Multi Instrumentalist and certified guitar shredder Bria McCollum (known as Ergo, Bria) is the new face of Modern Rock. With thrashing guitars and catharsis dripping from every lyric, Ergo, Bria creates freeing, anthemic music for the outcasts want to be seen. The singer’s latest single “Teeth” is an anthem for angry and underestimated people everywhere, releasing on Valentine’s Day the song is supposed to juxtapose the loving feeling in the air with unbridled female rage. McCollum sat down with underground zine to talk all things producing, Modern Rock and songwriting.
How would you describe your musical style because it seems to be kind of constantly evolving and changing and meshing a bunch of different things.
It’s always going to be something different. Because I listened to literally everything so it's just gonna come out in my musical style that way. The one main factor that's going to be always in my music is that it's cathartic. No matter what genre I choose to be in, it's going to be cathartic.
What about chasing that cathartic feeling speaks to you? And why is music the outlet you use for it?
I think it's because my emotions as a whole are already just super intense. I'm not an intense person. But whenever I do write songs, I tend to be in a state of intensity. I may just be chilling in my room by myself, but on the inside my blood is boiling. With songs like “Comfort Zone” it'll just spew out, whenever I feel an overload of emotion I just put it into the song.
How do you think that vulnerability and emotional intensity has attracted listeners?
I have no clue. It's odd to me. Because my music comes from me, I feel like I’m the on;y person who feels those emotions. But from Tik Tok, and all these other platforms, I'm hearing all these other people be like “Oh, this relates to me as well.” And they completely understand how I'm feeling which makes me feel less alone. Because for the longest time I felt like I was super out casted. Seeing that other people feel that way is super cool. And it's really fun seeing everyone else interact with each other.
That's really awesome. Well, you already mentioned your Tik Tok audience but how has social media helped you find your audience?
I used Tik Tok a year ago and I was just posting covers, which didn't do well. So I stopped for a year because I hated making the Tik Toks. And just recently, this month, I started posting my music. And it just fell into my lap kind of, which is super cool. And it just reached the right people, everyone is super supportive and so lovely.
Before Tik Tok, what did your musical journey look like?
I feel like the beginning of my real musical journey was in 2020 when the pandemic hit. That's when I started learning how to produce and play bass. I was a classical pianist, I grew up playing piano in the church and I played violin, viola, cello and did classical voice. So I've always been into music, in a certain way. But I didn't start getting into it until the pandemic in 2020, because I had finally had time to just sit down and learn how to produce. And that was the main thing that was holding me back before. I had a band called Bria and the bottom line, it was terrible.I tried to put a band together and have other people play my songs, but it wasn't the way that [the songs were] computing in my brain. And I just needed the sounds of my brain to be translated into real life. So I was like “I guess I have to pick up producing,” even though I hated it at the time, I literally hated it, but now I love it. It's just a great way for me to express myself in a completely different way. Through sounds rather than me writing the lyrics and the chords and all that. [...] I'm still learning. I’m constantly just trying to figure everything out.
What was it like shifting from that classical music background to the production side of things?
I will say, I've forgotten a lot of my [music] theory, which is so bad! Because I made 102 in my AP theory class in high school, and now I barely know what a G chord is *laughs* But that process was hard. I still try to transpose all my music into sheet music. But as soon as I learned that drop D [guitar tuning] existed, my whole world was blown. I was like “This is amazing, this is perfect. I'm gonna make so many songs off of this.” So yeah, that transition was basically me learning how to play in Drop D and learn producing in Logic.
What was the push that finally caused you to release “Comfort Zone” back in 2021?
My Parents! *laughs* They are very supportive. My parents were like “You need to make money, you need to get music out as soon as possible.” They've been, I don't want to say nagging, but they've been telling me to get my music out for a very long time as soon as I started writing music. I pushed it back very far because I wanted a good song to come out. I released a few others beforehand, there's a song called quicksand, you can find it on Bandcamp because it's just terrible! The song itself, I love the song, I still play it live a lot, but the production of it is very beginner. Very bad. But my parents were like “you to release music.” “Comfort Zone” was me trying to break out of my own comfort zone by releasing it. It was crazy when I got the mix back because it was 120 stems. I put a lot into it and I wanted it to sound the way it felt in my heart. I wanted it to feel like someone's stabbing you and twisting the knife. But in a really good way. But “Comfort Zone” just felt like a big turnover for me because it finally was the music that I was trying to convey.
Well the 120 stems paid off! The way you move through genres is really interesting. “Comfort Zone” has a lot of Pop Punk influences and your other stuff leans heavily into indie rock. How does genre fusing move your creative process?
I just write the songs about how I'm feeling at the time. If I'm feeling very wispy, it will just come out as wispy. And if I'm feeling very fierce, it's gonna come out fierce. With “Slow Burn:” I was inspired by my friend who was in love with her other friend and I was like “oooh fanfiction time!” Time for me to write this adorable song and have it be the soundtrack of them falling in love. The transitions between the songs is based on what's going on in my current life. I try to have everything be cohesive. For my EP it's a really good example of all the genres I do. But I feel like my voice really connects all of the genres together. So it's not too jarring. When you hear “Dogs” and you have me screaming compared to “Can't Wait,” when you play the two right next to each other. It still sounds like Ergo, Bria.
Is making your voice the sole factor that's connecting all of these songs an intentional choice?
Yeah, that's, that's the main thing that I just want to be there. I try to keep [my voice] in a very specific tone and I use the same microphone and the same vocal settings.
Well, you’ve got your latest single “Teeth” coming out on Valentine’s Day. You said that it's going to be an angry song. What inspired you to release that on Valentine's Day?
I just like the contrast of it. This song is a raging song about the patriarchy and being talked down to it. And I was like “Why not just release a complete opposite song on Valentine's Day? Maybe it'll catch a few people's attention.” I love that they're polar opposites. It's super angry. It's an anthemic type of song.
You already touched on the fact that a lot of your music discusses being on the outskirts and feeling like an outsider. And now you're discussing misogyny, What is it like talking so honestly about your own human experiences?
It's fun. I feel I'm a blunt person in general. I enjoy talking about stuff like that. Now that I think about it, I don't enjoy talking about stuff like that. And maybe that's why it comes out in my songs so much. I only talk about that type of stuff with my family or my best friends. So especially with songs like “Teeth”. I wrote the song about a very specific encounter and in the moment of that encounter, I didn't say anything. And the whole song is “You’ve got me grinding my teeth” instead of speaking. I felt like I should have said something, and I feel like a lot of people have experienced that.
So what is the inspiration behind “Teeth”?
It's happened so many times in the music industry, where I've just been knocked down several pegs by men. And it's something that they don't even realize that they're doing. And it's basically saying “Just shut up. You don't know anything about this or that.” And I just got fed up one day, because this one guy was talking about augmented, diminished sevens, and I just didn't care. And it was a whole ordeal where I felt I was being talked down to. I feel like I'm getting talked down to a lot in the music industry by certain people [...] All of those encounters, and that last one just made me get so angry that I wrote an entire song about it. So the inspiration, just this guy being annoying.
Despite that, you are making massive waves in your space, you’re currently the cover of Spotify’s “Fresh Finds: Rock” and you’re doing it all as a Woman and a Woman of Color in a very white, Male dominated space. Is there a message you would send to people who aren't taking you seriously at the moment?
I'm trying my best. I don't want to be threatening or anything but I just want people who aren't paying attention to me to just recognize that other people exist. I try my best to keep an eye out for others that are like me. And I just created a playlist called people of color in the scene so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
Do you hope that “Teeth” finds those people that you've battled with?
Yes, I want them all to hear it! I just feel like they don't pay enough attention to what needs to be paid attention to. I just hope they find the song and maybe if someone goes completely silent after you say something slightly controversial you should think about it and maybe ask yourself if what I just said was offensive or anything? Because it's not everyone's duty to constantly babysit and teach and do all of that.
What is your favorite line from “Teeth”?
“Taught me how to bat my lashes and put ‘em in a casket.” I thought that was a fun little line. The entire verse is “I once met a man back in an alleyway/ He taught me to never trust a living soul/ He told me those filthy pigs/ They're nasty, nasty/ They'll even try to get you a cab or taxi.” So the line where I'm batting my lashes and putting them in a casket I think that's a fun little real life thing that women have to do sometimes. Being like “I don't know what's going on” let me bat my lashes. I shouldn't play into that. But then just completely just shredding and being absolutely amazing is a cool contrast. Because that's what you have to do. Being in this industry I feel I have to be more than mediocre to try to get to places. There's a breakdown part and the bridge and it goes “Saitama, one punch” which is an anime reference because it's me currently beating up the person mentally and I thought it was cool.
Following “Teeth” what have you got coming up?
I have another song called “Nobody Can Stop Me (I’m Going To Be Madonna)” coming out on February 28 featuring Troi Irons. It's an awesome song, I'm very excited about it. I feel like I don't have any straight up feel good songs which are just carefree. It's just a fun song. One of my friends who's listened to it said it makes her want to put on a fancy dress and commit arson. So that's one way to put it.
Hell Yeah! That’s some awesome imagery!
I also have an album called “Muse” coming out in March! It's jazz, classical and rock all in one.
Words by Minna
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