A Q&A with BØRNS

by Kelly Subin (Marketing and Interactive Media), published October 6th 2015

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The line stretched around Northeastern’s campus as students waited eagerly for the chance to see Garrett Borns, AKA BØRNS, perform. The Michigan native’s dreamy psychedelic pop has been gaining notoriety everywhere, from supporting Charli XCX and Jack Antonoff’s North American tour to a feature on Taylor Swift’s Instagram. BØRNS combines romantic lyrics and melodic vocals to create irresistibly catchy songs like “Electric Love” and “10,000 Emerald Pools.” Tastemakers sat down with BØRNS before his show to discuss singing underwater, finding inspiration in Playboy, and his debut LP, Dopamine.

Tastemakers Magazine (TMM): What kind of music did you listen to when you were younger?

BØRNS: A lot of the same music that I listen to now. I grew up listening to a lot of ’60s and ’70s psychedelic stuff. My folks listened to The Turtles and The Zombies, the Beatles, Bowie – stuff like that. Those guys the reason I’m doing music now. They inspired me first, and they still hold true to that today.

TMM: Anything new you’re listening to?

BØRNS: Yeah, yeah, lots of new stuff. The new Tame Impala album is awesome. Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Who else? The new Beach House album. It’s just like Beach House through and through. They’re not trying to do anything different.

TMM: Yeah, that’s really new. Beach House just came out.

BØRNS: Yeah, did you listen to it?

TMM: Not yet, but Pitchfork rated it worst album cover.

BØRNS: It’s terrible, but I feel like that’s the reason why… it’s like that standard old Mac font and it’s so bad it’s great. It’s genius. You wanna be able to stare at something. Like, with digital music you’re always looking at the album cover if you’re listening to it. I think Depression Cherry and that really stark album cover is really genius. It’s really depressing.

TMM: How was making the “10,000 Emerald Pools” video? Were you actually underwater?

BØRNS: It was terrible. It was so bad. It was the worst. It was not a very well-planned video, and the director has this crazy idea. On paper it was a great idea, but when it came to executing it, it was like, “Are you trying to kill me?”

TMM: Were they just like, “Get underwater and stay there?”

BØRNS: I had my feet in this contraption and I was upside down in the water. So my feet were locked in this thing, and I had to lip sync with my eyes open while this girl is swimming past me. I had my nose and my ears plugged with putty. And while all of this is happening, you really have to try stay cool while you’re body is going into panic mode, because you’re on camera. It was a horrible video idea.

TMM: Where did you film this? Just in a tank?

BØRNS: It was a pool. Yeah, I can’t even watch the video because it gives me PTSD. We went through so many different videos for that song, and that was the one we went with. I wish I could say, “Yeah, it was a great experience!”

TMM: Well it made for a cool end product, at least. What do you like to do when you’re not making music?

BØRNS: I like to go for bike rides. I have a bike back in LA. I wish I could tour with a bike because it’s a good way to see new cities. But I’m talking, like, full-on Lycra, tight shorts, jersey. I like to go to yoga. It’s a good way to ground yourself. I try to stretch on the road, because you’re always contorting into planes and small spaces. So it’s good to be able to stretch out. I guess I do things that are healthy in my spare time, because tour is such a marathon and it takes so much out of you. I feel like all my spare time is preventative medicine. But I like to go out too – have a glass of wine, go see other music.

TMM: Are you gonna do something after this?

BØRNS: Maybe jump in the koi pond. We’re staying here for the night, so who knows. It’s funny that you guys are meeting me with cornrows for the first time. I just got them two days ago.

TMM: Where did you get them?

BØRNS: Bumbershoot. There was a green room area for artists [at the festival], and they had massages and hair stylists and stuff. And they kept telling me about this girl named Geraldine, and they’re like, “You have to go to her, she gives the best braids!” So now I’m rocking the braids.

TMM: In your own words, how would you describe what your debut album will sound like?

BØRNS: It’s an homage to a ’60s and ’70s psychedelic world. But all the production, I feel like, is very new. It has a very classic, melodic feel. As far as sonic imagery goes, it was kind of inspired by – well this is gonna sound really weird – these old Playboys I had around the studio. And they were like, ’60s and ’70s Playboys, which are really classy. Not like they are now. Well, I don’t really know what they look like now. I feel like they’re kind of gaudy. Back then even the ads – for cigarettes, or watches, or pants, or whatever – were all so cleverly written and really sexy the way they were put out. So yeah, even the artwork was inspired by these old Playboys. You can see it in the covers. So I feel like it’s a very classically melodic, fun, sensual album.

BØRNS’ debut album, Dopamine, is due to be released October 16, 2015 on Interscope Records.

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