We first fell for Tei Shi (aka Valerie Teicher) when she released her Verde EP back in 2015. The Argentina/Colombia/Vancouver/Montreal/New York indie pop artist (whose influences range as far as the various places she’s lived) dropped her debut album, titled Crawl Space, earlier this year on Arts & Crafts.
Needless to say, the Berklee College of Music grad is steadily on the rise, and fans are falling fast, just as we did, for Tei Shi’s unique take on vulnerable yet infectious indie-pop. It’s hard to run away from her track “Keep Running,” while “How Far” takes us all the way. We caught up with Teicher at Toronto’s Fort York after she slayed her Field Trip set to talk about her festival essentials, both physical and ethereal.
A.Side: How do you survive festival season? What are your tips and tricks that make you feel better when things getoverwhelming?
Tei Shi: I’m literally the worst person to ask this because I’m so ill-equipped at anything has to do with taking care of yourself.
It’s all about learning from your mistakes.
I had the worst insomnia for literally three nights straight, so I was feeling super crazy today, and I think I should be asking someone else what their tips are for dealing with it. I think sleep is the most important thing, just in every way. I guess my little tips are probably to dress for the occasion, and definitely keep your hair out of your face. Wear something that’s comfortable. Wear sneakers. Wear stuff that you’re not too precious about.
Cause it will get dirty
Cause it will get dirty, and it will get hot.
Yeah, all that. But you still wanna be able to move and get down. I think objectively, probably sleeping and eating well are the best things and I can’t seem to get those things right.
Do you have any routines that you like to do before you go on stage to centre yourself or to hype yourself up? To get in the zone?
I always make tea with whiskey before a show.
Yeah and then I just put music on my phone and I sing along, and that’s how I warm up and get pumped up before a show. That’s my little me moment.
Is it always the same song or do you switch it up to whatever you’re feeling right now?
It’s usually a playlist of female vocalists anywhere from Whitney Houston to Feist. Just stuff that I like to sing to and that I feel helps me warm up and get in the zone.
Feel those powerful lady vibes!
Sick! Any bare essentials that you always have to have in your bag?
Chapstick! Lip balm! I have one for every bag. Tea. I always have a hair clip. I always have matches. I have these little mementos and things that I keep in my purses and bags and I never take them out. For example, I have a photo that’s like super old from when I was on the road with Ollie from Years & Years and it’s never left my bag. I guess I have a lot of little personal trinkets. But as far as survival, I think I’m good with a chapstick and tea…
Bare essentials baby.
Sunglasses. Yeah. Extra pair of socks.
Very underrated. That’s the big hitter. Any advice that you wish you’d told yourself when you were younger? Or advice you’d like to give a younger you?
I feel like the younger me would be able to give my current self a lot of advice.
Like to not get like in my own head so much and just be able to enjoy experiences as they happen. That would be my advice to myself going back, maybe even just a couple years. Just being able to be in the moment and actually live in the present, experience the things that I’m experiencing without worrying about what isn’t there or what the next thing is. Yeah. That would be my advice.
Enjoy the moment, it’s beautiful. Groovy. Yay!
On your debut album Crawl Space, there are these little audio clips of yourself as a child sprinkled throughout. Can you talk a little bit about those clips and their history?
I used to record myself on cassette tapes when I was little. My older sister handed down her boombox and she showed me how to use the tape recorder, so it just became my little thing that I would do in my room, singing and making up songs. It was like a diary, just kinda talking to myself. I came across them a few years ago. I had totally forgotten about them, came across them, I was like, “this is gold, I wanna use this for something!” I just kinda had it in the back of my head that when I made a full length, I wanted to somehow incorporate those. I sifted through a bunch of them when I was finishing the album and I whittled it down to a few little bits that I felt like went well with the track list and the flow of the album.
It’s very vulnerable too in this beautiful way, and it’s amazing that you could even find those tapes! There’s this idea that pop music can’t be vulnerable, or is, for some reason, not as honest. What are your thoughts on that, seeing as you’re a big pop fan in general?
I don’t really separate pop music from other music. I think of music that I like. I think a lot of people, can appreciate pop music and then appreciate some really left field shit too. Pop music isn’t what I listen to on a daily basis, but I think there’s so much great pop music and I think there’s something really great about a good pop song that is really just the most bare & most direct. It has to be the most vulnerable and direct message for people to connect to. I think finding the way to do that while still making music that’s experimental and is mixing genres and influences—that’s what I wanna do. That’s what my goal is, but always keeping it very *me* and making it clear that this is not a constructed thing. I think tying the album back to my childhood in that way was my way of doing that.
This interview has been edited for clarity