Grilling up a revolution
BY: ANGELA RATZLAFF
Co-owner of the Orange County-based record store and label Burger Records Lee Rickard has a love for hamburgers. So much so that he found himself eating the American sandwich burger at every run-down diner during his first cross-country family road trip in 1993. “That’s like when I first kind of realized, ‘oh I really love hamburgers. I eat hamburgers every day,’” Rickard said. “It’s just kind of one of those things, like Americana.”
Rickard started Burger Records as a record label with best friend and former band mate from Thee Makeout Party, Sean Bohrman, in 2007. The label turns out tape cassettes and records from local bands, like Long Beach’s Tijuana Panther and punkrock staples, like Georgia’s The Black Lips.
The most recent development with the label is the move to digital formats. Burger Records announced on April 2 that most Burger releases are now available through Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, thanks to a 2013 business deal with Red Eye, an independent music distributor.
“It’s something we usually wouldn’t do,” Rickard said. “The business side of it is not the fun part. We just want to get the music out to the people.”
When Burger Records started, Rickard said, they only released 45 rpm records before moving to tape cassettes and vinyl LPs. The Burger Boys joined forces with their friend Brian Flores to open a brick-and-mortar record shop in Fullerton, Calif. in 2009.
“Brian we knew because he had a record store a few years ago,” Rickard explained. “He kind of had a falling out with his old business partner, and Brian’s a really sweet knowledgeable dude with plenty of records and inventory.”
Located in an industrial area, the record shop sits next to a jewelry shop under a small, red and white sign that reads “Burger Records.” Tan walls surround the building. Planters with small shrubs dot the sidewalks leading to the entrance.
Once inside, however, lime-green walls, waves of a marijuana aroma and punk rock music that plays from a turn table in the back perk up the senses. Cats greet customers’ feet and hamburger paraphernalia surrounds the interior. Even though the shop holds a few rows of records, the collection is extensive, with used records from every genre and new Burger releases.
Borhman said his decision to quit his former job, where he worked as an art director for a magazine, and invest his earnings into the shop set him free from the idea of working full-time and under cumbersome conditions.
“You only live once, and I don’t want people like that to influence how I live my life or how I want to live my life,” he said. “It was really disheartening to work so hard for something and for that to be the result of working there … and I couldn’t just see myself sitting in a cubicle for 40 years.”
Rickard says that the youth grew more interest in investing in physical formats of music, like records and cassettes.
“It’s pop culture. The news people are writing about it, they are creating Record Store Day, and there’s just hype,” he explains. “Kids are getting into turn tables like they are getting into guitars, you know. It could be a fad for some, like a guitar. For some, it’s life changing, and worth living.”
Apart from manning the record shop and pressing records, the Burger Boys also hold events like in-store performances, out-of-state shows and local events like the music festival Burgerama. They also started producing their own online-video series, which they plan to transfer and sell on DVD and VHS formats, called Burger TV. The handmade roughly cut videos showcase new releases and performances from featured Burger artists.
“I feel that we are Renaissance men, like there’s nothing that we can’t do or won’t do, Jack of all trades, you know,” Rickard said.
Burger has nurtured a local movement of garage and punk as well as a distinct image and raw sound that doesn’t tend to exist in other labels. Both Rickard and Borhman agree that personal elements to their releases, like hand-written numbering and artwork from the bands, adds to the Burger experience.
“There is a trashy and a sweet element to it,” Rickard said. “I mean there’s a lot of our garage bands, there’s a lot of that sloppy stuff. I think Burger is more childish in a sense. It’s more wide-eyed and free spirited, uninhibited rather than being like cookie-cutter.”
Drummer for twin brother, punk rock duo The Garden Fletcher Shears said that he has been working with Burger Records since 2009 and has already played on seven releases.
“The guys are just super sweet and they take good care of us,” Shears said.
The rough-around-the-edges sound in each Burger release has also gained a following with local, young punk and garage rock lovers, like Long Beach resident Tiffany Crufman.
“It’s all just like really fun, the crowds are really nice, everyone loves the bands and it’s just good music,” Crufman said.
“[Rickard, Borhman and Flores] are not about the money, they want the music and the vibes they are just cool people in general.”
For the future, the Burger Boys plan to expand their reach into the music world. Talks of art shows are in the works and more episodes of Burger TV are underway.
“None of us really knew what it was going to become. We still don’t know what it’s become, it’s an ever-changing, evolving thing,” Borhman said. “And that’s what’s fun about it. You never know what the next day is going to hold.”