Kero Kero Bonito: "This generation is being spoken about the most but listened to the least"
Kero Kero Bonito are here to take over the world.
Published: 11:18 am, October 21, 2016
Gus Lobban, one third of London-based electronic-pop trio Kero Kero Bonito, is addressing the state of the country post-Brexit. “That’s the most important thing right now: forming bands and singing songs - actually saying shit.
“Don’t just sit around watching Facebook, scrolling through the same shit your mate posted two days ago. What the fuck is going on?!” the producer continues, sounding genuinely impassioned and somewhat concerned.
Gus and KKB’s second producer Jamie Bulled have been friends since school days. Growing up together in the suburbs of South London, they’ve been in various incarnations of “weird and slightly successful bands,” Jamie chips in, from their London studio. Realising they wanted to do something new and work with “someone cool”, the pair put an advert up on MixB - an online bulletin board for Japanese expatriates.
Sarah Midori Perry, now the band’s vocalist, responded to it and the three of them met up in early 2013 - and the rest is history. While spending time in an art studio painting and “drawing on toiler paper,” as well as playing saxophone outside of it, the Japanese singer saw the ad for the band and “just went for it. Something made me want to apply and I guess now it’s meant to be. It was fate…”
Together, Kero Kero Bonito make futuristic pop that’s seen them play shows all over the world. Taking their name from the onomatopoeic Japanese words for frog croaks and a “Bonito” type of fish, they fuse J-pop and video game music to create undeniably catchy tunes: they describe ‘Flamingo’ as body-positive cartoon flute R&B and ‘Sick Beat’ as gamer girl power rap bass.
Confessing that their musical influences are all over the place, Jamie cites early-2000 British pop music before Gus - who has released with PC Music as Kane West - recalls some favourites. “We love everything in that lineage, from Richard X to The Neptunes, Timbaland to Teddy Riley and Nile Rodgers.”
For Sarah, it’s Die Antwoord. “I love the whole aesthetic,” she enthuses. Jamie, though, says he’s become obsessed with one band in particular: Death Grips. “Recently I’ve devoted my whole life to them. They’re actually the anti-KKB, although we’re similar in a lot of ways…”
When asked about their creative process, Gus leads the response to laughs from Sarah and Jamie. “None of us are in charge of anything, we’re a democratic empire. The songs normally just come from us hanging out; we just think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a song about waking up?’; whatever it is.”
More than three years down the line, KKB are preparing to release their debut album, ‘Bonito Generation’. “You know when you listen to one of your favourite pop records - maybe a Michael Jackson song – it’s just the best feeling in the world when you put it on,” Gus offers, detailing the sensations that the band wants listeners to experience. “You just get that glowing, warm feeling: that’s the feeling we want people to have.”
From the bombastic synth drums and school bell that introduce ‘Waking Up’ to the simple yet ridiculously catchy lyricism of ‘Graduation’ via the unexpected swirling guitars of ‘Fish Bowl’ and still smiling ‘Break’, Kero Kero Bonito make pop music for this generation. Incomparably upbeat and impossible not to sing-along to, the London trio’s blend of sing-what-you-see pop couldn’t come at a better time.
“We got home, sat down and kept going hard on it,” says Gus of recording the album after their 2015 US tour. “We basically did everything ourselves; we enlisted the help of British club super-producer Dreamtrak and a great mastering engineer, but apart from that it’s all KKB.”
As for the album title, there’s a slightly more serious meaning behind it. “I feel like this generation is being spoken about the most but listened to the least,” Gus suggests. “It’s funny, because people have a lot to say about generations right now, especially the generation that we find ourselves in. You read all these articles, like, ’10 Ways To Tell You’re A Millennial’, so this is an album for the KKB generation.”
Over the last year or so, and without an album to their name, they’ve toured the UK, America, Europe and virtually everywhere in between. “It’s been a big journey,” they agree. “Japan was quite important to us, especially Sarah. I think we’ve learnt more in the last year or two than ever before in our lives,” Gus suggests. The others agree.
“It’s this weird combination of travelling, and intensely not travelling trying to finish something,” they cite of the recording process. While Sarah jokes that she’s enjoyed all the time to read and take advantage of the free Wifi, Gus says that being able to travel to so many places is the best part.
“We’ve met so many people from everywhere. The best thing about travelling, and perhaps the year that’s just passed, is all the amazing people we’ve met, played with and the fans. We’ve been to Moscow, Nagoya, Seattle... there are really fantastic people everywhere. It’s beautiful that our fans are spread out so far.”
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And what is a Kero Kero Bonito fan like? “There are definitely local vibes, but I feel like KKB fans are quite united in the way that a fan from Brazil would get on with a fan from Norway,” Gus ponders. Though they do like to go hard in certain places; “Eastern European and Polish crowds start mosh pits,” Sarah adds excitedly.
Having played shows at taste-making festival SXSW as well as in an old people’s home, there is no ‘typical’ KKB fan. “It varies; it’s the best of all worlds,” Jamie enthuses. “There are kids younger than us whose first game was Pokemon Sapphire and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I get this!’ It’s amazing that, even across the spectrum, they find something in it,” Gus continues: “That’s the beautiful thing.”
Their live shows, Gus jokes, are “really solemn and acoustic”, before teasing their upcoming headline show at Scala, London. “We’re going to do stuff we’ve never done before. We want to put on a show… For anymore than that, you’ve got to buy a ticket.”
Before the gig – on Wednesday 9th November – rolls around, ‘Bonito Generation’ will be out in the open. But where do they want their debut to take them? “Ideally into the ears of everybody in the whole world, but the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury would be cool… movie cinemas around the globe would be nice,” Gus says half-serious.
Though he sounds like he’s joking, with tunes as catchy as theirs Kero Kero Bonito could be on course for (pop) world domination.
Kero Kero Bonito’s album ‘Bonito Generation’ is out 21st October.