Burger Records Buried Under Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The sudden collapse of Burger Records dumped yet another dismal steaming layer onto the ever-growing turd pile that is 2020. That it had nothing to do with COVID-19 or the ensuing and ongoing government-imposed economic shutdowns makes it even tougher to take. No, Fullerton, California-based Burger and several of the bands associated with the label were the target of a swiftly mushrooming #MeToo social media takedown arising from accusations of predatory sexual misconduct and abuse.
The round of public, online accusations appears to have commenced with a July 10 Instagram post by a San Diego woman named Chloe Razink who, while visiting a friend in Los Angeles in late April, struck up an IG direct message conversation with Sean Redman – at that time the bass guitarist from one of her favorite bands from that city, The Buttertones – with whom she’d been messaging since early March. The conversation was blatantly flirty on both sides, and after a few days they met up on the night of May 2nd and screwed under the stars, after which she texted back the next afternoon saying, “I had fun thanks for hangin out…hopefully we can do it again soon.” Later, after being hipped to the fact that Redman had a girlfriend the whole time, and hearing from underage girls alleging sordid behavior involving Redman (Razink is in her early 20s), Razink told all in the IG post, accompanied by screenshots of their conversations and a photo of a young blonde woman (it’s implied if not implicitly stated that it’s Razink) wearing black panties and black Buttertones T-shirt lifted up above her waist. “If anyone in my dms wants this shirt,” Razink wrote, “it’s yours.” Okay, then.
On July 16, Cherry Glazerr vocalist/guitarist Clementine Creevy chimed in with her own experience with Redman, who was Cherry Glazerr’s bassist from their 2013 formation until leaving in 2016 and joining The Buttertones. Creevy says she met Redman at a music workshop when she was 14 and Redman was 20. “He asked for my number and started texting me,” Creevy wrote. “I told him I was 16, to which he replied, ‘That’s okay I still feel like a kid myself most of the time.’ We eventually met up at his apartment where he, much to my surprise, had sex with me… I remember feeling confused and uncomfortable that he was trying to have sex with me but I went along with it.” Whether Redman by that point thought his surprised sex partner was 16 or knew she was younger, the legal age of consent in California is eighteen. Despite this, Redman not only became Cherry Glazerr’s bassist but also Creevy’s boyfriend. In a 2014 interview with the band for a Los Angeles Times story, she confirmed the relationship, saying “we’re dating,” when asked how Redman, then 23, came to be in a band with three teenage girls still in high school. One has to wonder what Creevy’s parental units thought about all this, if they were paying attention, but regardless, Creevy now maintains that in 2016 (the year Redman left Cherry Glazerr), “I realized I was under the power and influence of a man who was selfish and manipulative… He is a narcissist and a predator.” Before deleting their Instagram account, The Buttertones responded by saying, “We do not condone Sean’s behavior and he is no longer a member of The Buttertones.”
What does any of this have to do with Burger Records? Well, Burger’s co-founder Sean Bohrman basically discovered Cherry Glazerr, and the indie label released their earliest recordings. By the weekend after Creevy’s post, allegations about creepy behavior regarding several other Burger bands were making the rounds online, along with accusations of sexual sliminess directly involving Burger personnel themselves. On July 19 an Instagram page (Lured by Burger Records) was established where various accounts and accusations of alleged sexual impropriety, manipulation, abuse and general hedonism – some involving underaged girls – were compiled and posted, mostly anonymously. That day, Burger posted a statement on its Facebook page denouncing the alleged behavior of two bands whose music the label had released – Part Time and Love Cop – vowing to never work with them again.
But it didn’t stop with that. After posting an account about allegedly having sex multiple times with Love Cop’s Phil Salina when she was 17 and he was 29, a young woman named Casey (who it appears is the person behind the Lured by Burger Records Instagram) added that “the people at Burger Records created a cesspool of trauma by allowing these men to prey on children. By allowing them to drink alcohol alongside adult men. By inviting these underaged teenagers to be part of something they felt honored to be ‘allowed’ into, placing predatory men on pedestals and giving them access to potential victims. We’re talking about traumatized children who are seeking validation they may not be receiving at home, which was certainly the case for myself.” She later added, “Burger Records wants to front like they didn’t know about abuse by predators within their community, even though it was their friends and not a secret. Teenagers were literally lured into the back room of Burger [Records, the retail record store Bohrman and co-founder Lee Rickard operated in Fullerton] by adult men, with owners present. Don’t believe them when they front that they didn’t know – because they knew!!!”
The rest of the Lured by Burger Records Instagram page offers other accounts of female minors and young women alleging inappropriate and predatory sexual behavior and in some cases rape by several Burger-related bands and label/store personnel. The severity of the claims ranges from deeply troubling detailed accounts to secondhand anecdotes to vague insinuations. Some have little to do with either bands or Burger but are instead complaints about random audience members groping girls at shows, while one post essentially amounts to a self-described “fat brown person” calling the Burger crew “shit heads” and “white colonizing predators.” Numerous stories involve heavy inebriation, including allegations of drugs and/or alcohol being given to minors. Self-control and sound judgment seem to be missing components with nearly everyone involved.
Now, certainly the fact that sleazy horndog behavior by musical acts – or any faction of the music business, for that matter – is widespread should not come as a shock to anyone, as it’s been going on since before rock ‘n’ roll was invented, and there are numerous raunchy songs from nearly every genre chronicling it if not outright celebrating it, from huge worldwide acts and smalltime indie ones alike. That shouldn’t be interpreted as justification, just a statement of reality, lest anyone think the Burger situation is unique. Whether the accusations concerning Burger and associated bands are completely accurate, false or exaggerated is difficult to gauge, as none of the accusers has – to our knowledge – filed charges or proceeded with court cases. This has all been trial-by-social-media, and as such, Burger and the bands in question have been vilified extensively, if not destroyed out of existence. Several groups have issued statements in response. Los Angeles psych-rock band Cosmonauts said on their Facebook page, “We entered this scene in our teens/early twenties and there have been times when the attention and praise we received as a band went to our heads. At times we engaged in behavior we wholeheartedly regret. Being unfaithful to partners, lying, being promiscuous and the toxic male behavior that accompanies that. This was gross and unacceptable behavior and it’s part of what’s wrong with the music scene. We’re ashamed of it.” Growlers lead singer Brooks Nielsen said in an Instagram post, “There have been a number of claims made on social media these past few days about the band, and I feel it’s necessary for me to address them. All the claims were made on social media and all were anonymous. Despite that, we take them seriously and want to get to the bottom of them… One of the recent claims is that I touched a female journalist on her breast during an interview that happened ten years ago. I absolutely deny this ever happened, period. An additional claim was made against Matt Taylor, our lead guitarist and co-founder of the band, which he denies.”
But the statement issued from Burger itself the night of July 20 conveyed outright sheepish surrender if not direct guilt:
“We understand that we will never be able to comprehend the trauma that women have experienced while trying to find a place in the music scene. We are profoundly saddened and sickened by the pain suffered at the hands of a toxic male music culture that does not value women as equals,” the statement reads. “We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from an experience that occurred in the Burger and indie/DIY music scene, the latter of which we take part. 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. You should never feel you have to sacrifice your personal space to be able to enjoy music, for your career or in pursuit of your art; you shouldn’t feel you have to choose between music and your comfort.
“But words can only go so far in repairing any damage that has been created. It is the ability to put past behavior under a microscope, and to fully listen to those who have suffered as a result of such behaviors, in order to be able to truly make meaningful changes so that not only do those behaviors no longer occur, but real positive change can be made to meet the moment.
“It is with this in mind that we have decided to make major structural changes to the label and create and implement active policy measures to address the culture that allowed harm to occur.
“To begin with, Burger Records co-founder Sean Bohrman will move into a transitional role with the label. Label co-founder Lee Rickard will immediately step down from his role as label president, and fully divest all interest in the label. Jessa Zapor-Gray will assume the role of interim label president. Jessa comes to Burger with extensive experience in the music industry and an extensive familiarity with the Burger catalog. We look forward to having her take the helm at the label.”
The statement went on to divulge that the label would now be called BRGR RECS, and that they’d be adding a segregated all-women imprint called BRGRRRL, which is purely a pandering gesture given that a big chunk of Burger’s existing roster already consisted of female or female-led bands. Further, the Burger Records shop, which the statement absurdly claims “is not a part of Burger Records,” will be ceasing affiliation with the label and will change its name. There are various other feeble pledges, such as instituting standard artist agreements, setting up a counseling fund and dedicating “safe spaces” to women and minors at shows, but that’s the gist of it.
But it was little more than 24 hours later – after all of Burger’s social media accounts had been deactivated – that Zapor-Gray, whose music industry background is primarily in public relations and marketing, announced that she was stepping down from the “interim label president” position. She’d faced a barrage of heat since the pronouncement of her transition into heading Burger, and shortly after midnight EDT on July 22 she issued the following statement:
“In the last year and a half, I have worked with Burger and Burger artists on communications and partnerships on a contract basis. Over the weekend I was asked to assume the role of the label’s interim president with the hope I could reform the label into something better for the good of all of you, the artists. My plan was to quickly begin assessing and evaluating if anything about the label could perhaps be salvaged and made into something better, then eventually hand off a functioning label to a future administration unrelated to the label’s founders; or if I found that rebuilding was not possible, instead to organize and prepare the label for closure.
“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.”
Aside from the ugly and distressing allegations, perhaps the saddest part about this is that Burger has, since its 2007 founding, been pretty much the only label that matters, as far as consistently releasing great, fun new rock ‘n’ roll music. The Burger name came to represent a mark of high quality, much as the sturdy, respectable catalogs of iconic labels like Sire, SST, Sub Pop, Hardly Art, Touch and Go, Get Hip, Matador and In The Red once did and, in some cases, arguably continue to do. Sean and Lee obviously have amazing taste in a wide swath of genres, but most certainly raw, unfiltered, garage- and basement-birthed rock ‘n’ roll. And yeah, most of the bands on the label were young and fresh, with members in their teens and early twenties. Burger released their records and enthusiastically promoted them and helped establish them and grow their followings. They didn’t make a lot of money doing it. A quote by Lee, posted several times on Lured by Burger Records in an obvious attempt to infer pedophilic intent, is in fact overwhelmingly accurate: “Teenage bands are free-spirited and uninhibited. They’re realists. They don’t think, they just do. They live freely. There’s innocence to their rock ‘n’ roll. It’s true-blue American, one of a kind. We take pride in nurturing these bands and watching them grow.”
They’ve always clearly been fans, and have endorsed, encouraged and backed innumerable smalltime, amazing bands that most of us might never know about otherwise, via their label and music festivals such as Burgerama and Burger Boogaloo. Most of those bands, of course, were not involved in this scandal, and will surely continue releasing music, on other labels or through their own means. The demise of Burger – which was more or less confirmed by Bohrman via a note to Pitchfork on July 22, following Zapor-Gray’s resignation, stating, “We decided to fold the label” – leaves a massive void, but there are other amazing labels out there (Reno’s Slovenly Records, for instance, is highly recommended) and there will surely be other independents arising with their own particular rosters that may or may not be comparable. If we’re lucky, they won’t collapse under similar squalid circumstances.