Burger Records is a tiny record shop in a beige business park in Fullerton. But don't let the storefront fool you. In the back of that unassuming record shop, Burger's music label is a thriving indie success.
The baby of rock 'n' roll-worshiping entrepreneurs Sean Bohrman and William Lee Rickard, the Burger label is known for its DIY, kooky sensibility. Burger releases albums on cassette, puts on a dizzying number of rock shows and has its own YouTube show, BRGRTV.
"We're still learning what we're doing," says Burger co-founder Sean Bohrman, sitting on the well-loved couch behind the record store. "But when we started, it was just to put out our music. And then we learned, Oh we can do this, so we started putting out other bands' music."
When Bohrman and Rickard decided to make Burger a full-time enterprise, it meant Bohrman had to quit his job as an art director at a boating and fishing magazine.
"I worked there for about four-and-a-half years and [Thee] Make Out Party, our band, was going to go on tour and the economy had gone bad, so they weren't going to hire a temp to take my place while I was gone. So I quit my job and cashed out my 401K and opened up Burger Records," Bohrman says.
Under the Burger Records label, Bohrman and Rickard release cassettes, CDs and vinyl albums. In the world of indie label successes, Burger is the shabby, homegrown outfit that prevailed. And Bohrman says they've accomplished all of this out of a drab business park in Orange County.
"We work non-stop, constantly," Bohrman says "From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed at 4 a.m. or whatever. It's just non-stop Burger all the time."
Bohrman says there are about 800 Burger bands right now, working in one way or another with their label, which is known globally. "We've sold tapes and records to almost every single continent," he says. "Except Antarctica."
Bohrman and Rickard were early supporters of acts such as Ty Segall, Bleached and Cherry Glazerr— all of which have released albums on labels other than Burger. But Rickard says that's okay.
"It's surreal, our friends [are] growing — as they should," Rickard says. "We believe in all of our artists and really think that they're stars and have a lot of charisma and character. That's our jobs is, you know, to find the gems."
And the Burger universe is expanding. Just this month, Bohrman and Rickard opened a new outpost in L.A.'s Cypress Park neighborhood. The shop is called Gnarburger and it's a partnership between Burger and another indie label originally based in Portland called Gnar Tapes.
Bohrman says it's about time they expanded up north: "We knew that if we did open a shop in L.A. that it would get a good response, because a lot of people don't want to drive all the way down to Orange County."
L.A.-based Burger fans will be driving to Orange County soon though. This weekend Burger puts on its yearly music festival, Burgerama, at The Observatory in Santa Ana.
"It's our biggest show we've ever done, we've ever conceived," Bohrman says.
Bands performing this year include Burger staples Cherry Glazerr and Ty Segall, but also rock veterans Roky Erickson and Weezer.
"When Sean and I were both kids we had Weezer's 'Blue Album' on cassette and CD," Rickard says. "We got to make a tape just this last year of their new album. And that was a dream come true to be able to get Weezer on Burger."
But after this weekend's festival is over, Bohrman and Rickard will keep cheering on bands, whether in the O.C., L.A., or Australia for that matter. It's an important part of what they do at Burger, and the importance isn't lost on Rickard.
"It turns us on and it keeps us excited just bringing like-minded people together to create a community and a family and stuff like that," he says. "In the future I hope we have a cool spot ... a landmark that people can come [to] ... The Burgerland or the Burgertown or the Burger joint."
Bohrman and Rickard don't have any set plans for Burgerland just yet. But, gauging by the rate of their expansion, who knows?