The Tasty Tunes of Burger Records

California record label molds a culture of cassette tapes and teenage garage rock in Orange County

Breck Hickman

Breck Hickman

The Orange County lo-fi music scene glows with its newfound burger subculture spearheaded by independent label and record store Burger Records. Riding on a wave of cassette tapes, California garage pop, and a DIY attitude, Burger Records is cruising smoothly in a crumbling record label industry.

Based out of Fullerton, California, Burger Records was put in motion in 2007 by high school pals Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard when they began making cassettes for their friends’ bands, just because they were cheap and practical. As Bohrman and Rickard gained a reputation for selling $6 limited-run cassette tapes, other Orange County bands caught wind of the medium’s revival and began releasing both old and new material on tape through the label.

While Burger Records now presses vinyl on occasion and sporadically releases CDs, cassette tapes continue to be the marrow of their market. “They’re a novelty now to people who experienced the whole cassette thing in the ‘80s,” said Bohrman, while discussing modern cassettes in an interview with music blog Tiny Mix Tapes. “But the kids today who have old cars with cassette players, for them it’s just a different format to listen to. It’s not any kind of nostalgia for them; it’s just something to listen to music on.”

Burger Records has now released the music of more than 600 artists including headliners such as Black Lips, The Growlers, Ty Segall, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

With debut records making up nearly 90 percent of the music released on Burger Records, Bohrman and Rickard pride themselves in launching bands still in their salad days, gravitating towards high school bands in particular. In an interview with Mike Abu from Vice Magazine, Rickard defended Burger’s support of rookie musicians: “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 Burger Records label has now released the music of more than 600 artists including headliners such as Black Lips, The Growlers, Ty Segall, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Burger bands are showcased on the annual Burgerama Caravan of Stars Tour as well as the annual all-ages Burgerama Festival in Orange County that has consistently sold out in years past. No extravagant business practices are really noticeable with their mounting success, however, as Bohrman and Rickard can be seen on tour with their bands, monitoring the Burger Records merch table or selling cassette tapes out of a car.