Flamingos and rabbits and penguins, oh my!
Hand me the aux cord
How many shrimps do you have to eat
Before you make your skin turn pink?
Eat too much and you'll get sick
Shrimps are pretty rich
Kero Kero Bonito, “Flamingo”
If you’ve heard any songs by hyperpop indie band Kero Kero Bonito (KKB) it’s probably Flamingo, unless you’re a fan of them or your friends are. It has over 54 million listens on Spotify and accompanies their poppy, unique, and occasionally sentimental discography.
Ironically, Flamingo was not my first track of theirs. I came across KKB’s Only Acting while wasting time on Youtube, probably in the middle of the night, probably with a bag of Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn. I was rather captivated by this energetic girl with fluorescent purple hair, who I later learned is Sarah Midori Perry, also known fondly as “Sarah Bonito,” rolling across the floor and shooting finger guns. However, within the last minute of the video, this seemingly playful track took a turn toward the experimental, giving us “found footage”-esque imagery and distorted vocals.
This experimental, maximalist, and unexpected take on pop music was my white rabbit, luring me down the hyperpop rabbit hole.
Recently, I was able to stream KKB live at Second Sky virtual festival. The opener was the blue, whimsical, and costume-clad DJ Potaro, who I thought was a seal but is apparently a penguin. Potaro flapped his tiny flippers to the beat, culminating in an enigmatic voice booming “Faster!” as said penguin DJ flapped away, concluding in a wonderfully bizarre close-up shot of the mascot’s face.
I was still smiling post-DJ Potaro when Kero Kero Bonito started their set with Battle Lines, a track that conjures imagery of war and ancient civilization in both its lyricism and instrumentals. Battle Lines flowed neatly into The Princess and the Clock, one of my absolute favorite tracks of theirs.
All while the music played, the video cut between the band and prerecorded imagery of Sarah Bonito in a clearing in the woods, donning a sheer white cloak with delicate floral patterns, whilst placing gemstones among leaves. These visuals, much like their music, was a culmination of soothing (yet youthful) vocals, innovative instrumentals, and an air of mysticism and music ahead of its time.
But, as much as I worship KKB and their trippy discography, how could I write about hyperpop without talking about Sophie? After all, she is considered to be a pioneer of the genre itself.
If you don’t know Sophie, I can tell you about her history but that would only be a blip in her legacy. She was a musician. She was a producer. She was born in Glasgow, grew up on electronic music and raves, learned to DJ, and was in a band called Motherland. While her debut single, Nothing More to Say, dropped in 2013, there was another sort of debut in 2017, when Sophie opened up about being a trans woman and released the gorgeous and intimate It’s Okay to Cry.
While soaring, seemingly weightlessly, through her own career, Sophie was simultaneously leaving her mark on—one could even say forming—the genre that would later be known as hyperpop. This includes producing for and collaborating with artists under the label PC Music, founded in 2013 and known for their cyber-influenced take on pop music. She would continue to leave signature elements of her own sound—pitch-adjusted vocals, raw elements such as rubber and clanging metal, and an avant-garde sound—in her produced and collaborative works, which would later extend to names such as Charlie XCX, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Kim Petras.
Said elements came to encapsulate hyperpop as a genre, as Sophie is woven throughout its history and future. And while it was never officially released (the demo can be found online), Sophie featured Sarah Bonito on a track called Burn Rubber. As much as I wish that we could have had further collaborations between the two, I thank Sophie deeply for what she has contributed to music as a whole.
While no one could have expected to lose her as soon or as abruptly as we did, Sophie leaves behind a legacy that continues to inspire another generation of pop and electronic artists, visionaries, and everyday people who find a little piece of her in themselves.
For more of the eclectic hyperpop and its wide range of artists, I’d rec starting with Spotify’s official Hyperpop playlist. Don’t blame me if it becomes your addiction.