When we caught up with electro-pop artist Garrett Borns (stage name BØRNS), he was in an underground green room surrounded by props and wigs. “I’m not really sure what’s going on down here, but who knows?” says the “Electric Love” vocalist. From sketchy basements to music festivals, the L.A.-via-Michigan musician has been on a whirlwind journey all year long.
One of those fests was the Be More Tea Festival in North Charleston back in October, which included a record-breaking giant glass of iced tea, life-sized beer pong, and some of the best food trucks in town. Needless to say, BØRNS was introduced to the South correctly. He hit the massive outdoor stage before St. Lucia, Walk the Moon, the Roots, and Passion Pit. “Normally, you’re in a cavernous venue, and it feels like you’re echoing off of everything,” Borns says. “That open air at a festival gives a freeing, ephemeral feeling. Both stimulate in different ways, but the weather was beautiful and the crowd was prancing around in the grass. It was fun.”
Borns has the instant success of his debut album Dopamine (October 2015) to thank for all the good places he’s landed lately. He first lit up the airwaves in January with the serene trance-pop single “10,000 Emerald Pools,” followed by “Electric Love,” a glitzy, dance-friendly number that reached No. 6 on Billboard’s AAA chart. The song also produced a boho-glam video that features a sequined BØRNS falling through a psychedelic swirl of animated neon signs. “The song itself was kind of a dream,” he says. “The concept came from when you go to bed and fall asleep and your mind is sort of awakened into a psychedelic world — the enchanted forest of your mind coming alive at night.”
The inspiration for Dopamine came not only from ’60s and ’70s psychedelic records but also from the liberating feeling of living amongst nature. You see, Borns wrote the album — with its eclectic blend of acid pop, glam rock, and Cali-beach vibes — in a Los Angeles treehouse. “It was just sort of a humble guesthouse in a family’s yard,” he says. “I stayed there for a month, became really good friends with the family, and worked on my record. It wasn’t exactly glamorous. It was rustic living and tiny, but it was refreshing.”
BØRNS’ most recent release is a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning,” and it’s filled with soft harmonies from a musician who’s also known for buoyant beats, French pop artist Petite Meller. “I’m a big fan of her work and artistic vision,” Borns says.
Though BØRNS draws influence from old-school artists — from the Velvet Underground and the Beach Boys to the Zombies and Al Green — he started out his musical journey with parody songs inspired by Weird Al. “I always wrote joke songs about my sister,” he admits. “That’s honestly how I really got started.”
Now that Borns’ journey will land him back in Charleston, he hopes the Pour House experience will be just as surreal as his last visit, despite being road weary. “Touring life is a crazy,” he says. “We’re pretty much in a different city every night or every other night, traveling in a tiny van. We’re pretty much never stopping. It can be exhausting.”