Interview: Tei Shi talks Bogotá, Britney Spears, and Berklee ahead of her upcoming North American tour

Tei Shi, the moniker of Valerie Teicher, grew up in Buenos Aires, Bogota and Vancouver, and now lives in Chinatown in New York City. Her music takes influence from this diverse range of environments, using her vocals and sparse musical backdrops to create lush, delicate pop music. Recently, The New York Times included Tei Shi in a “30 Under 30” special and Billboard called her album “Crawl Space” one of the Top 50 Albums of 2017 So Far.

Tei Shi is currently on a North American tour that includes stops at Hopscotch Festival, Cayuga Sound and The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Dates are below and tickets are at www.tei-shi.com.

Tei Shi at SXSW

I remember from an event that you pointed out that people sometimes don’t know if they should call you Tei Shi or Val. Did you ever consider performing under your birth name? How did you deal with the mix of names you’re called?
I never considered going by my real name, I actually knew that I definitely did not want to. I find it too personal associating ‘Val’ or ‘Valerie’ with this whole world that you kind of have to create for yourself when you put out music, videos, etc. Doing all that requires, at least more, pushing aside the very vulnerable and shy parts of me and tapping only into my most confident and careless side. I think separating the project from my every day self helps me do that.

It feels like you’ve been especially present with media, doing lots of interviews and events. How do you prepare yourself for that and keep it enjoyable and interesting?
I actually find interviews and photoshoots and all that stuff pretty enjoyable. Of course it can get repetitive or distracting sometimes but I like talking through things, I think it helps me figure out what I’m feeling and clarify what I want and how I see myself and the project. Making it interesting or worthwhile really just comes down to whether it’s based around something I’m excited about. So if it’s centered on new music, or something in particular that I feel passionate about, and not just me talking about myself for the sake of talking about myself, then it’s good

Dazed described your video for “How Far” as channeling the Coen Brothers. Are there certain directors or maybe just visual artists generally that inspire your videos or creative direction?
Definitely. There’s a lot of random visual inspiration and I love films, so when I have downtime I like to watch a lot of movies. I guess some examples would be Dario Argento, David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar, and Bruce Conner.

You’ve also talked about Britney Spears as an inspiration, as a “powerful female artist.” Do you feel a responsibility to be that sort of artist as well?
I feel a need to be a very diverse kind of person overall, I think it’s important to present that to people given the chance. The idea that all people are multi dimensional, and that as an artist or as a human being you don’t have to put yourself into a box in order to please other people. I think if you have any kind of public platform, you have to use it for something beyond yourself. You have to care about something outside of yourself. I’d like to be the kind of artist that people feel they can really get to know through the work. Not just be a distant idea or alien kind of creature that people can’t relate to. I think there are a lot of people right now demonstrating that you can be both a pop star, and an intelligent, empathetic, complex person as well. I’d like to be a part of that.

Do you stay in touch with your classmates from Berklee? Are there any working on projects that you especially like?
I was very much surrounded by a lot of people from Berklee when I first moved to New York and when I began this project as Tei Shi. At this point it’s less so, though my band is largely made up of Berklee graduates and I still have some close friends who went there. I love seeing what some of my peers are up to. So many of them are making amazing music, like Nick Hakim, Sonnymoon, Empress Of, Anna Wise and Big Thief.

How often do you return to Buenos Aires, Bogota, and Vancouver? Do you still have family in all those places?
I go to Bogota about once a year-year and a half. My parents still live there most of the time so I mainly go to visit them. They spend the rest of the year in Vancouver, and two of my sisters and my nephew live there so I visit there the most. I hadn’t been to Buenos Aires since I was about 5 years old until last November when I visited for the firs time. I’d love to go back more but I don’t have family there and am much more a tourist in that city.

What are some of your favorite places in Chinatown?
I love Joy’s Flower Shop. It’s a small shop run by Joy who is an amazing florist and badass woman. I treat myself to flowers from there now and then. Cheeky’s Sandwiches is awesome and one of my favorite spots food-wise. Chinatown Soup is a really cool gallery/community space that has a very DIY energy. It’s run by a friend of mine and is a really special place. I had my birthday there! I also love Metrograph theatre. When I have a day off with nothing to do (which sadly isn’t often anymore) I love going to the matinee screenings by myself.

Tour Dates
Sep 8 Washington, DC, USA – U Street Music Hall
Sep 9 Raleigh, NC, USA – Hopscotch Festival Tickets
Sep 10 Atlanta, GA, USA – Aisle 5
Sep 12 Dallas, TX, USA – Club Dada
Sep 13 Houston, TX, USA – White Oak Music Hall
Sep 14 Austin, TX, USA – Stubb’s Jr
Sep 16 Saint Louis, MO, USA – Fubar
Sep 17 Columbus, OH, USA – Rumba Cafe
Sep 19 Allston, MA, USA – Great Scott
Sep 20 Brooklyn, NY, USA – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sep 22 Philadelphia, PA, USA – Foundry @ Fillmore
Sep 23 Ithaca, NY, USA – Cayuga Sound Festival
Sep 24 Pittsburgh, PA, USA – Cattivo
Sep 26 Ottawa, Canada – Mavericks
Sep 27 Montreal Metro Area, Canada – Cafe Campus
Sep 28 Toronto, Canada – The Mod Club
Sep 29 Detroit, MI, USA – El Club
Sep 30 Chicago, IL, USA – Shuba’s
Oct 3 Minneapolis, MN, USA – 7th Street Entry
Oct 4 Winnipeg, Canada – The Park
Oct 5 Saskatoon, Canada – Amigo’s
Oct 6 Edmonton, Canada – The Needle
Oct 7 Calgary, Canada – Commonwealth
Oct 11 Victoria, Canada – Sugar
Oct 12 Vancouver, Canada – Biltmore
Oct 14 Seattle, WA, USA – barboza
Oct 15 Portland, OR, USA – Holocene
Oct 17 San Francisco, CA, USA – Rickshaw Stop
Oct 18 Santa Barbara, CA, USA – Soho Music Club
Oct 20 Los Angeles, CA, USA – Echoplex
Oct 21 San Diego, CA, USA – Soda Bar
Oct 23 Salt Lake City, UT, USA – Kilby Court
Oct 24 Denver, CO, USA – Larimer Lounge

Brian Benton
Brian is the founder and editor of Respect Your Youngers. He currently lives in New York City, and previously lived in St. Louis and San Francisco. He enjoys public transportation and coffee, and can be found online at brianfbenton.com

Interview: Tei Shi talks Bogotá, Britney Spears, and Berklee ahead of her upcoming North American tour

Tei Shi, the moniker of Valerie Teicher, grew up in Buenos Aires, Bogota and Vancouver, and now lives in Chinatown in New York City. Her music takes influence from this diverse range of environments, using her vocals and sparse musical backdrops to create lush, delicate pop music. Recently, The New York Times included Tei Shi in a “30 Under 30” special and Billboard called her album “Crawl Space” one of the Top 50 Albums of 2017 So Far.

Tei Shi is currently on a North American tour that includes stops at Hopscotch Festival, Cayuga Sound and The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Dates are below and tickets are at www.tei-shi.com.

Tei Shi at SXSW

I remember from an event that you pointed out that people sometimes don’t know if they should call you Tei Shi or Val. Did you ever consider performing under your birth name? How did you deal with the mix of names you’re called?
I never considered going by my real name, I actually knew that I definitely did not want to. I find it too personal associating ‘Val’ or ‘Valerie’ with this whole world that you kind of have to create for yourself when you put out music, videos, etc. Doing all that requires, at least more, pushing aside the very vulnerable and shy parts of me and tapping only into my most confident and careless side. I think separating the project from my every day self helps me do that.

It feels like you’ve been especially present with media, doing lots of interviews and events. How do you prepare yourself for that and keep it enjoyable and interesting?
I actually find interviews and photoshoots and all that stuff pretty enjoyable. Of course it can get repetitive or distracting sometimes but I like talking through things, I think it helps me figure out what I’m feeling and clarify what I want and how I see myself and the project. Making it interesting or worthwhile really just comes down to whether it’s based around something I’m excited about. So if it’s centered on new music, or something in particular that I feel passionate about, and not just me talking about myself for the sake of talking about myself, then it’s good

Dazed described your video for “How Far” as channeling the Coen Brothers. Are there certain directors or maybe just visual artists generally that inspire your videos or creative direction?
Definitely. There’s a lot of random visual inspiration and I love films, so when I have downtime I like to watch a lot of movies. I guess some examples would be Dario Argento, David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar, and Bruce Conner.

You’ve also talked about Britney Spears as an inspiration, as a “powerful female artist.” Do you feel a responsibility to be that sort of artist as well?
I feel a need to be a very diverse kind of person overall, I think it’s important to present that to people given the chance. The idea that all people are multi dimensional, and that as an artist or as a human being you don’t have to put yourself into a box in order to please other people. I think if you have any kind of public platform, you have to use it for something beyond yourself. You have to care about something outside of yourself. I’d like to be the kind of artist that people feel they can really get to know through the work. Not just be a distant idea or alien kind of creature that people can’t relate to. I think there are a lot of people right now demonstrating that you can be both a pop star, and an intelligent, empathetic, complex person as well. I’d like to be a part of that.

Do you stay in touch with your classmates from Berklee? Are there any working on projects that you especially like?
I was very much surrounded by a lot of people from Berklee when I first moved to New York and when I began this project as Tei Shi. At this point it’s less so, though my band is largely made up of Berklee graduates and I still have some close friends who went there. I love seeing what some of my peers are up to. So many of them are making amazing music, like Nick Hakim, Sonnymoon, Empress Of, Anna Wise and Big Thief.

How often do you return to Buenos Aires, Bogota, and Vancouver? Do you still have family in all those places?
I go to Bogota about once a year-year and a half. My parents still live there most of the time so I mainly go to visit them. They spend the rest of the year in Vancouver, and two of my sisters and my nephew live there so I visit there the most. I hadn’t been to Buenos Aires since I was about 5 years old until last November when I visited for the firs time. I’d love to go back more but I don’t have family there and am much more a tourist in that city.

What are some of your favorite places in Chinatown?
I love Joy’s Flower Shop. It’s a small shop run by Joy who is an amazing florist and badass woman. I treat myself to flowers from there now and then. Cheeky’s Sandwiches is awesome and one of my favorite spots food-wise. Chinatown Soup is a really cool gallery/community space that has a very DIY energy. It’s run by a friend of mine and is a really special place. I had my birthday there! I also love Metrograph theatre. When I have a day off with nothing to do (which sadly isn’t often anymore) I love going to the matinee screenings by myself.

Tour Dates
Sep 8 Washington, DC, USA – U Street Music Hall
Sep 9 Raleigh, NC, USA – Hopscotch Festival Tickets
Sep 10 Atlanta, GA, USA – Aisle 5
Sep 12 Dallas, TX, USA – Club Dada
Sep 13 Houston, TX, USA – White Oak Music Hall
Sep 14 Austin, TX, USA – Stubb’s Jr
Sep 16 Saint Louis, MO, USA – Fubar
Sep 17 Columbus, OH, USA – Rumba Cafe
Sep 19 Allston, MA, USA – Great Scott
Sep 20 Brooklyn, NY, USA – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sep 22 Philadelphia, PA, USA – Foundry @ Fillmore
Sep 23 Ithaca, NY, USA – Cayuga Sound Festival
Sep 24 Pittsburgh, PA, USA – Cattivo
Sep 26 Ottawa, Canada – Mavericks
Sep 27 Montreal Metro Area, Canada – Cafe Campus
Sep 28 Toronto, Canada – The Mod Club
Sep 29 Detroit, MI, USA – El Club
Sep 30 Chicago, IL, USA – Shuba’s
Oct 3 Minneapolis, MN, USA – 7th Street Entry
Oct 4 Winnipeg, Canada – The Park
Oct 5 Saskatoon, Canada – Amigo’s
Oct 6 Edmonton, Canada – The Needle
Oct 7 Calgary, Canada – Commonwealth
Oct 11 Victoria, Canada – Sugar
Oct 12 Vancouver, Canada – Biltmore
Oct 14 Seattle, WA, USA – barboza
Oct 15 Portland, OR, USA – Holocene
Oct 17 San Francisco, CA, USA – Rickshaw Stop
Oct 18 Santa Barbara, CA, USA – Soho Music Club
Oct 20 Los Angeles, CA, USA – Echoplex
Oct 21 San Diego, CA, USA – Soda Bar
Oct 23 Salt Lake City, UT, USA – Kilby Court
Oct 24 Denver, CO, USA – Larimer Lounge

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