The Burger Records Guys Are Opening a Store Full of Vinyl and Cassettes. In This Economy?

Opening a record store full of vinyl and cassettes? In this economy? Who are these meatheads?

The perfume girl didn’t stand a chance.

Wandering into the future location of the Burger Records retail store in Fullerton on a recent afternoon, she was making her rounds, trying to hawk her knock-off scents to anyone willing to endure her sales pitch. Sean Bohrman, Lee “Noise” Rickard and Brian Flores—music geeks more concerned with Big Star than Drakkar Noir—weren’t about to listen.

The Burger Records guys
John Gilhooley
The Burger Records guys
The Burger Records extended family come together
John Gilhooley
The Burger Records extended family come together

“Can I ask you guys a quick question?” Perfume Girl’s bubbly voice and skintight jeans demanded attention. “What kind of cologne do you guys wear?”

A smile crept across Bohrman’s freckled face. “Um, we don’t wear cologne.”

Really, she should have figured that out before asking. If not from the fact that Bohrman isn’t wearing shoes, then definitely from the pit stains on Rickard’s orange T-shirt. But Flores quickly removes any lingering doubt after Perfume Girl informs the trio that her products offer a savings of 85 percent off “everything that you could be buying at the mall.”

“I haven’t been to a mall in, like, 10 to 15 years,” he answers succinctly. “We’re the wrong people.”

Cologne covers up something natural and replaces it with something fake, and that’s not what the Burger Records guys are all about. They do things their own way, even if it means operating a boutique record label that deals almost exclusively with vinyl and cassettes. It means putting out a debut full-length album as Thee Makeout Party—an Anaheim garage-pop four-piece that Bohrman and Rickard co-founded a decade ago—for which most of the songs were recorded in one take.

Now, it means starting a business in the midst of economic hell. But not just any old business: a record store, something that was struggling to survive years before our nation’s current financial woes—the Tower Records sign still visible on Newport and 17th Street in Costa Mesa, out of business since 2006, is standing proof.

It’s an improbable undertaking that will take hard work and, as evidenced by the stains on Rickard’s shirt, a lot of sweat. Perfume Girl’s visit comes a little more than two weeks before the store’s scheduled opening on Oct. 3, and the space isn’t even air-conditioned yet. Bohrman is dutifully painting the walls of what will soon be the Burger Records shop, a physical realization of the label he started with Rickard and Flores in 2007. It’ll be full of the kind of music that has inspired them as a band and now as business owners.

And like the label, it’ll stock cassette tapes and vinyl records, formats that pretty much no one other than hardcore audiophiles, fans of bizarre ephemera or unfortunate souls with cars more than a decade old are equipped to listen to these days. But no CDs.

“No CDs at all,” Flores says. “Anything but CDs. We just don’t want that in our store. CDs don’t mean anything anymore.”

Bohrman’s paint roller mashes down on pesky wood crevices behind a record display case he’s painting. Every glance at the Anaheim native’s powder-blue ELO T-shirt reveals more tiny splotches of bright neon green, perfectly matching the ’60s and ’70s bubblegum and power pop of the bands that inspired the Burger Records crew.

The past couple of nights have turned Bohrman, 27, into more of a painter than a business owner. But neither occupation seems like work to him.

All this hard work is leaving Rickard and Flores hungry for, appropriately enough, burgers.

“Come on, Sean, my burger belly’s empty, man,” Rickard says to Bohrman. “I’m worthless when I’m starving.” Rickard’s gangly build—his appearance is somewhere between a 1960s hippie and a 1950s nerd—is highlighted in a tight pair of denim jeans as he pushes away dirty-blond bangs. He holds his stomach, rubbing it as if he were expecting a newborn.

*     *     *

Lots of people like hamburgers, but Rickard really likes them. Really, really likes them.

“It’s the epitome of Americana,” he says. “Everything you could want in one little hand-held perfect package of great flavor. Just everything is there. It’s filling; it’s perfect. I love it.”

Most people can’t pinpoint the exact moment when something became their favorite, but Rickard’s burger memories are vivid. “The first time I traveled across the U.S. in a van to go to a wedding in ’93 with my family, everywhere I ate, I ate hamburgers,” he says. Following the family’s visit to nearby burger joint the Grill, “I realized, ‘I guess I really like hamburgers. I think I love them.’”

Burger Records isn’t just a catchy, quirky name. It’s a way of life, matching the unpretentious nature of the label and the individuals involved—though Rickard invokes some pretty lofty company. “The Beatles had Apple, the Beach Boys had Brother, the Turtles had Blimp, and Thee Makeout Party have Burger.”

But it wasn’t Thee Makeout Party that inspired Bohrman and Rickard to start the label. It was Audacity, a rowdy, lo-fi punk band from Fullerton whose members were still in high school when they met the guys.

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