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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

BØRNS Talks Childhood Memories, Eargasms and Making His Debut Record: Interview

Joyce Jude Lee |
August 20, 2015 | 10:35 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter
Album cover of "Dopamine" (Courtesy of Interscope Records)
Album cover of "Dopamine" (Courtesy of Interscope Records)
Garrett Borns (stylized as BØRNS) is an ethereal creature. Amidst the hectic ongoings backstage at Firefly Music Festival, BØRNS remained calm and cool before, during and after his set. He appears charismatic but delicate, his voice fragile but distinct. He radiates joyfulness and California cool despite growing up in the coldest parts of Michigan, and greets all passer-bys with a bright grin no matter how tired he is. It's nearly impossible to be sad around someone like him.
The 23 year old is just starting to make festival rounds, but you would think that he's a veteran after seeing his set. His aura, talent and impeccable falsetto scream Bowie, Elton and MJ. At Firefly, his slot was just past one o'clock on Sunday, when festival goers are still trying to recover from three days of too-much-fun. But well before his set had started, fans had already staked out barrier spots, and the rest of the space packed in quickly. When the chorus for "10,000 Emerald Pools" hit, Dover had woken up, singing 'woo--woah-woos' in unison. Everyone in the crowd knew that they were witnessing the bourgeoning of a future indie-pop icon.
Within the last 12 months, BØRNS captured the hearts of music fans everywhere with his angelic vocals, charisma and synth-pop summer songs. It's almost hard to believe that BØRNS has not even had a debut record yet; his first EP, "Candy," became an instant indie pop gem in the blogosphere, capturing the likes of stars like Taylor Swift (but nevermind that though, he has enough talent to surpass those he's impressed). When he's not touring, he is busy recording his debut album with famed producer and friend, Tommy English.
Backstage at Firefly (Joyce Jude Lee/Neon Tommy)
Backstage at Firefly (Joyce Jude Lee/Neon Tommy)
Luckily for us, BØRNS  announced that his debut record, "Dopamine" will be released on October 16 on Interscope Records (the album is available for pre-order too!).
After his set at Firefly Music Festival, I sat down with Garrett to chat about his creative process, "eargasms" and all things magical. 
NT: What's your songwriting process like?
BØRNS: I guess it's always changing, It's never a set process really, but a lot of times, I'll write little parts of songs, like tiny little melodies or verses.
NT: Are you one of those people that'll be in public with friends then go hide and hum something into your phone?
BØRNS: Yeah, yeah! Back before cell phones, I use to call from my friend's house, my parent's home phone and leave messages of song ideas and I'd say "Don't delete it!" cause they think that I'm some crazy person...I'd sing like a weird..."dun dun dun dun dun dun" [sings more random lines]. But luckily, we have technology now that we can use to log song ideas. But yeah, it's always about piecing different parts together, little random ideas that I have.
NT: How is it working with Tommy English?
BØRNS: He's actually a really good friend of mine. When I moved out to California two years ago, I met him, very randomly, through a friend. So we have been friends for a long time. Before we did the BORNS stuff, he had never done anything that really sounded like that and I had never really done anything that sounded like that, so it's definitely just a collaboration of ideas and sounds. He's a crazy talented producer and does loads of drumming, chopping up drums. We're both really into rhythm, so yeah the LP is being done with Tommy. 
NT: So if I'm not mistaken, you lived in Michigan your whole live, then lived in New York for a bit, then Los Angeles?
BØRNS: Sort of yeah, I was more like couch surfing in New York...if you told anyone, if you told a New Yorker I was living there, they'd say, 'We're fucking living in New York."
NT: So does geography influence your sound at all?
BØRNS: I think it's all about the environment you're writing in. Tommy's studio has a lot of natural light which is nice, which is kind of rare for studios. He's got a really sweet spot, we can see what time of day it is...it's not like you're walking out, crawling out of hibernation. Having palm trees around helps, having sunshine helps, having the ocean air helps. 
NT: Yeah, Los Angeles is great, except there's barely enough water to drink!
BØRNS: Yeah...you got to drink Topo Chico...do you know about Topo Chico [No I haven't...] It's a top secret California thing. It's like sparkling mineral water, it's in a glass bottle. It's the best mineral water you'll ever have.
NT: Where can I get this?
BØRNS: You actually can't just buy it...[So you're just teasing me about this?!] No no I'm sorry! It's a treasure hunt, you can only get it in a few Mexican Marts in Los Angeles. It's the best! So my friends from Michigan or the East have drank it and have found it...so you just have to look for it. We drink it so much in the studio that Tommy is actually a full on representative. They sent us boxes of it, which is better than money. Boxes of Topo Chico. I call it Liquid Velcro, cause it literally feels like velcro on your tongue, that's how bubbly it is. With a lime...wooooo!
NT: What's your favorite drink besides Topo Chico?
BØRNS: I guess it depends on where I am or what I'm doing. If I was in San Juan, I'd be drinking Dark and Stormies. If I was in Los Anegles, I'd probably be drinking...hmm what would I be drinking in LA? Probably just like a gin..or a Moscow Mule, in the actual Copper thing.
NT: What are three things that people might not know about you?
BØRNS: Let's see...this is interesting....I feel like we should be passing a joint right now like "Tell me a secret!" That actually doesn't sound like a bad idea right now. I'm sure they [pointing toward's Steve Aoiki's thumping set] have some right now. Hmm, could you maybe ask me a question? I'm really bad at these. 
NT: Hmm, how were you like as a kid? 
BØRNS: Oh that's a good one! [laughs] I think I spent a lot of my childhood. You know what's so crazy actually, I was actually going to get fitted for ear molds the other day, cause I'm actually buying some for my monitors right now, but I was getting them, and this lady put a camera in my ear, so we were watching my ears on a television..it was a wild experience. I'm seeing everything going on in my ear cave, and I'm like "oh wow." And she was like "I need to clean your ears out a little bit." So she took this long spoon thing, and she was getting so deep in there, and she was like "So, tell me about your childhood." And I was just like "Huuuuh huuuh huuuh" I couldn't even form words. [Was it ticklish.] Yeah, yeah, it was almost pleasurable in a really weird way. Like "Haaaaaa....Haaaalleuja!" That's why people love using Q-Tips cause there are a lot of nerve endings in your ears. So I think something you don't know about it is that I enjoy getting my ears cleaned. 
NT: Okay, but back to the real question, how were you like as a kid?
BØRNS: Hahahaha, do you like how I'm avoiding that now? I painted a lot of pictures. I was pretty to myself, I was always doing my own artistic endeavors. I was social, but I wasn't a party animal as a kid, whatever that means [laughs].
NT: I feel like you spent a lot of your time in trees and stuff.
BØRNS: [Laughs]  Yeah! Haha, I was almost like meditating as a kid. I don't even know how I did it! In a weird way...I think I just climbed up trees and thought up there for a while. And I'd like make weird shit out of trash, leaves, etc. 
NT: What are your favorite songs of the summer?
BØRNS: Hmm, can I cheat real quick [looks at phone] Do you know Petite Meller? She's this little French girl, and she's really fucking rad. She has a song called "Baby Love," she's got a super high voice...She has fair skin, uses Kabuki makeup, dresses in like 60s cinema style clothes. We did a duet together, recently, that's a summer jam for sure. 
Reach Staff Reporter Joyce Jude Lee here.



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