Since 2007 Burger Records has quickly snowballed into one of the most influential record labels in Southern California. With a D.I.Y. ethos and pure enthusiasm for music and supporting bands, there is no denying its integral place at the forefront of the Southern California music scene. Label co-founders Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard have poured their hearts and hard work into bringing us hundreds of badass music releases from the likes of Ty Segal, Feeding People, King Tuff, etc. and wild, rock ‘n’ roll shows such as Burgerama, Burger Revue and the female driven Burger-a-Go-Go. Chatting with Sean led to some insight on the daily Burger grind, why he and Lee make a perfect team, the importance of philanthropy, and how sometimes dreams can come true (but not in the way you’re probably thinking).
GG: Explain a day in the life at Burger Records.
SB: I work from 11am-4am everyday, non-stop. I’ve been doing it for the last three or four years.
GG: Co-founder Lee Rickard is currently in Australia on official Burger business, how’s it been holding down the fort?
SB: Holding down the fort has been good. It’s easier when he’s here just to handle things because I’m more of an inside hermit type person and he’s more of the go out to shows and party and stuff. I’m more of a workaholic.They flew him out there (to Australia) to speak about Burger Records for the Big Sound Festival and then he’s going on a DJ thing with Wax Witches, this band from Australia we put out, so he’s DJ’ing on that tour.
GG: Explain the origin of Burger Records.
SB: We started Burger, putting out our own music. We were in a band called Thee Makeout Party! and no one was interested in putting out our 7″ so we decided to put it out ourselves. Once we discovered that we could do it ourselves, it was kind of easy. Then we hit up local band Audacity and then it just kind of grew from there.
GG: What would you title the Burger story if it was adapted as a movie?
SB: We’re so caught up with catchy names and stuff and we do so many of them that it’s like “god, what’s left”. The Burger movie would be the most obvious thing. One of my favorite things, I listen to the radio a lot, you know how they do promos like of regular people, “I listen to 89.5 and it’s my favorite station!” Another person said, “I like power 106 because they play everything all the time.” That phrase just stuck in my head. That would be a good one, everything all the time…a Burger Records story. It’s impossible to do everything all the time, it would make your head explode.
GG: Do you plan on expanding beyond Southern California soon?
SB: We’re trying to expand Burger online, Burger-a-Go-Go to other places. Right now we’re talking to Mexico City but we want it to get to Seattle, Portland, Detroit, New York. We could do well in London and Paris and Tokyo, probably and some places in Australia. I’m a hermit though so I’m fine from my desk and chair, everything outside of that is scary and new to me.
GG: Any releases / concerts that you’re most proud of putting out into the musical ether?
SB: Everything we’ve done has been shocking and amazing, did not expect any of this to blossom into what it has become. Burgerama is really cool and Burger-a-Go-Go I’m super proud of, and just the fact that we’re able to do this and continue to do this seven years on, is what I’m most proud of. And to turn kids on to weird music that they probably wouldn’t have been turned on to.
GG: How do you feel about bringing cassette tape culture back from the dead?
SB: Seven years ago, I guess it was a bit of a struggle but we’ve been lucky to be able to put out awesome music and move cassettes and make money and keep putting out more. It was easy when we had 10 cassettes under our belt, even 300 cassettes under our belt. Now we have 700 different cassette releases on Burger and it’s like wow. It’s a ton of people and things and trying to stay in contact with all them, it’s crazy, it’s huge.
All these distribution companies that didn’t carry cassettes (circa 2007) now carry them and, all these other labels that didn’t do cassettes way back when because they had no interest in it are doing cassettes themselves now. I think everyone caught on now.
GG: What was your first cassette tape?
SB: It was Van Halen 51-50. Also, Collective Soul.
GG: Tell us about your Burger philanthropy (sponsoring Katenge Mduduzi Mufuzi from Zambia).
SB: That was one of the first cassettes we put out (Nobunny’s Raw Romance cassette), I think it was Burger Release #12. It was our first big hit, we sold 500 tapes in a week and a half and we charged an extra dollar for each tape and that went to Katenge and his family. We were able to increase his family’s income 50 percent for two years with just a week and a half of selling a cassette. Since then we’ve continued to sponsor him and so we’ve seen him grow up the past seven years and we continue to get pictures. He’s our boy. Katenge Mdudzi Mufuzi. It’s a funny sounding name, that was one of the reasons why we picked him. He was one of the only ones into music.
GG: What other charities does Burger support?
SB: We donated a dollar from each Feeding People LP to the Action Against Hunger charity. We donated 50 cents per cassette for our Wiener Dog and Kitty Comp benefits and donated a bunch of money to ASPCA. We’ve done a fair amount of charity work, we do it whenever we can.
GG: Did your parents’ musical influence play an important role on what you listen to now?
SB: I’m sure it did but my dad never pushed anything on me. He never said, “you should listen to this, or you should play guitar.” He just let me be, and do whatever I did. My Dad and his band were covering The Clash, The Stooges. Every Thursday, growing up from when I was a baby to about 13, it was 13 years of hearing that every Thursday, and memorizing the songs, and going to shows with them. I would say it definitely prepared me later in life.
GG: Who are your current favorite non-Burger artists?
SB: Right now probably Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Crayon Pop and a bunch of Japanese and Korean pop music, that’s what I’m into right now.
GG: How do you decompress from the Burger overload?
SB: I have one hobby outside of Burger that I started this year because I was going crazy from Burger … I got into wrestling. I was into it growing up and stayed up to date on some things about it. Stopped watching it in high school around 1998 and I started watching it again this year. So I go to the dispensary where I buy weed and watch “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown”. I smoke a lot of weed and I don’t drink or anything and they have wi-fi at the dispensary, so I answer all my emails and I get to smoke weed and watch wrestling and it’s awesome.
GG: So I have to ask … what’s your favorite type of burger?
SH: This would be a question for Lee. I’m a very picky eater. I like lettuce, tomato and sometimes I’ll have them take all that off if I’m just not into it at the time. Mayo, mustard, ketchup. I hate onions, I don’t like relish. Pickles are ok, but I don’t like sweet type pickles. It would be a lot more fun answer from Lee. He’d be like, “I like all this, that and the other”. So that describes our relationship I think. We’re opposites. We both like burgers, just different kinds of burgers, and it works the same way with everything we do. He fills in the gaps, where I don’t like to go out and do all the schmoozing, shaking hands and kissing babies.
Between Two Buns: The Burger Records Story – Documentary by Jack Sample