Tuesday, May 27, 2014
The cassette revolution of Burger Records continues as it has become a major force in developing new bands and reissuing long lost classics of underground music infamy. This is an interview I did with Sean Bohrman, one of the label's key members. Definitely a unique success story in the world of music where boundaries between fan, band, and label no longer exist. It seems like we live in a time where the glass ceiling is on the first floor, but I think that's a matter of perspective and how far you are willing to go in order to live the life you want. -KPM
Which came first: Thee Makeout Party, Burger Records Label, or the Burger Records store?
Sean--- I met Lee at show in high school in 1998, I was a junior, and he was a freshman. We became friends; started band called the Noise and created a zine together called the Newsletter. We hung out, smoked weed, played around with music, and I went away to College. Lee started a band called Thee Makeout Party and I joined when I came back four years later. Things started happening and we were constantly touring. We released the first Makeout Party 7” and started Burger Records, we did an LP and it went from there. In 2009 we were going to go on tour again but I was working as the art director for a boating & fishing magazine. They didn’t let me go so I cashed out my 401k, quit, and started a record store with my friend Ryan, who ran Third Eye Records. He had tons of records sitting around his parents’ house so I said, “Hey, let’s start a store” and that was it.
How did your own experience as a “musician” influence your approach to running the Burger label?
I know how I would want to be treated, and how important it is to have your own music released and heard. We all the importance and time spent making these things is. The blood, sweat, tears, and respect needed to give the attention and love music deserves. It’s what we’re all about, and I think it’s what musicians want. I think musicians want someone like me or Lee to be like Hey this album is amazing! That’s what we do.
Vinyl has been making a comeback for some time and now it seems like the cassette is too. Why do you think the cassette is catching on in such a big way?
Who knows? We were first putting just CD and Vinyl and then we released Apache, The GO, and Traditional Fools on cassette and were like, WOW, we’re selling cassettes now! And now, we have put out over 500 bands on cassette and sold close to 200,000 in the last 6 years. It’s bigger than any of us could’ve possibly imagined it would be.
With this resurgence now taking place, do you think it’s the death of the MP3 or is the digital-online format more of a portal to check out bands & labels?
Oh yeah, but I think record labels nowadays have to use every social media outlet at their disposal(Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) to get their music heard. It’s also awesome for bands to have 300 copies of their music on cassette to take on tour and sell for extra money people to collect. Most are listening to our music online, we’re getting around 5,000 listens a day on Soundcloud. I doubt there are that many listening to cassettes every day but who knows? I think it’s a matter of ease of use with online music. You’re on your job all day on the computer or your phone and you can listen right then and there. But it goes hand in hand with being successful with putting out cassettes and bringing attention to them.
People think it’s a dead format, but most who are listening were born in the 90s and not around when cassettes were popular. They’re driving their parent’s cars with cassette player and don’t have any cassettes to play in their cars. No one else was making tape cassettes.
The label covers all genres of garage for lack of a better term, anywhere from hardcore punk to indie power pop and psychedelic freak-outs. Do you base your releases on quality of songs or just gut instinct?
Sometimes they’re friends and there’s always a number of reasons why we put things out, but most of the time it’s because we like it. We listen to tons of demos every day and I’ve always loved discovering new bands and their music. I did it before we started Burger and still do because it’s what I love to do.
How integral are the constant live shows Burger supports and is there a Burger records culture that is important to its existence?
Yeah, we have the Burger Revolution tour where we did shows all across the world from Tel Aviv to Glasgow to London. We currently have the Burger-rama tour in Santa Ana and shows all across the U.S, Canada, and Australia. It all started with us sitting around bullshitting and saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool to just start doing shows everywhere”. We just sent out a massive emailing telling people what we were doing and to let them know they can put on show themselves too, it doesn’t have to be a Burger related show to make it happen.
What advice do you have to anyone who wants to pursue their passion as a way of life, instead of joining corporate culture?
You have to work really hard and take that leap of faith. There’s been times when I would think about the years I had to work to get good health insurance and now I was throwing it away. It’s definitely scary. We work harder now than before Burger, from the time I wake up at 11 a.m. to 3 or 4 in the morning I’m working. I’m working constantly and I’ve been on that schedule for almost two years now. That’s our way of life. We work Burger all the time, non-stop. There’s never time to relax but I’m never bored and it’s worth it to be your own boss. There’s times I just want to chill and I have 500 bands to think about. At the same time, I realize what we’re doing is actually changing something that keeps me going. It takes a lot of sacrifice and dedication to become and stay independent. I was never really into partying, I don’t always have the time to check out shows or a party. Weed is about it. I just enjoy being at home and working on stuff all the time. Just watching bands grow and get bigger, it’s cool.
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LONG BEACH