Orange County indie label Burger Records shuts down amid sexual misconduct allegations
The Fullerton indie label Burger Records has dissolved in the wake of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse against its staff and bands signed to the imprint.
The allegations, which are mostly but not entirely anonymous, surfaced through the Instagram account lured_by_burger_records, and quickly spread through the indie-rock community. Over several tumultuous days this week, Burger’s co-founder Lee Rickard stepped down and divested from the label, and its president, Sean Bohrman, wrote that the label would implement changes, including modifying its name (to the not-very-different vowel-less BRGR RCRDS) and bringing in a new president, Jessa Zapor-Gray. “We are also deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity. We are sorry that we did not actively monitor this behavior well enough to make the Burger music scene safer for you,” the label said in a statement Tuesday.
However, just a day later, Zapor-Gray announced she wouldn’t be taking the job. Zapor-Gray did not immediately respond to phone or email messages, but wrote in a statement: “When I was asked to take over in this capacity, I expected some blowback for my decision to accept but I believed that the opportunity to have a role in effecting real and lasting positive change within the Burger and indie music scenes was worth the risk. Upon further review, I have informed Burger Records that I no longer believe I will be able to achieve my intended goals in assuming the leadership role at Burger in the current climate. Therefore, I have decided to step away from the label entirely to focus on my other projects.”
Bohrman then announced the entire operation was ending to a Pitchfork reporter, closing that conversation with a Porky Pig GIF. He said the label will be removing its catalog from streaming services, and that bands would be free to re-release their albums elsewhere. The label’s entire online and social presence has since been deleted as well, and concert promoter Total Trash Productions, which produced the annual Burger Boogaloo festival, said it had severed all ties with the label.
Bohrman did not immediately return requests for comment from The Times.
Burger, founded in 2007, was a small but influential label focused on limited-run cassettes. The label also threw popular festivals like Santa Ana’s Burgerama and Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo. The label’s aesthetic — which often affected a throwback, naifish attitude toward punk and garage rock — attracted a young and devoted fan base for acts like the Black Lips, FIDLAR, the Growlers, King Tuff and Peach Kelli Pop, and acts as big as Weezer and Iggy Pop performed at their festivals.
Among this week’s allegations, Regrettes singer Lydia Night accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong, son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, of “emotional abuse and sexual coercion by someone in a position of power over me” while she was a minor. SWMRS was signed to Burger before the label’s dissolution. Joey Armstrong responded to the accusations in a post on his band’s Instagram account, saying that “While I don’t agree with some of the things she said about me... I was selfish and I didn’t treat her the way she deserves to have been treated both during our relationship and in the two years since we broke up.”
The Growlers, the Orange County band who released music on Burger and who produce their own popular Beach Goth festival, responded to several anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct in an Instagram post. Growlers singer Brooks Nielsen said that while the band denied the claims, “We take them seriously and want to get to the bottom of them.”
Shortly after the post, keyboardist Adam Wolcott Smith quit the band, saying that “I’m not innocent in abuse” regarding a 2017 incident of alleged sexual misconduct.
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