I recently had the chance to chat with Sean Bohrman, the co-founder of Burger Records, an independent record label and store out of downtown Fullerton. The label started in 2007 as a way to put out records by Sean’s bubblegum glam band, Thee Makeout Party, and quickly grew, encompassing releases by artists such as NoBunny and The Go.
Later, in 2009, when Sean’s day job wouldn’t let Thee Makeout Party go on tour, he straight up got in the van, drove off, cashed his 401k, opened the Burger store, and never looked back. Eschewing the disposable in favor of physical releases like vinyl and the good old fashioned cassette tape, Burger Records is fueled by a total love and appreciation for music.
There’s so much you can say about Burger…so I’ll Keep It Simple, Stupid: All hail rock ‘n’ roll. All hail Burger.
Hey Sean this is Zach with The Vinyl District! How’s it goin?
Pretty good. We beat the government. We owed them so much money and now we don’t. Thank God.
It was a really depressing conversation we could’ve been having…but thankfully a weight is off my shoulders.
Haha, well congrats. So, how’s business going for you guys?
Good! That’s why taxes are so scary. Cause once you start doing well they just want to take everything from you. (Laughs.) The record store is going really well—label is really well too. Everything is growing exponentially.
That’s good! So, how’d you start the label and store?
We started the label in 2007. My band Thee Makeout Party needed to release our music so we just started our own label. We’ve been using the Burger name for a couple years before as Burger Productions. We started Burger by putting out some of our own stuff. There was a band we played with all the time, Audacity, they were just a couple young kids in high school and I would be driving around thinking…man, we should put out their LP. Finally it happened, and that was the beginning of putting out other bands besides our own.
Then Thee Makeout Party was on tour and we were sitting in a parking lot at Kirby’s beer store in Kansas, and I was like, we’re friends with NoBunny and The Go and all these bands that have made these awesome records that nobody’s put on cassette…cause no one was doing that at the time, and then I was like we should put all of this stuff on cassette. Immediately I sent out emails to all these people, and they were into it. The record labels that put out these records originally had no interest in putting out cassettes, so they were fine with us putting it out. It’s been like that with Vice, Sub Pop…we’ve been extremely lucky with promotion.
In 2009 Makeout Party was going to go on tour and I worked as an art director for a boating magazine. I’d worked there for 4 and a half years. If I’d worked there for another half a year, they would’ve matched my 401 K and I would’ve gotten 10,000 dollars. But they wouldn’t let me go on tour. So I was like, alright, I have to quit. I went on that tour, but when I got back I was like…OK, what am I going to do now? So I cashed out my 401K and opened the record store as soon as I got back from tour.
Now this is our entire life. Our personal lives go to the wayside in favor of Burger!
Yeah, before when I was thinking of doing Burger, I’d be driving around and I’d have these moments of clarity where its like, “Oh my god what am I doing?” My whole life I’ve gone to college, got a good job, I could’ve worked that job forever. But it was just throwing all that away, taking a risk. It was something I had to do…and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
We came up the idea last year. We had so many submissions from bands and we can’t put it all out. A lot of it is good… it started with friend’s bands wanting to be on Burger. So it started as like, friend rock. We wanted to give everyone the help we could.
So what projects do you have coming up?
Right now we’re gearing up for SXSW and Burgerrama, which is a big festival in Santa Ana. That same weekend we’re doing Burger Boogaloo in San Francisco.
Cool! I think we’re going to try and make it out to that. My girlfriend’s parents live up in Oakland and we’ve got a bunch of friends out there so we want to try and stop by.
Cool! Yeah you should go to Burger Mania at SXSW. 72 bands on 6 stages. It’s gonna be nuts! In the midst of doing all the taxes and doing 3 releases a week, we’ve been booking all these insane shows.
So, who else is at Burger?
It’s getting be a lot of work for just us…I do all the internet stuff, like all the design and hyping. Then we have Bobby, who’s our employee. He doesn’t work for much money but he works really, really hard and we couldn’t do it without him. Then there’s Lee, who started the label with me. He’s on tour right now with The Nerves. They’re touring in the Burger Van for the next couple months. It’s crazy because the Burger Van is just an econoline van…its nothing crazy, so its hard to imagine 2 fifty year old guys who are not big fans of each other getting back together and living in a van for 2 months.
Sounds like a party.
Totally. They’re gonna be at SXSW too.
You and Lee were playing together before that right?
Yeah in Makeout Party. I opened the shop in 2009 with Brian Flores, who helped put out the first Burger release. He had a store called Third Eye Records. He’d been working the record store for 15 years and had an insane collection and was just selling at conventions and stuff. So I was like hey, we should open a record store together. So we did.
What are some of the releases you have coming out soon?
Natural Child, out of Nashville. Their new album For The Love of The Game, is being pressed right now. We’re doing the Pear LP, Davila 666 single collection. You’re the first to hear about it! Gonna have some bonus stuff on it. Gonna be a big release. And we’re doing Audacity’s new record…it’s the first release they’ve put out since 2008. So, we’re doing a new one with them…it’s insane, non stop. We just did pressings for The Burnt Ones 7” and we’re planning a tour in Costa Rica this summer with King Tuff, Apache and Davila. Two big shows there. Cassettes…we’re releasing like 3 cassettes a week. In the next 2 weeks we’re releasing 10 new tapes.
You guys are busting ass.
Yeah…and this is the busiest time of year for us, ‘cause we have 50 bands at SXSW this year and we’re trying to have it so that everyone’s able to have merch. The more people who are out there touring, the more Burger is getting out there, which is what it’s all about.
Totally! So what are the dates again?
Burger Mania at SXSW is the 17th, the 16th at the Grand Pool Hall we’re doing Burger Fest Part 2. Burger Fest Part 1 is on Wednesday the 14th at Trailer Space Records. Both of those are all day things. Friday we’re teaming up with Austin psych fest and teaming up with Spider Housewith a bunch of psych bands. Sunday we’re doing a drag show at the Iron Bear, a gay bar.
That’s gonna be awesome! And Burger Boogaloo right?
Yep, then we’re coming back home. And Burger Boogaloo, 23rd- 25th, kicking off on the 21st with Hunx and his Punx and NoBunny and a bunch of bands. Burgerama at Santa Ana is on the 24th with White Fence, The Strange Boys, Ty Segall and all of the local Burger bands.
When you guys do take on new artists, what do you look for when you’re signing a group?
Anything. We love music and we’re open to anything. We’ve always been fans of music from when we were young. My dad has been in bands since I was born. I think you can hear something real in the music and for us, it’s so clear. You can hear a band for two seconds and think no, that’s not what we’re looking for. And you can hear another band for two seconds and think, oh my god, that’s the best thing ever. It’s just having a good bullshit detector.
Awesome. Last question – the banger. Favorite burger joint?
There’s a place in Wisconsin we ate at that was really good. But around here, Ray’s Best. All our friends work there. There’s also a place called Guapo’s burgers, they do really good burger and fries for $5.