Kero Kero Bonito are a pop trio bearing few similarities. Gus, Jamie and Sarah make up the South London outfit, formed after connecting on an online forum for Japanese ex-pats living in the big smoke. “We really wanted to do something that was just not your average project,” says Gus, whose friends helped him put up an advert in Japanese. “Sarah was the best respondent!” he beams. “We were very fortunate - it was fate.”
Listening to KKB’s output so far is a lot like being placed in your own vivid videogame, or an animated series. In their music, they combine a lifetime’s supply of pop culture references from the East and West, the only true running thread being a heady love of the internet. They’re keen however to state that geography’s a bigger inspiration than a life spent online. “It’s funny because there’s music that is much more ‘internet’ aesthetic than us. Y’know a lot more ‘emoji’ references, a lot more ‘manicure records’ or ‘PC Music’ is more explicitly ‘internet’ but I think it chimes in with the international vibe of KKB,” says Gus, referring to a widespread batch of names who solely exist on the www.. Kero Kero Bonito already have the potential to go way beyond cliquey online hype.
The group’s latest track ‘Build It Up’ is a jumbling together of nostalgic brilliance. What initially strikes as a collection of nifty arcade game samples in fact stems from scratch sounds that cleverly pastiche beloved childhood memories. Like everything they’ve produced to date, it sounds like little else on this mad old planet.
Together, they describe Kero Kero Bonito as “International tanoshi sound.” Tanoshi, the - Japanese term for ‘fun’ - fits nicely with the group’s outlook on creating new music, also linking to Sarah Bonito’s easy-going interchange between English and Japanese when she sings and raps. Drawing on her upbringing overseas, combining both cultures came naturally to her. “I just draw from what my experiences are, because half of my life was spent in Japan, so in a way I’m Japanese. But living in England, I’ve got two cultures kind of inside of me and it’s just combining the two together and that’s what comes out,” she says.
All nostalgia aside, KKB have an inventive, lively approach to pop music, adopting a universal tone and fully embracing the internet as a means for sharing and developing their music in a way which fits their far out personalities. A new record’s promised for 2015, following on last year’s ‘Intro Bonito’ mixtape, which served as a bonkers greetings message. “We really want to go over to Japan,” says Jamie, ticking one obvious box - but their ambitions go way beyond making a name for themselves online. That much is already clear.
The DNA of KKB
Their sound might come off as alien and mad at first, but here’s how to make sense of all things Kero Kero.
2014’s go-to label twists the pop formula by instinct. Kero Kero Bonito steer just far away from A. G. Cook’s conception to form an identity of their own. Although they’ve picked up great remixes from PC alumni Danny L Harle and Kane West.
KKB recorded arguably their best song to date, ‘Flamingo’ (above), for Hemmy’s Secret Songs project, an online hub of free downloads. This one formed part of a compilation devoted to everyone’s favourite colour - pink.
Another fascinating London newcomer, Calum Bowen collaborated with the group on last year’s ‘My Party’. At a Neu Presents show last summer, Sarah and Gus from KKB even joined him onstage for a rendition of the song.