Lee Tatlock, the mastermind behind Cream with a K, is British, born and raised. Aged 18, her Niponic wanderlust steered her to move to Tokyo, where she began writing for other artists, in both English and Japanese. The knowledge gained over the past eight years has fired her to establish her solo career last year under her new moniker: Cream with a K.
The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been riding the waves since 2012, singing alongside J-pop band Neko Punch. Tatlock is a recognisable media figure, becoming the host for Japan’s favourite music TV Show, NHK’s “Nippon Rocks”, and is known to have worked alongside noteworthy Japanese producers such as Takeshi Kobayashi, Hydain and Shingo Yasumoto.
After spending 2017 fine-tuning her sonic DNA, recording and writing in LA, Cream with a K made her debut earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day. Written, arranged and produced solely by Tatlock, “Burn” is a supernal hybrid of grunge and J-pop. Considering the current trend, where stylistic fluidity is encouraged, the artist shared that even though it isn’t something that she purposely set out to do, her personal musical taste combined with her unique life experience provided room for cross-culture and genre experimentation.
“I love grunge rock… but I didn’t think I wanted to make a grunge record at any point. Who can top Kurt Cobain at being Kurt Cobain?” – Tatlock comments on of her sonics – “ I try to use my individual unique experiences and filter everything through my perspective on life. I wrote J-Pop for most of my life, and I’m told that that comes through in my songs. Which, is so funny – J-pop is almost the opposite to grunge”.
Tatlock is set out not to repeat herself, or something that was done before. On Cream with a K’s second single, you can hear her adding her sugary-toned vocals to a dark indie rock single ‘Terrible Voices’, but today’s release, “5:35” reveals yet another facet of this artist.
“The experience of doing an all-nighter in Japan is truly unique and surreal. This song is about riding the train home with drunken passed out salarymen, weekday clubbers and prostitutes.” – She proceeds – “I was a crazy party girl when I was 18-20 years old. The 5:35 AM train was part of my usual train home. It’s the first train of the day on the Tokyo Metro Ginza” – Tatlock shares how personal after dark raiding in the Japanese capital inspired her new atmospheric track “5:35”.
Credits: Styling: Yuuki Sakamoto Photography: Kenta Karim
The singer-songwriter shared some of the cultural and queues you learn when you speak different languages, and how different people interact with one and other in different parts of the globe. Being fluent in both Japanese and English, Tatlock learnt that some words and or expressions just do not translate directly into other languages.
“My favourite Japanese expression is “Kuuki wo Yomu”, which literally means “read the air”. Japanese culture is all about vibing out the room making sure you’re not out of line or causing discomfort to the other people around you, all without a single word exchanged. With all the shade in the Japanese music industry, by now I feel like I’m a pro at this. “
Having been living in Tokyo for almost a decade, followed by a short stay LA while still keeping her British identity imprinted into her DNA, one wonders, how all these different life experiences, in three different continents, have impacted her personal and professional development.
“ I guess the UK has always taught me to be thick-skinned. People have always seemed to be negative towards my “can-do” passion. I feel like English people are mostly on the “I’d rather not” end of the spectrum – It must be the weather! – LA taught me to be tough and less docile and naive. I learnt to nurture my uniqueness and tear down my boundaries. Tokyo taught me to be modest in everything I do, and how to have a great work ethic (although it had a lot of creative boundaries). I think it also gave me a bit of an inferiority complex too, especially being a foreign woman. Through all the ups and downs, Tokyo is still my home. It’s where I feel most supported and comfortable.”
For the time being, Tatlock will remain in Tokyo, but she’s already planning a trip back home. Even though there no official dates to it yet, you can expect Cream with a K debut show in the British Capital towards the end of the year, a US tour next year, and release her new album internationally.
5:35 is out today, and it is available on all streaming platforms. Ch-ch-check it out, below:
Words by Catarina Ramalho