The Dudes Behind Burger Records Feel Like Suge Knight Right Now
Burger Records was started by Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard in Fullerton, California, five years ago. It has since become the musical juggernaut that hosts Burgerama, the two-day festival with groups like Ariel Pink and Black Lips. We sent Mike Abu down...
Lee Rickard and Sean Bohrman backstage at Burgerama. All photos by Brian Finley Pearce.
Burger Records started as the brainchild of Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard in Fullerton, California, five years ago. In that time they’ve managed to take a concept of embracing divergent subcultures and turn it into a full-fledged musical juggernaut. They just finished a worldwide campaign leading up to SXSW called the Buger Revolution, with bands from everywhere and every genre (including my shitty band Twins) all playing under the Burger header. And on March 22, they hosted the second annual Burgerama at the Santa Ana Observatory, a two-day all-ages festival that featured groups like Ariel Pink, Pharcyde, Black Lips, Fidlar, the Spits, and countless other killer music dudes. We sent writer Mike Abu down to Southern California to talk with Sean and Lee to find out more about Burger Records and their movement.
Getting from Salt Lake City to Santa Ana at the spur of a moment without a dime in your pocket might seem daunting to some, but it’s a lifestyle I’ve pretty much mastered. I caught a ride with a pizza-delivery driver and some cracked-out piece of shit we met on Craigslist, the latter of whom ended up stealing my phone charger. A friend of mine, Brooks Hall from the band Breakers, met up with me in Vegas and drove the rest of the way, delivering me to the gates of the observatory right before the show started.
Burgerama had been sold out for weeks, but when I called Sean and told him I was in town, he said there was a slight chance he could add me to a guest list that was 40 people deep. That was all I needed to hear. I run on a very simple protocol when it comes to these kinds of things—no means "maybe," and maybe means "yes."
Sure enough, they let me in. When it was time to do the interview, I met up with Sean and Lee in the back of the venue as they inconspicuously smoked weed and chilled out. We ate burgers and hot dogs as we talked, trying not to spill mustard all over our shirts and failing miserably at it. This is what they had to say.
VICE: This is pretty crazy.
Lee Rickard: It’s not crazy. It’s surreal.
I don’t see you guys that often, but when I come down and this is happening, and you guys are doing it…
Lee: You’ve seen it evolve. That’s what’s crazy. When we shock our friends and they’re like, “Really?” You’ve seen it, you know?
Are you guys freaking out? Do you feel like Suge Knight?
Lee: Fuck yeah, we’re moguls!
Sean Bohrman: I mean, I don’t want to have to hold anybody upside down over the side of a building or anything, but yeah, I want to make shit happen.
Lee: Shot callers—that’s what they call them. We feel really good, tired, delirious, nonsensical, and maniacal. We feel retarded. We feel like something is happening, that there’s a cultural change in the world, and we’re tuned in and ready to ride the flow.
How’d you start Burger?
Lee: It had been in my mind for a long time. It started as a gang thing. Then it turned into a two-headed monster, and then a five-headed monster, and then a five-million-headed monster. You can only do so much by yourself, but when you have like-minded individuals with the same creative ideas and worldviews, you can change the world.
How do you feel about what’s happening now?
Sean: It feels good because we worked so hard. It wasn’t easy. We put all of our lives, money, and spirit into this, and to see it pay off is really, really awesome. People of all ages are here having fun, meeting each other, and making connections. It’s rad! It took a lot of work to do.
Do you feel like you’re blowing up within a scene?
Sean: No, I feel like we’re creating our own scene. We respect the past and everything that’s happened, and we’re learning from it. We’re learning from mistakes, getting ideas and adapting them to new ways.
Lee: Subculture within subculture within subculture. We’re just trying to nurture them, cater to all of them, and bring them together into one collective cooperative world where we can live happily and funnily. It’s great.
I first met the Burger masterminds years ago, while they were touring in Thee Makeout Party! The band crashed at my house alongside their tourmates, Audacity, who had all just graduated high school before setting off on their first nationwide jaunt.
At that time, Sean mostly talked about Star Trek, while Lee played Verve albums for young girls. “This is real punk,” he’d tell them, convincing them with enthusiasm alone. Audacity spent most of their time trying to outdo each other with gigantic rips out of my bong. If I remember correctly, I walked over and gave them a personal tutorial, which resulted in my crippled exit from the party.
Hey, Lee, how old was that girl you had sex with in my basement?
Lee: Um… [Extremely long pause] I don’t know…
Lee: She was legal. She had a mohawk.
You wouldn’t believe all the shit I had to go through just to get here and kick it with you guys.
Sean: That’s the beauty of it. You’re part of it. Anybody can be a part of it. It’s not an exclusive thing. It’s not some faceless, weird corporation or business—it’s our lives, and we’re inviting you in through Burger.
Lee: If you can book shows, then book shows. If you can draw pictures or take pictures, then do so. Whatever it is. If you’re a fucking fashion director or interior designer, just do it up and lay it out. Feng shui, baby. Smooth lines all the time.
You guys have a crazy-eclectic collection of bands on your label, from Ty Segall to Pharcyde, not to mention all these rad bands I never heard of until they joined Burger. How do you get so many different groups to join the label?
Sean: Want to know how we do it? I’ll be working by myself late at night, listening to the radio and doing stuff on the computer, and when something comes on that I really like, I’ll go on the internet and look it up. Then I’ll send them a message and ask if they want to do a release of 500 cassettes or something. Next thing you know…
Name five bands on Burger that everyone should look up right now.
Sean: There’s too many to even keep track.
Lee: If you want to talk about who rocked this festival, I can do that. Summer Twins rocked, Fletcher C. Johnson rocked, the Memories rocked, and Beachwood Sparks is rocking right now. Natural Child is rocking right now, too.
Sean: Unkle Funkle, too. We just love that band.
Do you know what you’re going to do next? What’s the plan?
Lee: I have a vision and I see where we want to be. I know we’ll have our own stage and dance floor, bar, grill, museum. We’ll have a fucking presence that you can see from any freeway. All the way from outer space, you’ll be able to see a Burger flag waving high. Everyone will know, peace be with you and always be with you, one love, Rasta.
There are a lot of kids here. How are you guys trying to embrace the youth?
Sean: It’s important. We want to put out bands still in high school. It’s like they’re in prison, stuck there with nothing to do. And if you throw a band or a tape in there, they’re just gonna eat it up because everything else there is school, and people hate school.
Lee: Teenage bands are free-spirited and uninhibited. They’re realists. They don’t think, they just do. They live freely. There’s innocence to their rock ’n’ roll. It’s true-blue American, one of a kind. We take pride in nurturing these bands and watching them grow.
The backstage was bustling with energy. Musicians from everywhere were sitting around and shooting the shit, talking about past shows and what was happening at this one. Before I knew it, Sean and Lee had to run off to go watch someone play. I finished my burger and tried to wipe the mustard off my voice recorder before heading back out to rage in the amazing scene Lee and Sean built from the ground up.
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