Creams: politically incensed dystopian dark-pop from Georgia

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you'd have no doubt seen opening the bill for your favourite bands. This week it's Tbilisi-based writer, producer and singer Creams, whose eclectic debut EP is a retaliation against the political tensions within her home country

Growing up in Georgia – a country fuelled by geopolitical tensions on the border of Europe and Asia – the idea of making music felt “untouchable – like a gemstone” for Creams, aka 25-year-old solo artist Natia Chichinadze.

Despite always feeling a deep connection to it and being schooled in the post-Soviet era (when all children went to music schools), Natia was never encouraged to pursue music as a career. She wasn’t particularly enamoured with the educational system, either. “I love music and wanted to learn something, but didn’t understand how they managed to make it so boring,” Natia recalls. “Two out of five people I knew were studying piano, and they hated it.” An additional lack of encouragement from her music tutors didn’t help sway Natia’s opinion: “They were like: ‘OK, go [do music]: but you won’t make anything out of it’.”

It was by flipping through magazines and buying cassettes that a young Natia finally found the excitement in music she so craved. She began making regular beelines for the record section of a local store where, aged 8, she became particularly struck by the intense visual aesthetics of albums by Eminem and Slipknot (she remembers picking their vinyl up and thinking: “What the hell is going on?”). Seeing the early-2000s covers for ‘Encore’ and ‘Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)’ for the first time made Natia realise she “liked how they looked, how they dressed and, later, how they sounded”. It was a “completely new world”.

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Soon after she began to “meet cool people” who introduced her to music by “this girl called Björk, this guy called Prince” as well as Patti Smith (“she was my number one rebel girl”), PJ Harvey, J Dilla, Frank Sinatra and Captain Beefheart. Such an eclectic range of influences would go on to shape the music Natia began to make as a teenager. After getting an iPod from her parents as she turned 15, Natia found GarageBand and began experimenting with creating beats.

Her first performance in Batumi, an unassuming seaside resort bordering the Black Sea with pebbled beaches and only one underground nightclub, fuelled her creative fire. “When you’re near the sea, it’s very eclectic,” she remembers of the contrasting sunshine-to-storm panoramas. “You see those drastic changes in the weather and you kind of feel the same – in terms of bipolar tendencies and shifts in your mood and energy – you feel that.”

Inspired by friends and personal relationships (“I have a tendency to be ironic when it comes to some sentimental bullshit like love and heartbreak”), Natia’s Creams project – for which she writes, plays and produces everything herself – was born in 2019. After uploading her first single ‘DIE 4 U’ to YouTube in September 2019, a mesmerising Fashion Week performance of its follow-up ‘RUN’ caught the world’s attention. A well-deserved spot on the 2020 edition of the NME 100 followed just months later.

Her debut four-track EP ‘SLEEP ON ME’ – which fuses unnerving vocals that slither under the skin with skeletal yet sinister electronic production that builds tension throughout – is both a mission statement and a warning for the world to wake up and take notice of Creams. Using symbols as “my self-defence mechanism”, Creams channels the disillusionment many young people feel growing up in Georgia. On ‘Run’ Natia doesn’t pull any punches, declaring: “All of you better save your heads and run before we’ve loaded up our favourite guns.” She describes this line as a metaphor for anger and “the darker side of my inner world”.

Creams
Creams (Picture: Ika Khargelia / Press)

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The EP has also been written in retaliation to the political situation where she lives. “It’s a very political country. It’s small and everybody’s in this dark slum so there’s no other way,” Natia says of Georgia, counting herself lucky to have gained international recognition without facing any major barriers. After all this is a country where, in 2018, Tbilisi clubs Bassiani and Cafe Gallery were locked for 11 days after a police raid that – according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs – was carried out to detain drug traders who had been tracked at the venues. “We all know it’s not cool to fool kids and that these officials are the main heads of any problem source,” Natia says. “They are the party poopers”.

Natia – who speaks four different languages – is yet to perform live as Creams, but she’s excited to bring her outspoken universe to the stage and challenge her country’s narrow-minded norm. “In a conservative society, as Georgia is today, it’s an act of humanism to own a club or even go to one and openly talk about queer culture or freedom,” she argues. “It’s risky and our government is trying so hard to control us – at least youngsters.”

The message of Creams’ music, then, is clear. “We must fight for what we want and be very persistent and never quit. Always remember to be confident.” But what is Natia fighting for? “Many things,” she insists. “When I do not like something, I cannot be silent.”

Creams’ debut EP ‘SLEEP ON ME’ is out now.

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