Burger Records has become well-known in the indie music scene. As a DIY label utilizing MP3s, vinyl, CDs, and cassettes, they are one of the fastest rising music labels in an economy putting record labels out of business. They’ll be celebrating the Burger Oasis 3 at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs on September 18-20.
Burger Oasis 3 will feature performances by Gap Dream, Death Valley Girls, Slow Paradise, The Abigails, Burnt Ones, Thee Commons, and DJs. The record store will also be on site to sell records.
During a recent phone interview with Lee Rickard, one of the co-founders of Burger Records, he explained the origins of Burger Records and their store in Fullerton.
“Burger Records started about a decade ago,” Rickard said. “I used to be in a band called Make Out Party, and we self-released our second single, I drew a little logo and tacked it on the insert of the record, and even before we started Burger Records, I was slapping Burger Productions on all of our artwork. Burger was on the brains for awhile, and in 2007 we started putting out records and in 2009, our band fell apart and my bandmate Sean Bohrman and I opened up the Burger Records store.”
What was it that made them name it Burger Records? Richard had no problem in explaining that.
“It symbolizes the ultimate Americana in sandwiches and delicacies. It’s the best sandwich ever, but I love rock and roll and I study it, and that’s what I’m into. When I was growing up, I was aware of the Beatles and Apple Records, the Beach Boys and Brother, Minor Threat and Dischord, Black Flag and SST, and it goes on and on. As far as being a creative artist, you want as much control over your art as possible.”
Selling records in the current market is hard to do, but vinyl has been selling very well and has gone through a revival that’s been very profitable for independent record companies. Rickard said the success is based on creating a brand.
“We have brand equity here and we have developed a brand. People are aware of us worldwide and there’s a huge movement happening. I’m happy and proud to be of any help to the scene. We weren’t planning on it and it was just us being obsessed with rock and roll and caring about our band, so we put out our own record, started putting out our friends records, and then started reaching out to our idols. It just kind of snowballed into this crazy thing based natural energy and it just turned into its own crazy world.”
There is some frustration when it comes to making records and keeping artists.
“We’re still case-by-case. We lose bands all the time to measley, chump change labels because the labels go to the bands all like, ‘Here’s $5000!’ and the bands are like, ‘Yeaaah!’ Meanwhile, we spend fucking four times that much on records, manufacturing, press, PR, and all the services. Everything fucking adds up and we do everything in our power to help our artists.”
Rickard says that while he hasn’t made any money on Burger Records, the artists are a priority.
“They will call us and say ‘I need help paying my electricity bill’ and it’s like, ‘Well, fuck, dude. We’ll figure it out and make shit happen.’ We just do everything in our power to help. Everything we make is invested back into the label. I’m only eating because of the record store where I can find a Led Zeppelin record for a couple of bucks and mark it up to $20 or whatever. There’s not much profit in record making or cassette making. But with that being said, we’re one of the fastest growing independent label in history. We have our 1,000 releases in less than 10 years.”
Wait, did he really say cassette making? Turns out cassettes are on the comeback trail along with vinyl.
“Tapes are a bang for your buck. It’s nice warm analog sound with a durable plastic shell. I have cassettes that are over 40 years old that still work. The main appeal of the cassette is the affordability to reproduce cheaply. You can release new music almost instantaneously as it’s made. A lot of kids have old cars with tape decks still functioning. Burger is also currently working on making a cassette player called ‘The Burger Buddy.’ It’s cassette to MP3 converter, and we’re going to be making our own headphones too.”
One of Burger Records’ artists is the Dwarves, fronted by Blag Dahlia. The Dwarves, once signed to Sub-Pop, is considered to be one of the most controversial bands of all time, and Blag Dahlia has been known for getting in physical altercations with audiences during live performances.
“Blag is one of our buddies and he’s an idol of ours since we were teenagers. I really looked up to the Dwarves, not only musically, but aesthetically too. Blag is a fucking genius and he has it down to a science. Just by studying his records, I learned about branding, marketing, continuity, and just fucking vibing and energy. When we got to make friends with him about 10 to 15 years later, Blag will just pop in and hang out all the time. Usually he’s putting us to work or something. We get along well, he’s one of the coolest dudes I know, and he’s a true gentleman.”
Rickard also talked about the upcoming Burger Oasis 3 at the Ace Hotel and Swimclub on September 18-20 and how it got started.
“September 19, 1973 is Gram Parsons death date, for those who are morbidly inclined. Especially out in the desert, you folks want to know that. My friend Rachel Dean is at the Ace Hotel and she got us involved with them. I was at the Third Man Records show they did a few years ago. It was cool and I thought, ‘Hell yeah, bands playing pool side!’ They asked us if we wanted to do one and I said, ‘Hell yeah! I get to sleep in a bed and chill for a weekend? Sounds awesome!’ One of my favorite things in the world is putting bills together and creating a little happening. This happening falls on my birthday weekend, which makes it even more awesome for me.”