Just a stone’s throw from the train tracks on the industrial side of Cal State Fullerton, a record label has been hard at work breathing new life into the music scene. Burger Records, a label and record store combination, has stayed true to the definition of punk rock by doing its own thing; an approach that has led it to work with artists like Green Day, Weezer, Thee Oh Sees and psychedelic rock outfit, Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Burger Records’ specialization in punk and indie music has developed into it’s own niche since the label’s inception. Specifically, the resurgence of cassette tapes is where the label has found it’s home.
“When we first started making cassettes, nobody was making cassettes of records that were coming out at the time, so we said, ‘Why not us?’ and we did it,” said Sean Bohrman, co-founder of Burger Records. “Before we knew it, we were behind this cassette movement that was happening.”
The 2010s have been great for cassette tapes. The format had risen in sales by 74 percent in 2016 according to Nielsen Music. With this trend, Burger Records has had the opportunity to bring their cassette itch into a new light. The label managed to release Green Day’s 1994 breakout album “Dookie” on cassette exclusively for International Cassette Store Day in 2015.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of cassette tapes filter their way through 645 S. State College Blvd. each and every week. Since its start, the independent label has pressed and released more than 500,000 cassettes and been responsible for more than 1,100 releases between itself and its subsidiary label, Weiner Records.
Burger Records was formed in 2007 by Bohrman and Lee Rickard, friends and bandmates who played alongside each other in Thee Makeout Party!, a punk rock group based in Fullerton. The label focused on putting records to tape as a means of cost reduction without taking away the physical aspect of the music they were making. The label started slow, but released its own music from Thee Makeout Party! through Burger Records in 2007 before carrying on to releases from other bands.
“We’re really tireless workers and workaholics. All we do is work on Burger and invest our money back into Burger. We don’t live extravagant lifestyles or anything,” said Bohrman.
The label describes itself as “a rock ‘n’ roll philanthropic quasi-religious borderline-cultish propaganda-spreading group of suburban perma-teen mutants.” For the Burger team and Bohrman, it has grown into a full-time job after Bohrman sold his 401k to start the Burger Records store.
“I worked in an office for four and a half years before this, and that wasn’t great. It paid well and I could have worked there my entire life, but it just felt wrong that I worked so hard through college and it led to a cubicle in Irvine,” Bohrman said. “It just didn’t make sense, it didn’t add up.”
Burger Records now operates seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on top of hosting pop-up shops and DJing at music festivals like Growlers Six and Desert Daze. They have even hosted their own annual Burger Boogaloo music festival with headliners including Iggy Pop, Shannon and the Clams, and Buzzcocks, and evolved into a label with global recognition.
Over the last four years, Bohrman, Rickard and the rest of the Burger team have been flown all over the world to speak at music conventions and set up shop at music festivals. Last month, the label had the opportunity to speak in Germany and Columbia about their label, and will be heading to Perth, Australia and Bali, Indonesia to DJ at a music festival in November.
“We just released a band on Wiener Records from Iraq called Psychic Bloom who are really good. We had to send the tapes to somebody in Europe to drive them into the country to give it to (the band),” Bohrman added.
”Pretty wild, I never thought I’d get to travel and stuff, but I’ve been all over the world, which is cool,” Bohrman said.
There was a point in time where analog music lost it’s place in the music community, at least to the general population. The introduction of the iPod and other MP3 players in the early 2000s focused on the concept of minimizing the physical size of your music collection, but disregarded the intimacy and quality that comes with their tangible predecessors. Burger Records fought that idea and brought back what many diehards would consider the most important aspect of music – physicality.