Tei Shi Comes Full Circle with New Album, 'Crawl Space'

Tei Shi Comes Full Circle with New Album, 'Crawl Space'

The singer talks about how her past helped her find confidence and shaped her debut album.

The singer talks about how her past helped her find confidence and shaped her debut album.

Photography: Jeff Henrikson

Styling: Julian Jesus

Text: Ian David Monroe

In a city as bustling with anxious energy as New York, Valerie Teicher, better known as Tei Shi, is making quiet, ‘80s R&B-tinged music that forces its listeners to dive into something deeper: “a different space within myself,” as Teicher describes it.

With her debut album, Crawl Space, which comes almost two years after 2015’s Saudade EP, a fully realized artist emerges, but not without nods to her journey getting there. “I’m a bad singer. Can’t do anything well…I just hope one day I can be like Britney Spears,” says a young Teicher in a cassette tape-recorded interlude. The recordings that are sprinkled throughout the album mark a seminal moment of an artist. “[My sister] gave me tapes and was like, You can record yourself on here, and that was the most exciting thing ever to me—to be able to record my voice.” As the youngest child in her house, Teicher's passion for singing was born from a need to be heard. “I think being the youngest of four women and having all this energy in the house, and all these different dynamics, sometimes when you’re the youngest you don’t get a chance to express yourself as much."

Today, fortunately, Teicher is neither a bad singer nor Britney Spears. “It was interesting for me to revisit those same feelings and thoughts from when I was little. I also enjoy the juxtaposition of those bits—bringing myself down then following that up with an empowered song/vocal delivery,” she says, adding, “I’ve always had a lot of self-doubt and have been pretty self-deprecating, I guess.”

Feelings of insecurity are common for artists that find widespread attention quickly, with the pressures of delivering another hit looming ominously overhead, but Teicher's are different. "I think for me those insecurities are more internal than external. For me, earlier on there was a lot of questioning of am I actually good at this? I worked through that a lot, and I think, through this album, came to a way more confident place and owned myself more, and put myself out there more."

For the album's accompanying visuals, Teicher tapped directors with Colombian, Mexican, and Argentinian backgrounds—"Keep Running" by Agostina Gálvez, and "How Far" by DREAMTIGER, aka Jonatan Lopez and Adrian Arrendondo. Given her own Colombian heritage, the synergy between artists was effortless. "It's not on purpose, but I think that I really enjoyed [working with them]. I like working with people who I share certain things in common with, and there is definitely a nice camaraderie and shared sensibilities, shared culture, obviously."

That connection with her upbringing spawned the album's Spanish-language track "Como Si." On it, she says, "I feel like in general people are so confused with where I'm from, so I think a lot of people don't know that I speak Spanish, or don't know that I have that background."

Teicher was born in Argentina, to a Colombian mother. Her father is Polish and a Holocaust survivor who fled to South America after World War II, so she grew up Jewish, too. At around eight years old, she moved to Canada, the same time those recordings started. To try to label her is impossible and pointless, a lot like trying to put her music into a box. "What I want to do musically and creatively is just make music in a lot of different styles and genres, but have them all kind of tie into something that is easy to swallow—to a certain extent."

Crawl Space is representative of that journey, of finding confidence again, of solidifying her voice, and, most importantly, tapping into her past to conquer her present. The title is an allusion to confronting her childhood fear of the dark, of a nightly routine of sitting in a crawl space for a minute, reminding herself that she can conquer things. “The fear of putting myself out there more fully, of putting my face on what I do—before, I hid a bit behind the more ethereal music...I also never really had myself on the EP covers. With [Crawl Space] there was a conscious decision to attach myself more personally to everything, to say that this music and this project is a direct reflection of who I am as a person."

Buy Crawl Space on iTunes. 

CLOTHING KENZO JEWLRY CHROME HEARTS
Credits: MAKEUP STEVEN CANAVAN (L'ATELIER NYC) HAIR RUDY MARTINS (THE WALL GROUP) PHOTO ASSISTANT JORDAN ZUPPA STYLIST ASSISTANT KACEY HIRSCHBERG

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