Tei Shi

Q&A: Tei Shi

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Tei Shi is the moniker of Valerie Teicher, an NYC-based artist who grew up in Bogota, Colombia. Following a string of performances with — including a killer show at The Warfield in San Francisco — the sultry siren released her eagerly anticipated full-length Crawl Space last month to rave reviews.

About Tei Shi the New Yorker was quoted as saying, “The spindly compositions that Valerie Teicher records as Tei Shi are fierce in their modesty, making spare use of whispered high notes and loud screams for a well-studied blend of Janet and Gwen.”

While recuperating from her last mini-tour, she was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Music in SF. We discussed her current tour, the new album and found out a couple of interesting factoids about her personal life.

You recently played the Swedish American Music Hall in San Francisco. What do you like most about playing in this city?

I really like San Francisco, and one of the things I like about playing there (and in California in general) is how many Spanish speaking people come to the shows. I love it. I love seeing more and more Latin people at my shows especially now that I sing in Spanish during my set as well.

You recently released your first full-length release. How has the response been so far?

It’s felt good, I have felt only positive feedback from outside which is nice. I’m happy and proud of the album on a personal level, so that’s the most important. But it’s been amazing going out and doing shows and actually making the connection with people who are listening to it.

Tei Shi Performs at The Warfield in San Francisco on 3.20.17
Tei Shi Performing at The Warfield in San Francisco on 3.20.17

This album is a little different from your two previous EPs. What was the direction you wanted to take this time around?

I wanted to make something that was more diverse, and that featured more live instrumentation than electronic sounds. I made the EPs mostly off of laptops and with little resources at hand so as a result, the music was more electronic and minimalistic in its production. With this album I wanted a chance to write songs that could live in a lot of different soundscapes and genres, to bring musicians into play some of the parts, to be able to pay attention to the arrangements and the detail on each song. I also focused more on my vocals and featuring them in a more forward way. The melodies are a lot more dynamic and demanding to sing, so I was able to flex more on that end.

What was the inspiration for the intriguing album cover?

The idea came out of the word ‘crawl’ which was where the album title originated. I wanted something visual that would evoke that visceral word. The tarantula was one of the first ideas and was also kind of inspired by an old Michael Jackson magazine cover with a tarantula on him. It felt beautiful and also kind of off-putting, which is a good duality in music as well.

Can you explain the album title and what the overall theme of the album is?

The album title references an emotional space where you become cramped and kind of stuffed inside a negative or oppressive environment. You’re forced to face fears and yourself, and that related a lot to how I felt while I was making the album and to the prospect of making a debut album as a whole. It also ties back to my childhood, when I used to have a hard time at night with a lot of fear and anxiety, and to overcome it I started forcing myself to sit in the crawl space of our house (which was the scariest of all places for me) for one minute each night.

You recently went on tour with MØ. What was that like?

It was really fun. A lot of her fans are on the younger side so they’re super energetic and receptive and that was cool for me. Her audiences were really loving towards me and she herself is a total sweetheart. It was a really great experience for me.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

Getting up in the morning every Saturday with my older sister and dancing to Carlos Vives (a Colombian musician) on top of her bed.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in music today?

All of the things outside of making the music will probably discourage you and dissuade you along the way, so just focus on making music that you love, and everything else will be worthwhile.

Can you share with our readers one thing that nobody knows about you?

I am a candy fiend, and I have a monthly book club with my friends.

Check out our review and photos of Tei Shi on tour with MØ here.

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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