Interview - Tei Shi
Born Valerie Teicher, Tei Shi’s debut album ‘Crawl Space’ is a sonic and lyrical journey through self-discovery. An uncovering of former selves as she navigates to find who she is right now. Released last month, the album features recordings from Tei Shi’s childhood. On each one there is an air of uncertainty and doubt as she tells listeners “I'm a bad singer. I can't do anything well,” which evolves into confidence as the album continues.
Her first full-length record was a labor of love – nearly two years worth. “I feel kind of a surreal feeling to spend so much time on something, to be putting so much of yourself into something then all of sudden it’s out there and out of your hands” She admits she’s a bit overwhelmed by the process even after releasing several EP’s and touring with the like of Grimes and MØ
“I mean, it’s a lot of feelings at once. I’m still kind of processing it I guess, but I’m really happy to have it out there.”
Capitol Sound DC: I know it’s taboo for most artists, but have you heard any feedback on the album?
Tei Shi: I try to stay away from reading what people say or “reviews.” I feel like the overall tone has been positive and people have responded well to it as an album and that’s what I wanted.
The response has been more than positive. Praised by DIY Magazine and The Coveteur her vocals on ‘Crawl Space’ have grown notably. She was pleased as she realized she had accomplished her largest feat – accepting herself as the musician she wanted to be.
CSDC: This album is very different from what you’ve done in the past. What was the direction you wanted to take this time around?
TS: The vocal is such a focus for me. Like, I try to have that be the thing that cuts through. This time around I wanted to come off stronger, clearer, not too many sound effects or drowning it out with too many layers. I just wanted people to hear my voice, but in doing that the songwriting became more structured and catchier. I’m really excited to play this new stuff. There’s a lot more live instrumentation where as my last project was electronic.
Always evolving, she considered every aspect of this album, namely vocals and production. An amateur producer, Tei Shi wanted to showcase more live instrumentation on ‘Crawl Space’ than she had in any of her other releases. Getting more hands on with the production aspect, she put together a brand new band, which she cites as being the way she brought her personality to the forefront –something she had run from earlier in her career.
TS: I know I keep saying this but I wanted to put myself out there as a vocalist. It’s my strength and that maybe I shied away from in the beginning. I don’t know. I guess on this album it was a culmination of everything I’ve learned and been through. Everything.
CSDC:That’s so hard to believe. There’s a strange duality between your stardom and your personality. In a good way! You’re somewhat reserved and soft spoken in comparison to what a “star” is deemed to be or act.
TS: Nowadays there’s this wave of creative women in these industries trying to present themselves honestly and I think that’s one of the things we didn’t see when I was younger. Pop stars were pop stars, they were out of reach. You didn’t know what their personalities were like, you didn’t know their values. The female representatives were very homogenous, very similar.
And for me I want to be that kind of role model. Not necessarily a role model in the sense of “Hey! I’m perfect and I’ve got it figured all out. You should want to be like me,” instead just putting myself out there as myself. So that anyone who can identify with any part of me can feel like they’re not alone. Especially being young women who are creating on their own, you know? Putting themselves out there and standing behind themselves and their convictions is empowering for young girls. Overall, that’s how I think I carry myself so that people see me as someone who is truly doing what they love while being completely themselves.
CSDC: Speaking empowering women I know you’re a fan of Beyoncé. Were you a little disappointed she couldn’t perform at Coachella this year?
TS: I thought about it, but just decided against it. If Beyoncé had performed I probably would’ve been more likely to go [laugh]. Don’t get me wrong! I’m a big fan of Kendrick and Radiohead. I thought it was an amazing line up, but that would’ve pushed me over the edge.
As our conversation slowly came to an end I asked “Do you have any firsthand advice for someone who wants to achieve your level of success?” We sat in silence as she pensively pondered the question.
TS: Um, I’m trying not to give the typical answer. I guess my advice would be to release EP’s. Releasing EP’s or shorter projects are such a good way of learning and figuring things out. That was me with the EP’s. I was learning in the process how to record, learning basic production, and writing. Especially because I was able to tour off those EP’s so it taught me about what I wanted as an artist.
‘Crawl Space’ is more than the soundtrack to the summer. It is a live representation of the past, finding what you love, going for what you need, and shaping your identity through those around you and so much more.
Keep up with Tei Shi at the links below.