Burgerama: An Interview With Burger Records’ Sean Bohrman

Posted August 30, 2013 in
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Burger Records is doing an All Star Cross Country Caravan tour beginning September 16 and crashing our little city on September 24. It’s Burgerama! The bands in appearance will be The Growlers, Cosmonauts, Together Pangea and Gap Dream. In order to understand their mission, it’s important you know a little bit about the co-founder of Burger Records, Sean Bohrman. Bohrman and I recently spoke over the phone, and it was my pleasure to do so considering how fond I am of all the pop, garage and psychedelic bands Burger sponsors, from the Orange County area and a few others beyond.

Bohrman is a self-proclaimed “music nerd” and “weirdo.” Those three words in quotes could be put together to describe the Burger family. They’re a bunch of music nerd weirdos who love what they do and not much else. Burger Records is essentially a distributing company that specializes in cassette tapes, which started in 2007. “It’s taken off in a way that none of us really expected,” says Bohrman. “Now we have cassette store day and all the distributors that we initially contacted to get permission for tapes are all now carrying cassettes.” So while everyone else was still deciding if they wanted to jump on the vinyl-craze bandwagon, Bohrman and co-founder Lee Rickard were thinking something completely different. “We love music history and rock n’ roll, so to be a part of it is pretty crazy,” says Bohrman. “When we started, there wasn’t a ton of people doing cassettes, but there are now. They’re really cheap and quick to make. It’s something physical, like vinyl. You can’t play vinyl in the car, and when you have 600 bands on tape they, become like trading cards. Like Pokemon, you gotta have them all.” Despite the full-blown success of their project, Bohrman made it clear that Burger Records is not a “real” business. “I think some people have the impression that it’s a real business. Like we have an A&R department … but I know we surprise a lot of people with our operation, which is one laptop on a desk with a bunch of random junk,” he says. “Our operation is really small but we do a lot with it. It’s getting real big.” He also gave some insight into what putting a tour together or running a business requires. “I mean, we’re working really hard. It’s not like we’re just smoking weed one day and then thought, ‘Hey, look we’re popular!’ We’re smoking weed, but we’re working really hard at the same time,” Bohrman says.

Burger’s reason for invading neighborhoods across the country can be understood by examining one individual: Tiny Tim. Do a YouTube search for that name if you’re unfamiliar. You’ll undoubtedly be intrigued, if not amused for the next half hour. After I did so, I felt like I knew Burger a little bit better. Bohrman spoke of this artist fondly. “Putting out Tiny Tim would be a dream come true,” he says. Tiny Tim is quite possibly one of music’s most beloved and bizarre characters ever, and why Bohrman appreciates this artist fits right in with Burger’s vision. “We wanna show people how much fun we’re having. It’s about being free and not worrying about what other people think. It’s all-inclusive and we’re weirdos. We were weirdos in high school and weirdos in real life,” he says. “We’re just forever weird and weird people need to gravitate towards each other. We’re trying to make a place for weird people to go and connect.” Yes, “weird” was said that many times in our conversation, but coming from Bohrman, it was completely sincere. I was surprised to understand what a legacy and family they’re trying to create within music. I think it’s admirable and necessary. The Burger Record scene is completely cool without trying to be, and it’s because they uphold the ideals Bohrman listed off to me.

“I think this will be a good tour for us because we’re getting out to different venues then we’re used to going,” says Bohrman. “We’ve been doing the same tour for 15 years (before Burger Records, Bohrman and Rickard toured America as a power pop band under the moniker Thee Makeout Party). It’ll be nice to open up to some all-ages shows and get some new faces in there. This tour will also give us a stepping stone for the same thing next year,” he says. When I asked Bohrman about the lineup, he told me it was fully intentional. “We went through tons of bands that could’ve gone on the tour, but these ones fit the whole vibe together. Stylistically, these bands are pretty similar. Not all over, like some of the Burger stuff we have going on,” he says.

These four Burger bands are going to destroy Urban Lounge. Fans of garage and psychedelic music can look forward to this show as one of the best of the year. Not to mention that Hannih El Katib and Bass Drum of Death are playing that night as well. Each one of the Burger bands on tour has released new music this year, or is planning to. Together Pangea just signed to Harvest Records, Bohrman says. “They’re the first band from the Burger family to be thrown into the major record industry, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.” Cosmonauts are a maddening sonic experience. Their new album, Persona Non Grata, is like a hellish combination of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Psychic Ills. The glaze of fuzz and noise is definitely reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, but again, hellish. Gap Dream’s new self-titled album is a chilled out, rock experience with touches of synth. This will be the mellowest band of the night. Their sound is like shoegaze without all the speed and noise—hypnotic for sure. Check out “Slave” from the new album and you’ll hear what I mean. Then you have one of my favorites and one of the strangest bands I know, The Growlers. Their latest album, Hung at Heart, took on a bit of a beach rock twang, dubbing the album a beach-goth party. “Beach Rats” is definitely my favorite jam from this album. Their sound is entirely unique. It’s a blues driven folk sound that always comes off ghoulish, even in a light-hearted way. Lead singer Brooks Nielsen’s voice reflects the country folk sound of folk legend Woody Guthrie. From the music to the voice, their sound is as tasty as a bacon burger with onions. They also have a new EP due for release this November.

I can’t wait for this show to take place. If you want to get weird, and I mean rowdy and weird, then be there. Burgerrecords.com and each band’s own bandcamp site will be the fastest way to get yourself a brand new tape, and the best way to get in a craze for this wicked and weird experience.