Kero Kero Bonito Brings Upbeat Pop to ’Sco Performance
“I’m having a party / Everyone can come / By the way, you’re invited / You seem pretty fun,” Sarah Midori Perry, frontwoman of Kero Kero Bonito, sings in “My Party,” a track from the group’s first mixtape, Intro Bonito. “My Party” and other songs from the Intro Bonito mixtape, released in August 2014 via Double Denim Records, established Kero Kero Bonito’s reputation for lightheartedness and inclusive fun, which the band will bring to the ’Sco tomorrow night.
The London trio, which also features producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, started when Bulled and Lobban posted an ad looking for a singer on MixB, an online message board for Japanese expats. Perry was one of the first respondents.
“Jamie and I were music friends since our school days. We met Sarah in 2013 and have been KKB ever since,” Lobban wrote in an email to the Review.
The group rose to prominence after contributing the track “Flamingo” to producer Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs project and released Intro Bonito shortly after. Their debut album, Bonito Generation, was released last October to critical acclaim, earning a 4.5-star rating from Tiny Mix Tapes and a listing on Clash Magazine’s top 40 albums of 2016. The album builds on the themes and styles explored on Intro Bonito with maturity, bringing a more polished, cohesive approach to the dancehall, J-pop and 8-bit influenced music on Intro Bonito.
The cover of Bonito Generation features Perry smiling proudly in a bright blue cap and gown against a yellow background, a display of the easily recognizable pop persona — marked by colorful hair, makeup and costumes — that she has cultivated in her time as the group’s leader.
“I’m inspired by punk singers, and I channel my inner punk on stage. Other than that I don’t really think about [my persona] too much,” Perry said.
Kero Kero Bonito’s music, which combines crisp beats, synthesizers and vocals from Perry in both English and Japanese, is unmatched in today’s electronic pop soundscape, something that caught the attention of Student Union Programming Committee booker Andrés González.
“A friend of mine showed [KKB] to me at either the end of freshman year or the beginning of sophomore year,” he said. “They just sounded so different and silly. I didn’t know how big they were, so I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to bring them. It was kind of like a pipe dream, but it worked out. Even if you’re a fan of Kero Kero Bonito, you don’t imagine them coming [to Oberlin] because they’re so far away. I think it’s a nice surprise for people.”
The group was originally scheduled to play in February, but the show fell through due to scheduling conflicts.
“The planning always takes a long time,” González said. “Because they’re coming from England, they have to figure out when they have other dates in the U.S. We can’t just fly them out for one show.”
Still, despite their inability to make their previous show date, the band still made time for Oberlin in their touring schedule.
“We got the call [to perform at Oberlin] and had to answer since we’re big Cory Arcangel [OC ’00] fans,” Lobban said.
González’s persistence has paid off, as KKB’s performance will be yet another huge show in an already stacked year of concerts put on by SUPC bookers — with Kamaiyah and Japanese Breakfast slated to perform in the next few weeks alone — and hype for Kero Kero Bonito’s performance has been big.
“It’s the kind of music that people like a lot,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to get Oberlin students visibly excited about anything. It will be nice to have an event where people are excited, where people feel like they can be happy and dance and have a good time together. I think that’s something important.”
One of those visibly excited students is College junior Theodora Lang.
“I love KKB,” she said. “I like that their music is bilingual. I like that it’s funny. I like the aesthetic, and I like their infectious optimism. You can’t be sad when you’re listening to KKB. There are so many artists I love but can’t listen to because I’ll just cry at all their sad music. Having a band that is always upbeat, cheerful and always fun to dance to is really fresh and nice.”
The evening promises to be an infectiously danceable one, something that González is looking forward to.
“People should be ready to dance,” González said. “They should listen to the songs — they have good lyrics. I always like it when people sing along. It’s something that doesn’t happen enough at Oberlin shows.”
Kero Kero Bonito is scheduled to perform at the ’Sco tomorrow at 10 p.m. Tickets are available at Wilder Desk for $5 with OCID or $15 without.