Kero Kero Bonito’s Poptimism Is Breaking Language Barriers

The UK indie pop group uses catchy bilingual chants to bring you into their world.

Pop music is the most universal of music genres, with both uplifting and heart wrenching stories of love and life. Expanding further beyond language and culture, the self-described bilingual future-pop group Kero Kero Bonito (KKB) is pushing the boundaries of pop music with their unique take on the genre.

Comprised of producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled alongside vocalist Sarah Midori Perry, the three London-based musicians came together by chance. While Lobban and Bulled already knew each other from school, they met Perry through an ad they posted for someone who could speak Japanese on MixB, an online message board for Japanese expats. Perry was one of the first people to respond.

Seamlessly rapping in both English and Japanese, Perry has carved out a substantial niche for herself in popular music. “I don’t see English and Japanese as separate languages because I grew up learning both; to me it’s like one language,” she explains. “And with the growing popularity of international marriages, I think that there’s going to be more seamless bilingual language speakers around and that’s great.”

“That’s actually a great point,” Lobban chimes in. “I guess it really does reflect Sarah’s background. It’s funny because when we first asked her to sing for us, we didn’t ask her to sing a specific way. Sarah just kind of did it in both languages and we’re like, well this is dope.”

Writing nearly all of KKB’s song lyrics herself, Perry naturally flows between her two languages when writing without even thinking. “I feel like I’m actually on an advantage; that I get to use twice as much material when I write lyrics. I just feel like I got more things to play with,” she says.

“I think there’s definitely less than five pop stars you could name who kind of do it the way Sarah does,” says Lobban. “It’s interesting to think that a lot of bands do just pick one language to work within. It’s a shame really because more linguistic colour is great.”

“And there are things you can say in one language you can’t say in another,” Bulled adds.

Heavily inspired by Japanese culture and language, the band went on their first tour together in Japan in 2015. Japan is KKB’s second biggest market after the United States. “We actually played in Shibuya on Halloween, which was crazy,” recalls Lobban. “Someone dressed up as a spoon!”

“Everything was absolutely incredible, like walking in a video game in some ways. Japan blew all my expectations away to be honest,” Bulled says. “I felt like I was very far away from my world normally, in London, but at the same time I felt very much at home.”

Following the release of their sophomore album, Bonito Generation, it was apparent how much the band has grown since the release of their debut, Intro Bonito, in 2014. With five singles from the album having made the rounds online — “Trampoline,” “Picture This,” “Break,” “Lip Slap,” and “Graduation” — a more complex and melody based sound emerged as a theme for the new album.

“We added more chords basically,” Bulled states matter-of-factly. “Yeah, more chords yeah,” chuckles Lobban. “’Picture This’ is on the record and you know that was probably the first track we did that was like, ‘oh, this is a new thing.’ That song combined a lot of stuff that was already true of KKB, but kind of super-charged it, and we’ve taken that across the whole record this time.”

This article appeared n the October 2016 print edition of BeatRoute Media.