Lee Tatlock, best know by her stage moniker Cream with a K, is a British musician, visual artist and model, who has been based in Tokyo for the past decade after eight years fronting the Commercial Bubblegum J-POP band NEKO PUNCH (Universal Japan / ASOBI SYSTEM).
A recognisable entertainment figure in Tokyo after hosting the popular Japanese music TV show Nippon Rocks (NHK), Cream with a K has arrived back in the UK with a bang, releasing a self-titled album at the start of 2020. We were lucky enough to welcome the artist to Crouch End Studios to record a live session of one of the tracks from the album, Terrible Voices. Keep your eyes peeled and ears ready, as the live session will be released here midday TOMORROW to give you some amazing visuals and sounds to amuse you in your self-isolation bubbles.
Bilingual in Japanese and English, the artist is a link between the UK and Tokyo music scenes, translating the J-POP style and language into her own vocal stylings and live shows.
An artistic talent to be reckoned with, Cream with a K writes, composes and produces her own music, and is the visionary behind her own music videos and visual content. Check out the video for Terrible Voices below…
While we know you’re on the edge of your seats waiting for the live session to be released tomorrow, we had a quick catch up yesterday (via email, because social-distancing, obvs) with Cream with a K which you can read below now…
n-eight: Hey! Well, these are crazy times we live in right now – how are you holding up?
Cream with a K: It’s crazy but actually I’m completely fine with isolation. Rather then panic – I’m switching off the TV and trying to get ahead with my writing.
n-eight: It has to be said, despite the current global situation, you started the year/decade with a bang, releasing a self-titled, ten track album!! What has the response been like?
Cream with a K: It was even better than I expected to be honest. I’d been sitting on the songs for a while… so actually my excitement of releasing it began to dip! I think when you leave a piece of work too long without releasing you can start to doubt it and become a bit critical because you’re always constantly evolving and changing.
But I feel like the positive response was a good confidence boost and has inspired me to get back to writing and show everyone the next thing!
How long has the album been in the works?
Cream with a K: I would say 3 years from start to finish. The songs were written and arranged quickly but I have worked with 5 engineers and mixed it about 6 times to get the final product right. Haha. It was a painful process but now I have found my feet, next time should be a lot quicker.
n-eight: A journey worth taking – the album is great! You’ve got some seriously infectious hooks in there – “terrible voices in my head, terrible people in my bed” has been stuck in my head! What’s your writing process like when putting together an album?
Cream with a K: The album was a very different writing style to my usual style. I started most of the tracks on my laptop in cafes around the world, so I would always just start off making a nice beat and add a synth sub bass line over it. Then basically build it up from there like an electronic record but using analog gear/guitars/bass guitar etc.
To be honest, in all my years of writing I found the best way to write pop melodies is just try to simplify your ideal to the minimal amount of notes possible and make the top-liner easy to sing. Hummable-ness is key!
n-eight: ‘Hummable-ness is key’ should be on a t-shirt! You lived in Japan for almost a decade (super cool!) – talk us through your musical journey out there…
Cream with a K: Well it’s a wacky story but without getting too deep into it…
After moving to Japan at 17, I was afforded the opportunity to major debut as a J-POP idol. Haha. Although I’m very grateful of being given such an opportunity it didn’t come without huge sacrifice.
In the spirit of you “can’t have your cake and eat it” I ended up making some very big compromises on the music and branding side…but I initially thought as long as I can sing, make music and make a living I would be happy and maybe one day fade into doing something more me. Consequently, I basically ended up spending six years pretending to be a completely different person. I did try to incorporate some of my own personal taste here and there, only to be repeatedly slammed.
I was working about 50-60 hours a week whilst struggling with depression, anxiety, insomnia…bouts of agoraphobia. Literally my hair started falling out and I just started to hate music. I decided I needed to resign as soon as I could so I waited until my contract was up and refused to extend it.
I managed to quit music for about 2 weeks and then started writing again as Cream with a K.
n-eight: Well, we’re glad you found a new path as Cream with a K and are now able to share your own art with the world. And now you’re back in London, how does working in music differ there? You were a pretty big figure in entertainment and music out there, so it must be quite a drastic change!
Cream with a K: It took some time getting used to the transition. For sure my favorite part about being an independent solo artist is that I get to make relationships with the individual people.
In Japan, my manager or producer or vocal coach or someone would always be talking on my behalf. I never got to actually talk to people directly. It’s very isolating and you feel like this giant awkward useless baby.
So adapting was actually a steep learning curve. I basically had to learn how to speak up for myself and function independently.
n-eight: Where would you say you get your inspiration from? Any musical influences that have helped guide you?
Cream with a K: It changes monthly but as a staple I’ve always loved Grunge, 90s Pop Rock and Folk. I always go back to artists I liked in my youth like Pixies, Beck, Garbage but I also obviously listen to a lot of Japanese music too.
FYI I believe the first ever concert ticket I bought was to see Aimee Mann at Shepherd’s Bush and first album I bought was “By the way” – Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
n-eight: What about the moniker, Cream with a K, how did that come about?
Cream with a K: There is a low key Japanese girl punk group I like called Mean Machine (even Japanese people don’t know them).
I found their album in a 2nd hand CD shop in Tokyo when I was a teenager – it was called “Cream”. I ended up using that album as one of my first stylistic references when I started “Cream with a K”.
So I named the session folder temporarily as “Cream”. It grew on me and I thought I needed a second word.
A friend suggested “Cream with a K” and I thought it was kind like a meta-anti-band-name that wasn’t boring so I thought “what the hell?”.
n-eight: I’d usually ask if there were any plans for upcoming gigs, but with the current situation I won’t! But what about some new releases? Any new music being made or released in the coming months?
Cream with a K: As I mentioned earlier, I’m really using this “down-time” so I can get ahead. As soon as we are in the clear, I’m hoping to jump into the studio to start recording an EP. I’m so excited about it! I have a very clear vision of what it’s going to be like.
n-eight: Before we have to say goodbye, a few quick questions… What’s your dream venue to play? Big, small, anywhere in between!
Cream with a K: For me rather then a particular Venue…it’s all about getting to “make” cool shit haha. I have a lot of burning ideas. My dream is to be able to have the funding and resources that I need to produce the best music, content, shows that I could imagine. I hate having to compromise the art direction because lack of resources. You gotta go big or go home.
n-eight: A la Desert Island Disc, which book, piece of music and luxury item would you have with you on a deserted island?
Cream with a K:
Book (I only read Non-fiction): Carl Jung – Modern man in search of a Soul
Music: Beach boys – Pet Sounds
Item: My Dolce and Gabbana Sunglasses
n-eight: It has been great chatting to you. Any final words of wisdom for our readers (perhaps some advice on how to stay sane while isolating)?
Cream with a K: I think now is a great time to start getting creative. If you always wanted to write a book, learn something, start a vlog, start a band – anything, now is the perfect opportunity. Let’s get out of our comfort zones. All big changes come with good and bad; but I feel very optimistic about the future.
I’m really trying to use this time connecting with everyone on Instagram and social media so I’m always happy to chat with anybody that’s feeling isolated. I’m also considering to start doing Instagram lives so we can all stay in touch and keep each-other company over this difficult period.
n-eight: Some great advice and great ideas, thanks for chatting! We can’t wait to release our live session with you TOMORROW! In the meantime, stay safe and well x
Cream with a K: Thanks so much for having me! Looking forward to see you again on the other side! X
Keep up to date with Cream with a K through the links below: