In Conversation with BØRNS

There’s nothing quite like the essence of wisdom and charm that fills the air of the sublime dining room at Regents Street’s finest inn the very moment BØRNS (real name Garrett Borns) makes an entrance.

With all the time there is to relax, having just completed a hectic album cycle for his debut record Dopamine last October, BØRNS insists on leaving his sleek close-fitted leather jacket on and keeping his posture straight.

Since finishing the tour, BØRNS finally got to have a sit-down and reflect on the past couple of years. Here’s what he had to say…


What have you been up to since the end of the Dopamine campaign?

Ah let’s see… I got off the road last October, I done a lot of touring for that album, much more than I expected. It was a lot of moving around but it was good. I learned a lot about performing and about the songs that I’d written, cause at the time I hadn’t put much thought into them, I kind of just made an album and hit the road immediately.

It was nice to land back in LA, have my own place for a while and sleep in a bed, cook things in the kitchen, water plants. I feel like that kind of fueled the next record that I made, and I just finished it and got it mastered! That feels good. This time around I feel like I have more of an idea of what record I wanted to make, the sort of instrumentation that’s going to be on the record and I feel like I accomplished that in these couple of months that I blocked out.

This year you premiered your Search for the Lost Sounds project – when did you decide this was something you wanted to create?

It originated as a ‘behind the scenes/in the studio’ kinda thing. I lived in this neighbourhood where there were a lot of mariachi bands playing on the weekends, ice-cream trucks & tiny dogs barking; it just all had this Mexican culture that I loved. I feel like that energy of mariachi music went into my record; very uplifting and positive even if they were heartbreak songs, it infiltrated my music being around that all the time.

I was like “what if I bring a mariachi band into the studio?” or even sample the dogs barking in my neighborhood as it reminds me of making my record, so then I wrote this script about me going around LA searching for these sounds for the new album and finding this muse where she’d tell me the sounds I needed to incorporate.

The whole thing was kind of like a documentary…

Yeah, yeah! I met a really good friend of mine called Pipus, he lives on the East Coast, but he makes these short videos for Instagram and they’re hilarious but artistic at the same time, and only 30 seconds long each. We started making videos on the road and I said, “it would be so funny to make a behind the scene/album creation-type thing but in the style of Pipus’ videos.” I wanted it so when you were watching it to feel like you’re seeing a futuristic world right before your eyes.

How many sounds did you venture through until you found the right one?

I think the search itself for the new sounds of the record kind of started when I was touring a bunch, I’d written down my goals as to what I want to do on the next album and I really wanted live strings, a theremin, all of those were on the wish list. I recorded all of it, just me and Tommy who produced the first record, we wrote and recorded everything together.

There’s a distinct shift in sound from Dopamine to the new material – has switching it up been the plan from the beginning?

I didn’t necessarily look at it as “I don’t want to reproduce that album” because by the end of the record cycle I already knew the next sound I wanted to break into, so I wasn’t really worried about redoing that because of the different influences I had. I think the mentality was to keep pushing myself with production and songwriting and to challenge myself. At the end of the day, I wanted to write something that were pop songs but are just structured wiser and isn’t something you’d immediately go to. I wanted to make the record a whole journey.

By now everyone knows how Dopamine was written – did you take on a different approach to songwriting this time around?

Most of the record was written at my friend Tommy’s studio, it’s like a guest house in his backyard, and that’s where we recorded some of the last album too. Some of the vocals were recorded up near San Francisco in a beach house overlooking the ocean, which was a really nice place to do that. But yeah, all in LA.

What do you know now, now that you’ve made your second record that you’d have liked to have known whilst making the first?

It’s quite funny, I haven’t listened to the old record in a long time but I was teaching some of the players in my band that album and whilst we were listening to it I was like “God, I can’t believe I used to sing like that… I don’t even sing the same way!” It wasn’t a choice immediately, more so a progression of performing a lot. I don’t know if I’d give myself any advice, you kind of have to make those steps.

You’ve been involved in arts from an early age, was any of it family influenced?

I definitely had a lot of endeavours as a kid and my folks just let me run free with them, they were supportive of all my artistic outlets but they never pressured me to do it they just wanted me to carry on because I was happy with it.

Visuals play an essential role for you as an artist – do the visuals match what you see in your mind when you’re writing music?

I think some of the songs are even inspired by visuals in the first place and then those visuals turn into the videos or references for photography around the album. I catalogued a lot of references for how I wanted photography to look this time around; Carl Van Vechten who done beautiful photos of Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, made these beautiful sets that are quite vibrant yet have this darkness to them and I based the photos of the album around that. I’ve been writing and directing all the videos this time around so I got to get my vision across which was nice.

The visuals act as cinematic sequences – were there any films that inspired this look?

For the video for Faded Heart I took a lot of inspiration from this Japanese film called House, it’s a 70s-fantasy horror. It’s all subtitles but the soundtrack is beautiful and everything is very vibrant and disjointed, quite uncomfortable at times but also, it’s playful and magical. The special effects are hand-done so they kind of look terrible but this was before CGI and post-production etc. I wanted the video to have a hand-done feel and take some risks.

I don’t think you can beat Japanese horror, they go all out…

I know! It’s trying to be it’s still playful and sweet and hilarious.

Faded Heart’s video is self-directed – were you comfortable being in the directing seat?

Well that’s the weird thing when you’re directing your own videos, you’re not really in the seat you’re in the video and that was the only thing that had me saying “how am I going to do this?” how do you know if you’re getting the take if you’re not at the monitor? I had an amazing team around me, the whole crew were excellent and a lot of prep was involved so that the actual filming of it was the easy part. In a way, we filmed the whole thing pretty quickly because the vision was already set.

Style is as pivotal to you as your visuals – handpick some designers you’d invite over for a dinner party…

That’s a difficult one. I’ve just seen Thom Browne’s show in Paris which was really out there and inspiring, it’s hard to explain but if this gives you any indication… [opens his camera roll and shows videos of the show], not exactly what you see walking down the street [laughs], pretty imaginative stuff.

I feel like he’d be fun at a dinner party.

I think so. That or he’d just sit there and not say anything [laughs], I’m fascinated by him. I think that would make a pretty collective dinner.

Intimate club tour starts this month in Europe – are you prepared to be back on the road again?

I’m ready. I’m excited and ready to perform again, and have that energy exchanged; it’s liberating.

What are the people to expect?

There are a couple new members in my band and they sing these beautiful three-part harmonies which is nice, and we’re reimagining some of the last record along with some of the new stuff. We’re not playing the full new record until January when it’s out, but it’ll be nice to refresh.

Is there a main message you wish to evoke with the second record?

There are definitely themes of supernatural phenomena, I was inspired by that. Just reading a lot of old folk tales, also the question of external influences I guess. There’s always a concept of where’s love coming from? What attracts you to someone? Is it just two people or is there this external force where you don’t have any control? That’s kind of a theme of the record. Also, taking older influences and trying to put them into a new futuristic force.

It’s been a busy couple of years, are you ready to do it all over?

Yeah! I mean you never really know what’s going to happen I guess. I always feel extremely fortunate that I can even say that I’m able to do this; travel and meet great people, perform with friends, I’m very fortunate so yeah, always ready.

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