Valerie Teicher, better known by her stage name Tei Shi, stays outside of the box with her music.
In Crawl Space, the Columbian/Canadian singer blends dreamy, synth-pop melodies to create a soundscape that tells a story of conquering and exploring fears.
When I first listened to Crawl Space, I was hooked. There was just something to take from Tei Shi’s raw lyricism and unique melodies, and upon the first listen-through I needed more. That’s the effect Tei Shi’s music will have on you: one minute it’s there, and the next it’s gone.
The listener floats through the record with tracks like “Keep Running”, “Como Si” and my personal favorite “Baby”, all of which have distinctive qualities that fit just right into the record’s overarching theme. The musician constantly talks about the fact that she can’t stay confined to one genre in her music, and that’s extremely prevalent on this album.
Tei Shi is about to embark on the Crawl Space tour, making a stop in Columbus at Rumba Cafe on September 17. I was able to ask the singer a few questions over email about the recording process, how her culture reflects in her music and what kinds of influences helped her in studio.
TIS: In an interview with NY Mag in 2015, you talked about how you don’t stay confined to one genre – something that’s pretty obvious on Crawl Space. When recording the album, what kinds of artists (new and old) inspired those jumps? How does that tie into your songwriting process?
Tei Shi: There are all kind of artists that inspire me and I think I draw little bits of inspiration across a lot of different plains and styles. Anything from films and visuals that stick with me to things I read, to music of course.
During the album there were certain discoveries or things I delved into that influenced the diversity in the instrumentation from song to song. For example Kate Bush, The Cardigans, Gal Costa, Janet Jackson. I wouldn’t say the songwriting process is really informed by these references or by specific things I was listening to, it’s more like a swirling of different bits that are in the back of my head and then when I’m recording a song and figuring out the direction it will go in, some of those references make their way in. It’s a difficult thing to pinpoint though, I think a lot of it is very subconscious.
TIS: Tell me a little more about recording Crawl Space. What’s your favorite in-studio moment? Did you do anything drastically different in studio this time around than what you did when recording your two EPs? I read that one main difference was a reliance on recording on your laptop, but can you elaborate?
Tei Shi: The main difference was really having a studio space to work in, so stepping out of that bedroom laptop set up allowed for me to approach the music and the recording process differently.
I think I re-recorded all of the vocals probably three or four times for every song, in different studios and environments. It ate up a lot of time but it was a really useful experience for me.
My favorite moments were when we had the tracks established and were able to bring in musician friends to play some of the parts live, and add their own take on stuff. Getting to record horns on some of the tracks was really fun and exciting for me. Also having live drums on a good amount of the album, that was really awesome and is so important to me now.
I also was able to be a lot more obsessive about how the vocals were recorded. I think I re-recorded all of the vocals probably three or four times for every song, in different studios and environments. It ate up a lot of time but it was a really useful experience for me. There were really a lot of great moments!
TIS: What was it like to finally release such a powerful debut about conquering fears? What’s something you’d want audiences and first-time listeners to take away from your music/live performance?
Tei Shi: I think I would just like them to be surprised, or to in some way break whatever expectations they may have going into it. With the album in particular, I wanted to make something that takes you through different turns and where you find yourself being surprised or walking away with a sense that you got something different than what you expected. I hope to achieve the same thing with the live show.
TIS: What was it like performing at the Latin Alternative Music Conference? How does your heritage and background tie into your music? (As someone who is of Dominican decent, I find it interesting how many artists are incorporating their roots into their sound … especially with the growth of Spanish music in the U.S. as of late).
Tei Shi: It was really great getting to be a part of the LAMC. I would love to do more within the Latin music world. My culture and background is a big part of my identity, and that goes into everything I do. I think it’s amazing that there are so many Latin artists out there making interesting music that doesn’t adhere to what people would necessarily label as ‘Latin music’.
Because Latin music is more than one thing or one genre or style, it is many different styles and colors and faces. So for me, being a small part of that is really important. I would love to collaborate with more artists in Spanish and bring more Latin music influence into some of my sound as well.
TIS: What’s next for Tei Shi?
Tei Shi: This tour is a big focus right now, it’ll be the longest I’ve ever done (almost 2 months) so that’s kind of taking up most of my headspace right now. But outside of that, definitely some more visual content and videos, and some new music/collaborations with other people are in the works.
Catch Tei Shi on tour, you won’t regret it.
You can listen to Crawl Space on Spotify below.
Featured Image: NME & Jenn Five // Tei Shi at SXSW 2017