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Kero Kero Bonito

The London trio Kero Kero Bonito is dedicated to the power of radically creative pop. On their early singles, the 2013 mixtape Intro Bonito, and their 2016 debut album Bonito Generation, the band combined Sarah Midori Perry's lighter-than-air vocals and Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled's production with bright, shiny songs indebted to J-pop, video game music, and dancehall. Though their style evolved quickly, shifting to the moody, punk-inspired territory of 2018's Time 'n' Place and the complex electronic art pop of 2021's Civilisation, Kero Kero Bonito's music always put equal weight on innovation and emotion. Kero Kero Bonito formed in the early 2010s when producers and multi-instrumentalists Gus Lobban (who also records as Kane West and Augustus) and Jamie Bulled (who also makes music as Wharfwhit) decided to form a pop band with a direct sound and international appeal. The former schoolmates searched for a vocalist on MixB, an online forum for Japanese expatriates. They connected with Sarah Midori Perry, a half-Japanese, half-English artist who had moved to the U.K. at age 13. In addition to singing and writing lyrics, she developed the band's subversively cute visuals. Kero Kero Bonito's debut single, "Coursework Story," appeared in 2012 and was followed by a slew of tracks and the 2013 mixtape Intro Bonito. Largely written with a Casio mini-keyboard, the mixtape featured the songs "Sick Beat" and "Homework" (another song, "I'd Rather Sleep," became a viral social media hit in 2020). The following year, the EP Bonito Recycling featured Intro Bonito remixes by Danny L. Harle and Spazzkid. In September 2016, Kero Kero Bonito released its debut album, Bonito Generation. Featuring more fleshed-out songs that played with pop structures, the album felt in keeping with the hyper-pop sound of the PC Music collective as well as influences like K-pop and 8-bit music. Along with earning critical praise, Bonito Generation reached number nine on the World Albums chart and number 15 on the Vinyl Albums chart in the U.S. Bonito (Retakes), an EP of remixes by artists including Frankie Cosmos, CFCF, and Saint Etienne, appeared the following year. After touring the world in support of Bonito Generation, Kero Kero Bonito decided to push their musical boundaries. On 2018's Totep EP and its single "Only Acting," they incorporated punky guitars and live drums into their music. The single also appeared on the trio's second full-length, Time 'n' Place, which added shoegaze, grunge, rock, orchestral, and noise elements as well as darker lyrical themes dealing with the loss of innocence. Recorded in Lobban's bedroom as well as with engineer Jimmy Robertson and former Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay, the album arrived in October 2018. In the U.S., Time 'n' Place topped the Heatseekers Albums chart and reached number five on the Vinyl Albums chart. That year, Kero Kero Bonito also appeared on Manon's album Teenage Diary. The band switched gears again with September 2019's Civilisation I EP, which adopted a colder electronic sound that reflected its darker messages about government corruption and climate change. After composing the theme song for the video game Bugsnax and appearing on a remix of 100 gecs' "Ringtone" in 2020, Kero Kero Bonito returned in April 2021 with the Civilisation II EP. Like its predecessor, it was produced and recorded in Lobban's bedroom studio with vintage hardware, and drew inspiration from decades of art pop as well as the best and worst of humanity. Later in the year, the band issued Civilisation, which gathered both EPs into an album. Kero Kero Bonito's members also pursued their solo projects, with Bulled issuing the U.K. garage-flavored releases "Strictly Dumb Dancing/Live Laugh Love London" (2021) and Jamie Loves Bangers (2022) as the JLB. Meanwhile, Perry debuted her solo project Cryalot, and released 2022's EP Icarus and the following year's Icarus Remixes. In April 2023, Polyvinyl reissued Intro Bonito with bonus tracks.
© Heather Phares /TiVo


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