As one might be able to tell by both his project name and the title of his first single, “Fever Dream,” Ono Kimono brings a tremendous amount of cheek to his work. Started in 2021 by multi-instrumentalist Justin Roll, thus far this solo project is just about as vibrant, colorful and retro as the cover art for said first single. With 80s-style synths, a good handle on oscillators and loads of indie pop cachet, Ono Kimono is set to bring the next wave of rock/electro fusion.
Roll says Ono Kimono and specifically “Fever Dream” were and answer to what he calls “pandemic burnout.” An apt assessment to what we all felt at the end of 2021 (or 2020, if we’re honest), and especially whatartists dealt with.
The singles I’m releasing have been a culmination of what I’ve been feeling since the start of the pandemic. Feelings of heartbreak, addiction, and burnout have weighed heavily on me and it’s been highly therapeutic to put them into music. I’m hoping my message resonates with people and takes them on a journey.
But, also like many artists, Roll wanted to lift people out of that burnout. And what better way than with some throwback pop vibes, excellent synths and the suggestion that COVID is just a collective hallucination?
My ultimate goal is to provide for my listeners what my favorite music has given me over the years, which is a sense of belonging. If I am able to inspire, to comfort, and to captivate my audience then the journey will be 100% worth it.”
While “Fever Dream” is bubble gum fun with a somewhat serious message, Ono Kimono’s follow-up “Malibu.” released just last week, is slightly more indie musically but with a more relaxed lyrical center. Drawing on late 00s/early 10s acts like Chromeo, Cut Copy, Washed Out and even a hint of LCD Soundsystem, this track is where Roll really puts his own spin on indie electro pop and shows his multi-instrumental skill. Vintage funk, dream pop-y tone on the vox and some expertly syncopated live jazz drums make “Malibu” possibly even better than “Fever Dream” from a musical standpoint and will certainly help Ono Kimono stand out from the indie pop pack.
Artists being inspired by COVID and healing themselves and the world at large with their work is almost a silver lining in all this mess. It certainly makes it all more bearable. For Roll as Ono Kimono, it’s an interesting way to start a new project but it’s clear he has both the musical chops and the contemplative nature to make us all feel a bit better and even have a bit of fun along the way. Even if this is all just a collective “Fever Dream.”