Cream with a K is the type of artist who’s hard to pin down—her sugar-coated pop songs are infused with an unusually natural grunge spirit and the abstract guitar riffs of early St. Vincent, while the vocals sound like an English take on J-pop. The simple explanation for the latter observation is that this is accurate: Lee Tatlock was born in London, but made a career for herself in Japan as a model and J-pop star before recording her English-language debut as Cream with a K.
“I basically recorded this record on my laptop over three continents,” she explains, “so it was kind of like papier-mâché until I got in the studio with Alex O’Donovan and finalized the mix into something more sophisticated. When I listen to this album I really feel like this project was my thesis and I feel quite proud of it. So much went into it. A lot of thanks go to all the fans and people who came and helped out along the way!”
Released last Friday, the songwriter took the time to give us a BTS look at each track on her debut. Stream the record below, and read on for her insights.
1. “Stuck in the House”
This song can only be described as a grunge-rock/electronic mash-up experiment. I wrote it in a Tokyo Starbucks, a minute walk from my house on a rainy day, on my laptop. I remember thinking, ”Wow, this song goes against everything I have learnt in J-pop—I love it.”’
This one I also made in Tokyo. I actually started to make this song to go with some experimental video material we shot. The song managed to out-live the video project though!
3. “Saving Face”
This was the very first CwaK song I wrote—it came even before the name. I wrote a lot of songs before this one, looking for the right recipe. This one, for me, sounded like something new, with potential, and felt like it was pointing in a direction worth pursuing. Then came Cream with a K.
4. “Not a Peep”
This song is kind of a hybrid bridge between the J-pop music I was making before and the Cream with a K universe. I used to write these kinds of up-beat pop songs all the time, so just out of habit this one came. I think I was listening to a lot of Pulp and Talking Heads at this particular time.
I wrote this one in LA on an acoustic guitar—about nostalgia of catching the first train home in Tokyo after doing a routine all nighter.
6. “Terrible Voices”
This song, for me, is the beacon of the album. I think “Terrible Voices” made a big impression on people. I feel I wasn’t really ready for it at the time I wrote it. Probably because it meant new pressure, and I was enjoying being a pressure-less artist again after quitting my label. There was a “here we go again, now everyones going to judge everything I write against this song and that will be the end” moment. That I was being a bit over dramatic and immature. It is a good song—I use it as a milestone in my artistic growth!
7. “Radio Transmissions”
Some spontaneous noise art I threw in.
8. “This Is My Car”
This was another phase I went through in LA. More of a loose, trippy, Sonic Youth–inspired, lo-fi thing I was trying out. This is a special one for the CwaK fans.
9. “It Gets Me Down”
Actually, funny story—around this time, I was in LA and got robbed of everything…by my roommate (funny but not ha-ha funny). So as it might be suggested by the title, I wrote this song when I was really down. I was really shocked at this betrayal, and it might seem dramatic but it somehow hit me on a deeper level, and I suddenly became really aware of the evil of mankind. Like people are out there—who want to hurt you, maybe, even if it hurts themselves. Wow—what kind of world is this? But then this song came out so depressed and dramatic and waltz-y, I swear it’s completely comedic. To me that’s a really good thing.
I’ve always been pretty set against this song seeing the light of day. I wasn’t sure if it was for this album… but when I sheepishly took it into the studio with Alex O’Donovan (engineer/producer at OCTAGON) he said it was maybe his favorite song. So that made me look at it differently. I also played it live in Tokyo just to fill up extra time…and everyone loved it. I was told that it was like a J-pop chorus stretched out over an entire song. I decided everyone had a perception of this song that I couldn’t see. So on this album, it’s kind of like the rebel song.