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Børns: ‘Everything in Music and Art is Cyclical’

American indie-pop singer Garrett Borns discusses his love for everything vintage and why music and fashion go hand in hand

Riddhi Chakraborty Jul 15, 2016
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The profound philosophy in his lyrics also makes one wonder if Børns is indeed from this generation. Photo by Nikko LaMere

Most times Børns looks like a Nineties’ child who has stepped out of Sixties’ Woodstock. Photo: Nikko LaMere

If social media rants are anything to go by, fans of breakout artist Garrett Borns aka Børns are mighty pissed that their little secret is no longer a secret, or for that matter, little. Fame comes at a price and this time, it’s the admirers of the American singer-songwriter who have to pay for it. Also, it’s no use keeping things under wraps when social media mammoth Taylor Swift exposes your private hero to the world. (“So ‘Electric Love’ by Børns sounds like an instant classic to me….. #justsayingggg,”she tweeted last year.)

It was in 2014 that 24-year-old Børns started garnering a following with his self-released debut EP Candy. Its lead single “10,000 Emerald Pools”, with its breathy falsettos, Caribbean-esque beats and harp-like guitars, was a declaration of a new sound — familiar but undeniably proprietary.  His full-length album Dopamine [released in 2015] flits between Eighties’ electro pop and Seventies’ rock, culminating into something that is the quintessence of California. At some points you can hear the Bee Gees and Prince while certain songs echo David Bowie and the Beach Boys. “Those are bands that I grew up listening to, so I’m constantly studying their repertoire,” says Børns over the phone from Copenhagen where he has a show later that night.  Dopamine was produced by Emile Haynie and Jeff Bhasker both of who worked on Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Now on tour with British folk rock band Mumford & Sons, he feels things have a funny way of coming around. “I met Marcus [Mumford] when I first put out the Candy EP and I played a private show in Los Angeles,” he recalls. Mumford later came up to Børns to tell him how much he loved the music. “Almost two years later I’m playing a show with them, so it’s cool!” An India tour might be a possibility too. “Hopefully I’ll be able to [perform in India] after the next album,” he says.

Most times Børns looks like a Nineties’ child who has stepped out of Sixties’ Woodstock. Photo by Lauren Dukoff

The profound philosophy in his lyrics makes one wonder if Børns is indeed from this generation. Photo: Lauren Dukoff

If you’ve watched any of Børns’ [highly stylized] videos, you would know that he takes his on-screen looks very seriously. They’re mostly vintage with an idiosyncratic personal touch. “Everything in fashion and music and art is cyclical,” he explains. “It comes in waves and everything kind of comes back.” However, while he takes inspiration from the bygone era, he is sure his sense of style is very much a product of the present. “I want to do something new, contemporary. Even the way the album is recorded, I want it to be ”˜today’ and modern.” Case in point, his After Dark Sessions on his Vevo channel where he performed string versions of his songs in eerie-elegant videos. “I was kind of inspired by these old videos of Colin Blunstone who’s the lead singer of The Zombies,” Børns says. “He did some performances just with strings and him singing in the Seventies and I was a big fan of those videos so I wanted to recreate that.” The series was also inspired by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark television show which ran from 1969 to 1970 and featured performances by veteran artists like Deep Purple, The Grateful Dead and Tina Turner.

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Visual aesthetics are a big part of Børns’ artistry. Most times he looks like a Nineties’ child who has stepped out of Sixties’ Woodstock. “I’ve always sort of worn random clothes that I’ll find at thrift shops or clothes from friends that are girls.” His love for crop tops, leather jackets, lace shirts and funky prints are even inspiring fans to chuck gender stereotypes and take risks with their own wardrobes. “Whatever you wear while you’re performing, people are watching that while they’re listening to the music, so it’s a visual experience as well. It changes the way you feel and the way you think and perform.”

The profound philosophy in his lyrics also makes one wonder if Børns is indeed from this generation. “I read a lot of lyrics and titles and poems on the side and when it comes to writing a song, sometimes those words infiltrate themselves into a melody I’m working on,” says the young singer about his writing process. “Sometimes there are words hidden in melodies. You don’t know why, but they just feel right.” As of now it’s unclear if his upcoming sophomore album will feature the same themes of love and longing as Dopamine. He won’t reveal a thing. “It’s all top secret,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s going to be very different. I wish I could articulate it at this point but it’s just a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head.”

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Listen to Børns’ After Dark Sessions version of “Electric Love” below:

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