In-flight with Tei Shi. Interview

When we first came across Tei Shi, she was playing an early NXNE set at Toronto’s Wrongbar. Born Valerie Teicher, her music was referred to as “mermaid music” by Interview Magazine and made Noisey “tingle with delight”. By the end of that set at Wrongbar, it was safe to say that the dark room was sharing a girl crush on Teicher.

Tei Shi has been back to Toronto since then and is currently wrapping up her North American tour with a set at Bestival Toronto and at Squamish Valley Music Festival. Quip got a chance to catch up with Teicher to talk about her beginnings and future plans.

Kateryna Topol: I remember seeing you at NXNE last summer, great show, you appeared very confident on stage – it was impressive, how did you get into music? 

Tei Shi: Thank you! I was just starting to enjoy myself more and relaxing more on stage around that time, I remember feeling pretty good about that show. Music has always been a big part of my life…my family is full of music fans so I grew up with music around me. My parents exposed me to stuff like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Queen, Billy Joel, stuff like that…pretty early on, as well as some latin music. And my sisters introduced me to stuff that was cool when they were growing up, like Nirvana and Madonna and Michael Jackson. I was always singing and writing songs, but I didn’t start doing it more seriously until I was at music school in Boston.

KT: Were you performing at all as a child? 

TS: I started dancing ballet when I was three and continued doing that along with other types of dance until I was about fifteen, so I performed a lot in my childhood within that context. I did theatre in school as well, so I was performing in plays and things like that. Performing was a part of my life for a long time, but never within the context of performing my own music, or as myself…not until about a year and a half ago.

KT: You seem to move around a lot – Brooklyn, Bogotá, Colombia, Vancouver – what’s the closest place to home for you? 

TS: I’m based in New York now, I guess home feels like anywhere I want it to be, really. Bogota is home in a sense, and Vancouver is home in a sense, but neither place truly felt like where I was supposed to be. New York feels more fitting for me, that’s home for now.

KT: Your most recent EP, Verde, was very well received by the press and the public, one of the tracks premiered with Annie Mac, kind of a big deal – how is all of this approaching fame feeling, odd at all or are you basking in the sunlight?

TS: I definitely don’t feel any proximity to fame at all [laughs]. It’s more the feeling of getting closer to being able to take myself seriously and feel as if I have a real career out of what I love to do. That’s a really exciting process to be building and working on. It was really exciting for me to have “Go Slow” premiered by Annie Mac on her radio show, because I had never had a song released that way, in a more tangible way that I could put myself in a spectator’s position for. Everything I’ve released I have put online, so it’s very much in my own hands and releasing things feels a bit detached in that way. Hearing the song out there for the first time on the radio like that was a new feeling.

KT: How was it working with Glass Animals? Do you have any other collaborations planned? 

TS: Working with Glass Animals was great, it just worked out really well. We sent a couple of emails back and forth and the song was done. It was really easy and smooth and I’m really happy with how that song turned out. I have some other collab stuff in the works, but nothing to mention yet!

KT: How is the tour going so far? 

TS: I actually just finished the UK/Europe tour. I started off doing the East Coast and West Coast in the States with the band, and then we went over to the UK and all around Europe…I’m writing these answers on my flight back from London. The tour went really well, I had a really good time and it was kind of an ideal, first real tour experience. I’m really looking forward to playing Bestival and Squamish and really just enjoying them without having to run around to play another city.

KT: Bestival is promising to be pretty much a carnival, will you be dressing up as well?

TS: I had no idea…I’ll have to look into that!

KT: What are you most looking forward to with the upcoming shows? 

TS: I think I’m most looking forward to playing in Canada and having the chance to have my friends from home come out. Also, my family will be at Squamish, my sisters will see the show for the first time! So I’m excited for that.

KT: What are your plans after the tour, any plans for a full length album? 

TS: I’m actually planning on setting up in Montreal for the summer, once the tour is over and working on new music. So yeah, the beginning of an album is the plan 🙂