As if Grimesâ€™ long lost lo-fi sister, Cream with a K is a new project by Japan influenced art rock musician and visual artist - Lee Tatlock.
Having fronted Universal Japan's bubblegum J-pop band Neko Punch, we asked why Tatlock felt the need to leave and start over alone, leaving behind a promising career in Tokyo. Her response was quite sobering. Tatlock implies that her former band used her for her image and that â€œit could have worked with any foreigner girl who spoke Japaneseâ€. No doubt also fuelled by Tatlockâ€™s chance meeting with Beck, the multi-instrumentalist lo-fi artist and one of her biggest inspirations, she realized that she needed to get back to the essence and process of making music as an art form as there were many limitations on her artistry in Neko Punch. She recalls how she was actually slated for being â€œtoo artistic or too creativeâ€ by her bandmates and that they were not interested in nurturing artistry at all; now in hindsight dubbing her former band â€œsuper contrived and phoneyâ€.
â€œWhen I quit, it was a huge deal to some people butâ€¦. you know, youâ€™ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette sometimes.â€
Tatlocks commitment to exploring her artistry is highly commendable: spending a lot of time sketching out storyboards and ideas for her music videos, making mood-boards for styling and hair and make up for herself and her bandmates in Cream with a Kâ€” sourcing clothes, adding trinkets and tailoring etc. â€œEven on the visual design side, I created all my own branding, jacket art and also edited and colour graded all my music videosâ€. She tells us that she finds â€œthe visual aesthetic of an artist is almost as important as the music itselfâ€, especially in regards to music videos, admitting that this has always been the case since watching MTV as a child.â€¨ Her DIY video â€˜Terrible Voicesâ€™ in particular presents this bleak and melancholic vision of a girl drowning in a bathtub while playing her guitar, which actually really epitomizes her sound if one were to visualize it.
Tatlock having lived in Tokyo for 9 years, has fully fused Japanese influences into her western music project. For Tatlock, Japanese culture is her core, her â€œbaseâ€ saying that sheâ€™s adopted it into all parts of her life and that â€œeverything [she has] is because of Japan.â€ Her song â€˜5:35â€™ is purely about the Shi-hatsu-densha (the first departing train of the day) on the Ginza line in Tokyo. She recounts fondly the feeling of boarding it after late night shows and witnessing Tokyo at its most raw, seeing â€œpassed-out salary men, hung over hostesses, weekday clubbers vomiting ramen on the floor of the subway,â€ adding that despite â€¨how horrible it sounds â€œitâ€™s actually quite an interesting part of Tokyo life and itâ€™s quite a peaceful moment in a way. I like it.â€ In a way Tatlocks sound reflects this culture influence, with vocals reminiscent of Japanese â€˜Kawaiiâ€™ or cuteness culture, in its style and mannerisms which is then contrasted by this frank take on Tokyo life in her instrumentals of distorted guitars and drone synths that manages to create a peaceful balance. Cream with a Kâ€™s sound to me is as if someone took Grimes then scrubbed away that glossy EDM outer layer, leaving the raw and often vulnerable essence of art rock. It is at times experimental, rough and not quite fully formed with songs like â€˜Burnâ€™ being hard to define but itâ€™s okâ€” as Tatlock herself is unsure of a genre where she falls: â€œMelancholic-Grunge-Clown-Pop?â€¨ Ethereal-Alternative-90s-disco-rock? I donâ€™t really knowâ€.
Look out for Cream with a Kâ€™s LP release and tour around summer this year, but in the meantime â€” you can Spotify her and see what you think. You can check out Cream with a K's latest single 'Stuck in the House' below.