Skip to main content

Still riding a sugar high from Candy, BØRNS ups the energy dose on Dopamine

With a take on pop that is both sultry and psychedelic, BØRNS first entranced listeners with his EP, Candy, in 2014. It’s poetic lyricism and sonically immersive qualities quickly garnered the attention of Interscope Records and turned BØRNS into an overnight sensation before he had even planned his debut album.

After just over year packed with touring and television appearances, he released his equally addictive, full-length followup, Dopamine, in October 2015. “It was the all-encompassing theme of the album. All the songs are about this chemical connection to someone even if they’re not in your life. They’re still kind of swimming around in your head. So the album was written with dopamine in mind…so to speak.” Garrett Borns, better known by his stage moniker BØRNS, quips when asked about the meaning behind the album title.

Q: How would you say your music and writing style has evolved between Candy and Dopamine?

B: I recorded both of them with Tommy English. Candy, I didn’t have a record deal. I signed with a management company. I found new management out there and they were kind of like, “We love your artistic vision. Take all the time you need to record an EP.” So Tommy and I had full artistic reins for that. We put together the EP with no label influence or anything like that because we wanted it to be indie rock. The true form of indie rock. We just wanted it to be two cooks in the kitchen. A very honest record of what we want to make, and what I want to make put out as BØRNS.

“We wanted it to be indie rock. The true form of indie rock.”

Then Dopamine came out later. I was pretty much touring all of this year. We recorded it in the in-between moments when I wasn’t on the road. I feel like there is a lot of influence with the live show. I was thinking, “Alright, how am I going to translate this live?” Before it was a studio project. Then we had to build the band around it. I didn’t really think about, “Oh we are going to be performing these songs live.” So there was nothing holding us back. Then when it came down to learning for live shows I was like, “Oh, I’m singing in my highest range in all of these songs.” So I feel like the new stuff has more dynamics and a live show in mind. Even the energy of it. It’s more spontaneous vocally. More live energy.

Citing many influences, BØRNS draws from an artistic amalgam ranging from poetry and literature to cranky, quirky instruments to the unexpected for writing inspiration. “I like having random reading material hanging out to flip through to notice a word or phrase,” BØRNS explained as he offered insight into his writing process. “I’ll already have something written but try to challenge myself to put that word in there and see the reaction of how it changes. There were a bunch of old, ‘70s Playboys laying around the studio and they had great advertisements. All of the headings were so tongue-in-cheek, and sexy, and funny. There is one song called ‘Overnight Sensation’ on the album. There was this ad for a cassette player that said, ‘overnight sensation’ and it had this girl laying on a love seat. The whole image was striking, so that song came out of that.”

Q: A lot of your lyrics are very poetic. Do you like poetry, or is it more just a writing style?

B: Yeah, I like poetry.

Q: …any particular poets?

B: *laughs* A poet that is pretty influential to the style of lyricism that I use is a guy named Walter Benton. I bought these used Walter Benton books and they were really kind of sensual poetry. His imagery is really cool. He compares his lovers to landscapes. Super metaphorical. So him and this guy named Rod McKuen. I think he was influenced by Walter Benton. He wrote a lot of songs. His poems are very lyrical. He writes in a similar style.

Q: Music then lyrics, or vice versa?

B: Sometimes the title exists and then the music comes out of that. Or just one phrase or a verse idea. Tommy and I mostly write a lot of instrumentals first, very rhythmic. Tommy is really great at chopping up drum samples, like old Zeppelin samples. It’s almost a very hip-hop way of doing drums, even though they’re not hip-hop songs, just sampling stuff. Some of the songs started from an iPhone sample of some folly from LA. This one song has these coyotes that are parking in the canyons and I just put that on the track, put a bunch of delay on it, it sounds so crazy. Then we put arpeggiated guitar over it and it has this atmosphere that’s like, “Woah, what world is this?” So I would say that we are definitely inspired by the sonics first and the lyrics come from that.

It depends. You can have a lyric in mind, but it can change.

To see BØRNS perform live is to experience the truly immersive sound quality of his music. “I like to have a lot of space in the songs, or have it put you in a bigger environment,” the 23-year-old, LA-transplant explained when speaking of the evocative intentions of his music. He captures the vibe of his new home in his debut album. “LA just seems more my vibe right now. Just a lot more space and room to let your mind wander. I’m always in this kind of daydream state. It’s a good place to daydream.”

Q: And where did the concepts for your music videos come from? Were they yours? Did you work with someone?

B: Electric Love, that video was a concept by these guys Ben and Ross from the UK. Super cool dudes. Their concept was to do an enchanted forest kind of thing. They had these celestial cheerleaders dancing around, and then I had this sparkly, glam-rock presence. I liked it because the whole idea of the song is this fantasy of this girl when you’re lying in bed at night and you fall asleep. Your mind wakes up. The enchanted forest in your head. It went along perfectly with the concept of the song. An electric-forest type of thing.

Q: Any unique recording locations?

B: Everything was pretty much recorded between me and Tommy on the album except a song called “Fool.” We recorded that with the full band. At that point, I had been playing with the band for about a year. We all got each other’s energy and were really tight. We rented this really beautiful, castle-like spot up in Stinson Beach. It overlooked the ocean. It was in the middle of nowhere up these winding roads through the Red Woods. It jetted out on this cliff, it was all misty, just a house and the ocean. We recorded “Fool” there. It has a live feel, a Motown sort of vibe to it.

Sarah Midkiff
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Sarah split her time in the Pacific Northwest, England and traveling Europe over the past 3 years. When she's not traveling…
The best laptops for music production, chosen by experts
best laptops for music production

The world has gone pretty far when it comes to the processing power that we carry around with us, and if you're big into music production, then you're the luckiest of all. Some of the best laptops on the market have high-end CPUs for relatively low prices, which means that if you want to do music production on a laptop, you have a huge number of choices. Of course, that does also mean that it can be hard to navigate and pick the best laptop for your budget and needs, which is why we've done the legwork for you. We've collected our favorite picks below in various categories so that you can pick them with ease. Plus, we've even thrown in a quick guide on what to look for so that if you don't find what you want here, you can check out these other laptop deals for alternatives.
The Best Laptops for Music Production

Best overall laptop for music production:
Best Windows device for music production:
Best portable laptop for music production:
Best large-screen laptop for music production:
Best for 2-in-1 laptop for music production:

Read more
The most common Spotify problems and how to fix them
How to fix common Spotify problems

At any given time, Spotify is probably the most popular music streaming service with countless listeners tuning in to songs, stand-up, podcasts, and even audiobooks. However, between an AI-driven DJ and clients for iOS, Android, and PC, a lot of things can go wrong with the entertainment system. And that's not even including problems with your iPhone or headphones.

To make sure you get to spend as much time as possible listening and as little time as possible sorting through errors, we're providing expert tips and tricks for the most common Spotify problems. Everything from the app simply not working to aspects of Spotify glitching out. Is your Spotify not working? Try these fixes and see if your problem gets better.

Read more
How to add family members to your Apple Music subscription
Apple Music Browse screen.

Apple Music is one of the go-to streaming services for all things melodic and melody-adjacent. Hosting over 88,000 million subscribers globally and featuring upwards of 100 million tracks from the leading artists of today, Spotify's nemesis has plenty to love.

If you're a new subscriber, Apple Music gives you a break-in period of one free months of service. After the trial period, memberships are billed on a monthly or yearly cycle with the most popular Individual plan coming it at $11 per month / $109 per year. While that's on par with the average cost for other music streamers, saving a buck here or there is never a bad thing. While college students can get Apple Music for $6/month, another way to save on your subscription is with an Apple Music family plan for $17 per month.

Read more