Indie label Burger Records shuttered today after facing numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by bands on its label, and even more criticism for its response. The California rock label, once influential in DIY circles for developing talent like CHAI and Cherry Glazerr, along with supporting cassette-tape releases, faced growing allegations of sexual misconduct in recent days, including from an Instagram account called @lured_by_burger_records, which was started on July 18. The account posted statements by women alleging that the label created a toxic environment among its artists and live shows that enabled men to take advantage of women, and especially underage girls. It soon gave way to dozens of women posting their own allegations to social media.
Many of the allegations against Burger claimed the label and its bands put young girls in situations where they were consuming drugs and alcohol around older band members, which allowed for sexual assault and misconduct to happen. Allegations ranging from abuse to sexual assault came out against members of SWMRS, the Buttertones, the Growlers, Love Cop, Cosmonauts, the Frights, the Aquadolls, the Black Lips, Part Time, Gap Dream, Audacity, Dead Ghosts, the Abigails, Magic Jake, and others. Some musicians stepped forward with allegations as well. Lydia Night of the Regrettes posted an Instagram statement addressing Joey Armstrong, drummer of Burger band SWMRS and son of Green Day leader Billie Joe Armstrong. She alleged Armstrong pressured her into a sexual relationship while the Regrettes toured with SWMRS, when she was 16 and he was 22. She also criticized the band for making a statement in support of the women coming forward against Burger, in light of Armstrong’s own “sexual abuse.” Clementine Creevy of Burger band Cherry Glazerr was one of multiple women to speak out against Buttertones members. On Instagram on July 15, she said member Sean Redman had sex with her after she told him she was 16 (she was actually 14) and he was 20, refusing to use protection as well and giving her HPV. Just a few of the bands mentioned by @lured_by_burger_records or other women responded to the allegations against their members, with the Growlers and Cosmonauts saying they were looking into allegations against their own members. Armstrong responded on SWMRS’s Instagram, writing, “I respect [Night] immensely and fully accept that I failed her as a partner,” and adding that he privately apologized to her.
Burger Records made a statement on July 20 promising “major structural change” after the allegations were made public. Co-founder Lee Rickard stepped down as label president, with co-founder Sean Bohrman also announcing plans to eventually step down. The label announced Jessa Zapor-Gray as interim president. The label also said it would change its name to BRGR RECS and start a women-only imprint called BRGRRRL. “We are also deeply sorry for the role Burger has played in perpetuating a culture of toxic masculinity,” the label wrote. Other changes at the time included offering funding for trauma counseling, consulting with trauma professionals, having safe spaces for women and people under 18 at shows, and having “an educated member of the community” at shows over 1,000 capacity. Total Trash Productions also announced that Burger Boogaloo festival, previously associated with the label, would cut ties and carry on under a new name.
The measures were criticized outright by fans, including @lured_by_burger_records, which noted that Zapor-Gray owns the PR company ZG, Inc. “She tried and failed to silence us over the last two days,” the account wrote. Zapor-Gray said late July 21 that she would no longer be leading the label. “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,” she told Pitchfork. Bohrman later confirmed to Pitchfork, “We decided to fold the label.” He added that all music released on Burger would be taken off streaming, and bands would be free to rerelease their music. The label’s website and social media have been deleted. On July 22, @lured_by_burger_records was still posting allegations of misconduct against now-former Burger bands.