deeply painful and personal, as she warned, explaining that most of it was written during her older sister’s battle against the ovarian cancer that eventually took her life, and so Briggs worries over whether she’s “going to cry” while performing them.
“Nothing can compare to that moment in my life though,” she said. “I've never loved anyone as much as I love her. And it wasn't even in my line of fears because I thought I was gonna have a whole life with her. We were going to have the rest of our lives together.”
Paralyzed by grief, Briggs described a loss that made her feel like “it wasn’t just half of me that was gone, it was the whole of me,” while recalling the way she struggled with feelings of depression and isolation. It was almost like she “didn’t want to continue” either, as she explained, and it was a feeling worsened by the fact that we “live in a society of ‘fine’ and ‘I’m fine.’”
“So before you know it, you’re on your knees in the bathroom, crying and not knowing how you even got there,” Briggs said, adding that she eventually became so overwhelmed by this maelstrom of emotion that it was “difficult to even write.”
“I still can only count on one hand, the songs that I've written about my sister,” she said, alluding to new songs like “High Water” and “Art of Survival.”
“That was something that’s been really painful to do. On some days, even just writing lyrics or going into a session can be extremely difficult,” she said. “And then other days where I just feel like she's here with me.”
Briggs reflected, “I feel the most amount of joy, because she was the biggest supporter of me.” She looks down at her belly, which was completely exposed during our eight-hour photo shoot but now is barely visible beneath her oversized Robert Smith sweater.
“And I'm grateful,” she continued, gently touching the top of her stomach. “I feel like my sister blessed me with this little baby. It feels like a little present from her, so there’s that light and darkness.”
Beret and cape: KIDILL, Boots: Marc Jacobs
According to Briggs, she began thinking about having a child when she was in the hospital with her sister, because “I was looking at this person that I love so much and thinking that this is the only thing that matters in the world.”
“Our connections with humans, our family and the deep friendships that we have, that’s the number one thing that matters,” Briggs said. “I almost wanted to speed up life and get pregnant and hang out with my sister. But it’s ironic that’s when the first seed was planted, because I was in the saddest part of my life, but it became the thing I clung to.”
She looks away and stares at nothing in particular, her eyes growing misty.
“Even though it was an immense amount of devastation, there was still hope and I held on to the hope that she would be okay,” Briggs said quietly. “Until the very last day. That was really important to her.”
But in the wake of such sorrow, she’s now made the conscious decision to adopt her sister’s boundless optimism, choosing to remain “positive” — even in the face of impossibly painful situations — as a way of altering the “negative brain patterns” that kept her in a depressive state. And while digging herself out of this emotional abyss was an extremely difficult process, it also forced Briggs to think about the importance of “changing the culture around mental health” and how necessary it is to acknowledge the darkness, lest it eat you alive.
“Because one of the things I've learned is that I need to be open about it, otherwise I feel even more trapped,” she said, mentioning “this new chapter” will see her creating art that encourages fans to tackle their demons head-on and show them it is okay to not be okay.
“I hope to be able to talk about it more after playing with those themes [and thinking about] what's happened these past few years,” she said. “But I do feel really grateful that something did come out of this.”
Briggs pauses for a second, caught up in her thoughts. “It's been a crazy experience of healing,” she finally picked up again. “And I think the thing I've learned is that some bandages are better than others.”
Even so, she went on to clarify that the “wound will always be there,” so the process is more about finding which coping mechanisms “stick and work.” However, her desire to have a child doesn’t stem from wanting to fill the void left by her sister’s death. Instead, motherhood is yet another chance for her to eschew anxiety and fear in favor of “actively choosing to see the joy and light in what feels like a really precious gift” from her sister.
“It feels like a little present from her,” she said, prompting me to ask her about her thoughts on reincarnation and the possibility of her deeply spiritual sister coming back to her through her baby.
Gloves and blazer: Lilith Viper, Pants: Balenciaga
“There's definitely gonna be some of the mannerisms, because my sister and I were very similar. I’m sure they will be very cute reminders of her,” Briggs speculated.
After all, she said her sister will always be a part of her. A source of courage and a reminder of life’s fragile beauty. A powerful force, full of heart and support, that will influence everything from motherhood to music to the way she moves forward. A loving presence that she can still feel on joyous occasions like her wedding day, where every photo taken was filled with rainbow bubbles, AKA her sister’s favorite color.
And all of this means that Briggs is already certain that her sister will be right next to her when the baby — the one she “blessed” her with — finally arrives.
“And I'm not afraid now,” as Briggs said, a hint of defiance in her voice. She gives me a big smile, sincere and strong in its warmth. Her expression is minted from a hard-won happiness that was only possible through a painful journey that forced her to sit down and reckon with her feelings. And in the end, she came out the other side as someone tender yet tough — an optimist so full of love and strong enough to now transform into a true mother.
“Because I truly just experienced my nightmare and lived through it,” she said with a definitive finality. “So c’mon, come at me.”