Longtime indie label Burger Records has been accused of “curating” a breeding ground for predatory behavior and sexual misconduct. Additionally, sexual assault allegations have been made specifically against Burger Records signees and their associates, including members of The Growlers, The Frights, The Buttertones, SWMRS, and Cosmonauts, among others.
Update: Burger Records has announced that it will completely shut down in response to the allegations. Plans for a rebranding were met with widespread disapproval, leading to the final decision to shutter the label entirely.
Many of the allegations were complied on an Instagram page called Lured_By_Burger_Records, which was launched in hopes of “amplifying voices and supporting those who were victims of sexual predation by predators involved with Burger Records.” Numerous posts recount instances in which young, underage girls were invited into the back room of Burger Records’ physical store in Fullerton, California, only to be to preyed upon by older men associated with the label.
“Burger Records is responsible for curating a culture built on pedophilic tendencies and teenage fetishization, allowing predators access to the thousands of teenagers paying $$$ to go to their nearly-daily shows being held,” read a post to the Instagram account. “Men of Burger Records lured teens in vans, the back room of Burger Records, and a storage unit someone was living in within the Burger Records lot.”
One anonymous poster said she was just 15 years old when she was “welcomed into the back burger records in Fullerton to ‘hang out’ with groups of age 29+ men being offered alcohol, drugs and a ride home.” Another story, provided by Sloppy Jane band leader Haley Dahl, said, “When i tried to align myself in your world of bands I experienced literally countless acts of disrespect, objectification, and sexual misconduct — and witnessed even more. It was heartbreaking, and a few young women I knew who experienced the same things no longer play music as a result of it.”
In a statement released Monday evening, Burger Records pledged to “make major structural changes to the label and create and implement active policy measures to address the culture that allowed such harm to occur.” Co-founder Sean Bohrman will move into “a transitional role with the label,” while 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.
Additionally, “to create a clear delineation between the old and the new Burger Records, the label will become BRGR RECS. Furthermore, we will be adding an all-woman imprint to the label, BRGRRRL, which will serve to give many more women artists a platform and support for growth as musicians.”
The label has also pledged to pay for counseling services for those who suffered such trauma while engaging in the Burger scene; promises to provide a dedicated safe space for women at all BRGR RECS events; will implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding “unlawful and predatory” for all signed acts; and will no longer associate itself with the Burger Records Shop, which will have a new name.
“We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any 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,” the label said in their statement.
Beyond allegations levied against the label’s staff, many artists signed to or associated with Burger Records have been accused of similar misconduct.
Allegations against The Growlers were first posted on Twitter late last week. User @bubblegumsplash said that a friend was asked to take her shirt off during an interview with the band in their SoCal recording studio, “completely invalidating the interview and making her out to be a joke.” A different accuser offered up a similar story, saying, “when I was 15, they asked me to show my tits to get into their show for free.
A separate anonymous poster claimed The Growlers guitarist Matt Taylor raped her twice. “One night we were making out and as he was taking off my clothes i firmly said i didnt want to have sex without a condom, neither of us had one. He ignored what i said, took his pants off and slipped inside me while on top of me,” the woman wrote, recalling the first incident of alleged rape. During the second incident, the woman said that in the middle of consensual sex, Taylor decided to take his condom off, against her wishes.
“Whenever I would see matt out after he would slap my ass out of nowhere, solicit for nudes, ask me to flash him and treat me like he owned my body bc of our encounter,” she added. “His bandmates and friends all cover and protect each other. They constantly objectify and assault young women, and if anyone tries to speak up they call that person a groupie and slutshame them.”
The Growlers’ former drummer Scott Montoya was also accused of predatory behavior. When reached by one of his accusers, Montoya said he was not allowed to publicly discuss his time with the band.
In a statement issued Monday night, The Growlers frontman Brooks Nielsen denied claims he “touched a female journalist on her breast during an interview that happened ten years ago.” He also said Matt Taylor “denies” the claims of sexual assault.
Nielsen noted that over the course of the band’s 15-year career, they’ve had “a number of members come and go… Some we dismissed from the group for not aligning with the kind of band we strive to be.”
In closing, Nielsen addressed the band’s female fans, saying: “Know that we are committed to conducting ourselves in a way our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters would be proud of. We ask for your patience while we look into these allegations in as thorough, professional, and unbiased manner as we are able, and make responsible decisions based on what we find out.”
Lydia Night, singer of The Regrettes, has accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong (who is the son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong) of sexual misconduct, grooming, and other predatory behavior. In a detailed account posted to her Instagram, Night recounted her nearly two-year relationship with Armstrong that began when he was 22 and she was 16. She described herself as being the victim of “emotional abuse and sexual coercion by someone in a position of power over me.”
“Because of our age difference, Joey would continually ask me to keep our relationship as hidden as possible and I did,” Night noted. “We had multiple conversations where he would say something along the lines of ‘I want to move at your pace’ and ‘I don’t want to have sex until you’re 18,’ but then would act in completely contradicting ways, pressuring me into sexual situations.”
Night said that fellow members of SWMRS knew of her relationship with Armstrong. Following their breakup, she said the band and their fans engaged in cyberbulling.
You can read Night’s full account here.
We’ve reached out to representatives of SWMRS for comment. As of publication, we have yet to hear back.
Alexander Ahmadi of Cosmonauts has been accused of assaulting an unconscious girl at a party. One poster wrote that, “Alex… assaulted a friend of mine. She was passing out in a friend’s room at a party and he came in the room. She told him to leave, that she just wanted to sleep and he said he would sleep too and promised not to try anything. A little while later, she woke up to him on top of her with his penis out. This has deeply traumatized her.”
Lured_By_Burger_Records added their own comment, writing, “We try not to post people’s stories that aren’t from the source but we keep hearing about this one, and now the woman it happened to has confirmed it.
Additionally, as many social media users have pointed out, a 2014 cassette sleeve by Cosmonauts contained the words “You’ll never be as cute as a teenage girl. – Bobby May.”
Cosmonauts released an statement saying “we totally regret” the line about the attractiveness of teenagers. They added, “We didn’t realize at the time what implications could be drawn from that quote. It’s a deeply problematic quote, and we apologize for any hurt it has caused.”
In a follow-up statement, Cosmonauts said its former bassist, James Sanderson, was kicked out of the band due to “predatory behavior.” Regarding the allegations levied against Ahmadi, the band said Ahmad is “trying to get in contact with the @lured_by_burger_records to open a dialogue and will make a personal statement as soon as possible.”
We’ve reached out to representatives of Cosmonauts for comment. As of publication, we have yet to hear back.
Last week, Cherry Glazzer frontwoman Clementine Creevy accused The Buttertones’ Sean Redman of statutory rape and abuse. In a lengthy message posted to her Instagram, Creevy said Redman “started a relationship with me when I was 14 and he was 20.” She said he knew she was underage, but still had sex with her: “I remember feeling confused and uncomfortable that he was trying to have sex with me but I went along with it. He also insisted on not using protection and gave me HPV. That was the first time I had sex,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, an anonymous poster to Lured_By_Burger_Records said that she had “the most uncomfortable and horrified and humiliated” sexual experience with The Buttertones’ singer and guitarist Richard Araiza. However, she said she wasn’t “100% sure” if it was sexual assault.
In response to the allegations, Los Angeles-based label Innovative Leisure announced it was dropping The Buttertones effective immediately.
We’ve reached out to representatives of The Buttertones for comment. As of publication, we have yet to hear back.
The Frights frontman Mikey Carnevale has also been accused of sexual misconduct. He has since cooperated with his accuser, a woman named Claire, and together they’ve made a joint statement on Instagram. “Though I should not have assumed, I was unaware she was underage at the time. I definitely should have asked,” Carnevale’s message read. “As a young adult I was arrogantly exploring my sexuality before thinking. It is inexcusable and I need everyone to know that it is not worth overlooking.”
Members of bands including Audacity, Part Time, and The Abigails have also been accused of misconduct and predatory behavior in posts documented on Lured_By_Burger_Records. We’ve reached out to representatives of all these bands for comment and have yet to hear back.
Former Night Beats member Tarek Wegner was also accused of misconduct. In a statement to posted to Instagram, band leader Danny “Lee Blackwell” said “7 years ago my then drummer and I kicked our bassist to the curb when we heard about inappropriate behavior. The minute we found out we went to the victims (some of who are still friends today) and removed him from our lives.”
Burger Records’ Full Statement
Dear Burger Community,
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.
We extend our deepest apologies to anyone who has suffered irreparable harm from any 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 behaviors 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 such harm to occur.
To begin, 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.
In the spirit of change, here are the other actions we will be taking moving forward:
— To create a clear delineation between the old and the new Burger Records, the label will become BRGR RECS. Furthermore, we will be adding an all-woman imprint to the label, BRGRRRL, which will serve to give many more women artists a platform and support for growth as musicians.
— BRGR will be instating a standard artist agreement, something we did not previously do. This will include clear statements regarding unlawful and predatory behavior. By doing so, we will create a clear path to restorative justice against predators in the future.
— BRGR will also begin working with experts in trauma and sexual assault awareness and consent education.
— BRGR will set up a counseling fund to help pay for counseling services for those who suffered such trauma while engaging in the Burger scene.
— The Burger Records shop, which is not a part of Burger Records, will no longer have any affiliation to the label and will change its name. The shop will also no longer host in-store performances of any kind.
— BRGR sanctioned events will have a dedicated safe space for women to enjoy music without fear of invasion to their personal space.
— An educated member of the community will be present at all BRGR sanctioned shows over 1000 attendees.
— BRGR sanctioned all-ages shows will have a dedicated safe space for those under the age of 18.
— BRGR will provide ongoing education and training to artists, management, and venues we work with on sensitivity and the effects of trauma.
— BRGR will evaluate the whole of the existing label catalog and artists therein, discontinuing the distribution of artists according to our zero-tolerance policy.
— BRGR will work with women in the industry, artists, and fans to create further actionable goals for educating our bands and the music community on recognizing abusive or predatory behavior.
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.