The essential Kero Kero Bonito: more than a flamingo

Kero Kero Bonito is a must-listen for fans of bubblegum pop, electropop, J-Pop (all the pops, really) and/or Japanese hip-hop. The band is comprised of vocalist Sarah Midori Perry (who sings and raps in both English and Japanese), alongside producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, and has been influenced by a multitude of artists, from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to My Bloody Valentine.

kero kero bonito
From left to right: Gus, Sarah, and Jamie.

While their early music is a delightful fusion of J-Pop and British indie sensibilities, Kero Kero Bonito has gone on to create increasingly explorative albums that present emotionally complex subject matters in upbeat and earnest earworms.

You may already be familiar with KKB without realising! They provided a delightful end-title track for Bugsnax, an adventure game as whimsical and surprising as the band itself. And that’s not even considering the Big One – ever heard of a little number called Flamingo?

The official Youtube track is currently sporting 86 million views, and the Berd version (above) itself has garned 25 million. It’s easy to see why this song in particular went viral – between Midori’s clear, distinctive voice and the sweet, playful lyrics, the song is classic fodder for TikTok and YouTube memes. Berd’s animation captures the fun and childlike expressiveness of Flamingo, a quality that can be found in every song of KKB’s first studio album, Bonito Generation.

kero kero bonito - Bonito Graduation
Today’s her graduation!

This album doesn’t just emulate pop but champions and explores it, using scenes from adolescence to comment on the bizarre phenomenon of becoming an adult. Try Me in particular is quite a salient song to listen to when you’re job-hunting – which indeed I did, on loop. The song can be inspiring and depressing in equal measure, and very much encapsulates the feeling of performatively bigging yourself up to prospective employers. “Did you know I can do anything?”

There’s a subtle but unavoidable trace of irony in the lyrics – office life probably won’t include much dancing or partying, but the song allows you to briefly lose yourself in the fantasy of teenage idealism anyway.

Kero Kero Bonito continued to evolve their sound in Time ‘n’ Place, an album dominated by dreamy synths, noise and distortion. In a departure from Bonito Generation, this album ponders the danger of fantasies, and how too many can lead to anxiety and loss of control (Make Believe in particular). My favourite track on the album, though, is Dear Future Self; the lyrics wonder what life will be like in the unforeseeable future, and ideas of flying cars and time travel are interwoven with the fear that life will always be “just the same old thing”.

kero kero bonito - Time Today
From KKB’s Time Today music video.

The song’s character braces for the heartbreak they will no doubt experience, and implores their future self not to hate the world, scared of the person they might become. It’s a sweet tune that walks the line between hope and dread – the voice from Bonito Generation has grown up, and can no longer find comfort in the unknown.

The 2021 mini-album Civilisation further pushes the limits of Kero Kero Bonito, with themes of global catastrophe and political division nestled within lyrics that simultaneously evoke images of fairy tales and slice-of-life mundanity. When the Fires Come in particular takes listeners by surprise with the horrors that await “deep in the forest that no one dares to see or know”. Impending disaster mingles with poignant and timeless scenes of humanity persevering; fact and fiction blend together to tell a timeless truth.

kero kero bonito - Battle Lines
Artwork for Battle Lines, the first track of Civilisation.

Kero Kero Bonito has grown so much since Flamingo – while a lesser band might have cashed in on the gimmick of simple, saccharine, half-ironic meme pop, KKB have taken the time to evolve not only their musical stylings, but their messaging. We all have to grow up and face harsh realities eventually, but KKB reminds us that, sometimes, fantasy and reality can exist at the same time.

Join The Discussion

Rice Digital Discord
Rice Digital Twitter
Rice Digital Facebook

Or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page by clicking here!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!

Spread the love!

Related post

This will close in 0 seconds