Over the weekend, several artists from the West Coast-based record label Burger Records were accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with minors.
It’s not just The Orwells, a former Burger Records band with multiple members who were accused of sexual misconduct back in 2018, who are being called out now. Almost a dozen bands and even the owners of Burger Records are being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. So far, accusations include that artists were grooming underage girls for sex, as well as sexual relations with minors (aka statutory rape), emotional manipulation, requests for pornographic media from underage girls, and the facilitation of a scene allowing relationships built on a power imbalance between musicians and underage fans.
You can find many of the accusations on the Instagram @Lured_by_burger_records, which is devoted to exposing the label and providing a space for those preyed upon to come forward. Even fellow Burger artists and other musicians like Clem Creevy from Cherry Glazerr and Brianna Meli of Post Life are coming forward about being taken advantage of by Burger artists and employees. Plus, artist Haley Dahl, frontwoman of Sloppy Jane, has robustly spoken out against the label. She is currently working on an online document that provides labels, managers, and lawyers for women who worked for or female artists who were planning on releasing music via Burger Records, but now understandably want out.
In response to the initial allegations, Burger Records posted a reminder on their social media accounts of their “Zero Tolerance” policy that states they completely remove the accused band(s) from all Burger platforms and will contact the proper authorities if needed. They clearly explain they have taken that procedure seriously and have followed those steps for the currently accused artists. However, this time they are keeping the artists’ catalog and donating those profits to a charity of the victims’ choice.
The post on the Burger Records Instagram—the account was deactivated this morning—was quickly flooded with comments accusing both the bands and owners themselves. Burger Records even turned off the comments for several hours, leading some of their followers to believe the label was trying to silence victims. There are several comments from fans supporting the policy and thanking Burger Records for holding themselves accountable. Despite the support, however, more critical comments are popping up calling out the label’s lack of accountability.
@Lured_by_burger_records commented, “Yall really are going to silence victims and turn off comments on your latest post? So much for accountability…” Another commenter, @17kisses_ also called them out, writing “What are you doing to ensure this doesn’t happen again? How will you be actively preventing predatory people from being a part of your community and label? These are all great steps for actions to take AFTER abuse has occurred but what can you do as Burger Records to try to stop this abuse from happening in the first place?” Other commenters accuse the owners of being fully aware of all the misconduct going on with their artists and within their own business.
Late last night Burger Records sent a press release/statement revealing the next steps for the company. The label will move co-founder Sean Bohrman into a “transitional role,” while the other co-founder Lee Rickard is immediately stepping down from his role as label president and passing it on to Jessa Zapor-Gray who has “extensive experience in the music industry and an extensive familiarity with the Burger catalog.”
They then provide almost a dozen bullet points of further action they say they will be taking. This includes, but is not limited to rebranding from Burger Records to “BRGR RECS,” adding an all-female imprint to the label they’re calling “BRGRRRL,” instating a standard artist agreement against predatory behavior and a community member to be present at all BRGR shows of over 1,000 capacity, working with experts in trauma and sexual assault awareness and consent education, and setting up a counseling fund to help pay for trauma services for the victims of any Burger artist/employee. They end the release/statement by saying, “We thank you for coming forward and for your courage to speak up, and want you to know that we are committed to doing real work to improve the culture of BRGR RECS and the indie music scene for all of us. We want to be leaders in the industry and a model for other labels to effect real, lasting change.”
This could potentially set up a path for improved future progress for the label in taking accountability and moving forward. However, many Instagram comments on the Burger Records’ (again, the account was deactivated this morning) statement post convey that this “change” the company is trying to implement is all simply “performative.” Some commenters strongly believe the two co-founders, Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard should be held accountable to the same “long-standing” “zero-tolerance” policy they’ve boasted about and be completely erased from the company. While others say the company should just be completely dissolved altogether.
New accusations have not stopped coming out about the label’s artists and owners and @Lured_by_burger_records posted that they’re getting flooded with DMs of atrocious stories. They’ve even shared multiple accusations of the Burger Records’ owners luring and enabling the luring of underage girls to “a back room, a storage shed, and countless tour vans.”
Some of the accused artists currently include Love Cop frontman Phil Salina, The Buttertones bassist Sean Redman, The Black Lips frontman Cole Alexander, Audacity frontman Matt Schmalfeld, Part Time frontman Davida Loca, and The Growlers guitarist Matt Taylor. More Burger artists are being called out daily, if not hourly.
The Growlers frontman, Brooks Nielsen addressed the accusations last night. He denies any allegations towards himself and states he and the band is not responsible for any inappropriate actions by past members. He also states that the band’s co-founder and lead guitarist Matt Taylor denies any accusations towards him. Though some fans’ comments praise the bands “support,” many more comments point out their deflecting predator-like behavior and shaming of victims. One commenter @beevomi.t said, “Thank you for you acknowledging the allegations, but this kinda feels… half assed…” Another commenter, @umabloo, quoted the song “Big Toe” by The Growlers and pointed out the misogyny within its lyrics.
The alarming number of artists from a specific label being accused of sexual misconduct implies more than just isolated incidents. Indeed, it calls for action on the part of Burger Records (now BRGR RECS), as well as a reevaluation of their entire catalog and the scene they perpetuate—which could go as far as meaning completely shutting down.
BTRtoday has worked with or covered many Burger Records bands and events over the years, but given the nature of the allegations against the label and many of their artists, we will be discontinuing our involvement with the label from this point forward—though we may continue to cover artists in otherwise good standing if they release music elsewhere. While we hope that the “new” BRGR RECS or its BRGRRRL imprint can represent actual change, only time will tell, so we will also not be involved with them until such change is made clear.