For the first time since your suburban youth you might need to buy the Target exclusive album…
Given the birth name of Garrett Borns, once-indie-now-under-Interscope pop artist Børns is just off a tour where he’s been spreading the gospel of unrequited romance. His arrival to Los Angeles a couple years ago and a turn toward song writing led him to create a catchy EP that caught whirlwind success, making its way onto playlists and Taylor Swift’s Twitter as the next best thing. Notably, Borns also defines a new direction that major labels are taking by picking up artists and supporting their original vision as opposed to manufacturing their sound and identity. With his first full-length album “Dopamine” out October 16th we sat down with the man on the brink to talk the LA dating scene, non-conformist management and the value of lyrical depth in songs that get stuck in your head.
Around a picnic table at Trails Café, a forested nook at the base of Griffith Park in LA, Borns arrives in a gold lame peasant top and high-waisted vintage pants, matching the city’s infatuation with the era of the ‘70s to a tee.
So, what do you like about…
Being on drugs?
About being on a major label… But I guess one of my questions for later has to do with that. Or I guess the album could be specifically about love? I mean love is a drug, right?
You’re love is my drug. Isn’t that what Ke$ha said? The wise prophet Ke$ha…
I think she would be called a prophetess.
Ya, you just don’t hear that word a lot because a lot of women don’t get called prophets.
I don’t know if I would call her a prophet, but she’s making that profit.
Ke$hy… I mean, I think it’s different for everyone but my experience with a major label has been really good thus far. I had a good relationship with my manager, and we met when I first moved to LA. Once it came time to talk about labels we had already recorded my EP. You have to find that comfortable spot and you really need to think about who you’re committing to because it’s a long term thing. There has to be a mutual love on both ends.
Ya, It’s a pretty long-term contractual thing. You might as well have rings saying ‘Taken” once you sign that dotted line. So, you had an EP and they liked what they heard?
Ya, they definitely signed me because of it. That was a little over a year ago. Since then I’ve been touring with the band. I only had a couple months to do the album because of touring. The thing is the EP was gaining a good amount of traction, and some fast deadlines were put on it. It was kind of a blessing in disguise though because I was able to keep in mind what people wanted to see in a live show. There wasn’t this spot where I had all the time in the world and could make something with all these instruments and musicians. I was able to really pare it down and think simply. The meat of the songs is in the melodies and lyrics.
I would definitely call it smart pop.
I think that’s a brand of popcorn.
Fuck. you’re right. Ok, that sounds really bad but what I mean is it has a lot of emotionally intelligent lyrics yet the melodies are catchy and people can get them stuck in their head. I also like that ‘70s vibe where you seem to just be picking up a lot of elements of that time period musically.
Ya, I like a lot of ‘70s print ads and stuff like that. There was a bunch of old Playboys in the studio we were recording in. There was a poetic nature to them and a lot of double entendras. I love how they wrote their stuff. A lot of lyrics we’re inspired by that.
They have a lot of insinuations to love and sex in comparison to what modern songs are doing now.
They are straight up like… How does that one go? “Tonight I’m fucking you.” I guess they just ran out of things to say.
You came out here to LA a few years ago, and I think this place is perennially stuck in the ‘70s in many ways. Sometimes I feel like you could knock on one of these wood panel houses in the hills and some bearded dude would open the door and not know what year it is. That time period really resonates here. Do you like that about the city?
There is a lot of history here. I love the cool LA sleaziness. I love old Vegas in the same way.
Most of your past year you have been touring so much. Is it grueling and rewarding?
Definitely both. I feel like the bond with the band grows and we understand our quirks. The two girls in the band are all business and have it together. But they do make dirtier jokes than the guys. There is no sensor with us.
Did you always want to be a musician?
I didn’t always want to do that. I saw myself in many different places. For a while I definitely thought I was going to be a professional magician. I got pretty serious about filmmaking. I went to a renowned art school and was in some bands at the time. I met this guy that worked for a film company and he asked if I wanted to do music as more than just a hobby. He was managing me in the beginning. Ultimately, I came out to LA to write and get away from New York. I found some new management that liked what I was doing, and here we are.
This new album is a conversation about the chemical reaction your mind has when it’s in love with someone. Is it about a single relationship or a lot of people?
Here’s the thing. I feel like a lot of the songs are about the fantasy of a lover or wanting what you can’t have; falling in love with someone for no reason and having them be a muse at a distance. It’s like looking at someone and saying “What would it be like if we just ran away together?” I think a lot about how those types of things would go and have a really wild imagination in that way.
I mean, I think one of the best parts of a relationship is before it happens, in the tension. You’re questioning if all the flirtations or things you’ve translated as mutual attraction are real or in your head. Being on that line is really exhilarating.
It’s interesting because we think dopamine is released when you are embracing somebody but it is also produced when you are thinking about someone and fantasizing about them.
That makes total sense because when you have a really big crush on somebody they are on your mind in this addictive way.
Exactly. Similarly I remember reading this thing that people who are addicted to drugs get just as much of their fix in the moments of searching for it. All the songs, if you listen to them closely, are not about loving someone, but more about wanting somebody from afar.
Hard to find an LA woman?
(Laughs) Ya, that’s actually very true. It’s a lost cause.
I think I hit unsubscribe a while ago.
Same…I’m probably sounding like a flakey mother fucker. I really am a romantic.
What else do you want people to know about your first album?
The album is definitely a headphone album where you can be in your own world. I don’t know… Get stoned and listen to it. Actually there is exclusive version were releasing with Target that has two bonus tracks. One is called “The Stoned Girl In My Bed.” I had some friends over and this girl suffered from horrible migraines. She had never smoked weed before and had no idea how to do it, so I had to blow it in her mouth. It was so funny because as soon as she started feeling high her eyes got all big and she just looked so relaxed. I started serenading her and you can hear in the recording I made that she’s laughing in the background. We took that recording and cleaned it up, and now it’s on that exclusive.
Isaia Suit, INC International Concepts Shirt, McQ Shoes
photographer / Spencer Kohn
writer / Megan Laber
styling / Sara Paulsen
grooming / Daniela Grasso using Dermalogica
grooming hair / Sara Tintari using Seven hair care