Ted Burns ’19 Shares His Creative Process

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This week, I interviewed Bates students Peter Nadel ’19 and Ted Burns ’19 about their participation in Burns’ musical group Short Shorts. He’s self-produced and released several albums and mixtapes on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. He recently played in the Little Room with Moon Daddy and Coldfish. Curious about that experience and his development as an aspiring campus musician, I headed over to Burns’s dorm room to talk.

The Bates Student (BS): This past performance in the Little Room; was this your first live show? How did you feel about it?

Ted Burns (TB): This was my second. The first was in the basement of Hayes my sophomore year. There were two big differences, so previously, it was just me on the guitar. This time, I played an original song; usually it’s just covers. And it was the first time I was backed by a live bass, played by Peter.

Peter Nadel (PN): That’s me.

TB: Peter played bass, then in the background –

PN: Hey, world.

TB: – there was a drum track I made on GarageBand to play alongside me. So it was a big upgrade.

BS: When did you decide to start making music?

TB: In the summer of 2016, I first listened to what are now my two favorite musical artists of all time: Car Seat Headrest and Japanese Breakfast. Why I love them — and this is what inspired me to make music — is that they both had a history of putting out music that was like a minute long and sounded very simple. And my impression of a song was always that it had to have all these parts, but it made me realize: no, you can start by making a really low bar for yourself, as long as you’re making anything at all. So that summer, I made two “albums” that no one will ever hear, but they have titles, cover art and stuff. Those are my first songs. It progressed from there as I got more confident with my abilities.

BS: Tell me a little bit about your influences. What are some artists that you think about when you make music?

TB: I’d say Car Seat Headrest, Japanese Breakfast, Bo Burnham, Fun., and recently Frank Ocean. When I make a song, it’s because I’ve heard a song that does something that, I’m like, “I want to do that.” Usually a song will start there.

BS: What genre do you consider your music to be?

TB: I can read you the tags I have myself under in Bandcamp. Alternative, bedroom pop, indie rock, lo-fi. I’d say indie rock or pop, I have a strong, blatant pop leaning.

BS: What is your lyric writing process like?

TB: I think a lot of what I write about are the things that have happened to me, but, more often than not, I draw on a specific feeling that I’ve had, and I’ll try and turn that into a story. It’s like thought experimenting on a feeling is what I’d say. Lyrics are something I’ve been focused on recently. I want them to be really good.

BS: Is there an eventual sound you’re working towards?

TB: In my perfect world, I’m in like a professional studio with a full band, but that’s like the “dream” in terms of sound. I’m lo-fi right now, ‘cause it’s just true.

BS: Any upcoming projects?

TB: I [recently] put out a B-sides thing that was just a bunch of rough drafts, so I’m mentally preparing to do something big, like a lot of effort. It probably won’t be until like the summer, I want-

TB: So I’m ready to do something big

BS: That sounds ominous.

TB: I want my instrumentation to be more complex…and I want more lyrical complexity.

BS: Last question, why Short Shorts?

TB: So my version is that in the summer, when I was trying to think about a name for myself, I did Short Shorts, ‘cause I did cross country and track, so I just wore those a lot, and then I kind of like how short shorts are exposing. Basically, it’s a catchy name, and it has meaning that I can derive from it.

Short Shorts is Ted Burns ‘19. Find him on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

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