Valerie Teicher, aka Tei Shi, is a songwriter and producer whose debut album, Crawl Space, is one of the standout indie pop records of 2017. She’s on tour throughout September and October and we’ve got a pair of free tickets to give away for select shows throughout the fall!
Crawl Space documents Tei Shi’s transformation from the cautious and curious new kid on the block to a confident, self-possessed artist. Written and recorded over a year and a half, the album traces a much wider arc, from Tei Shi’s earliest musical explorations to this, her first long player. Growth is never easy, though, and if the title makes the process sound difficult, even claustrophobic, that’s because it was. In fact, there is a palpable physicality surrounding this record, and it reveals itself everywhere: from the album’s song titles (Keep Running, Lift Me), to its rhythms, to its astonishing cover art. Constant motion is a fact of life. A real, physical crawlspace fits only one person and demands that person move forward, out and through it. Tei Shi’s debut evokes that feeling and the experience of centering oneself, changing focus.
Born Valerie Teicher, Tei Shi remembers composing songs as early as eight years old — sometimes in a diary, other times recording herself on tapes (some of which are featured on the album) — setting down phrases or melodies as they came to her. Born in Buenos Aires and growing up between Bogota, Colombia and Vancouver, Canada, she began dreaming of herself as a singer, a performer and an artist. Perhaps symbolic of this newfound determination, around the same time, she struggled with an extreme fear of the night and entered a period of insomnia. To combat this new fear of the dark and unknown she forced herself to hide inside her family home’s crawlspace for a minute each night, in order to confront her fear. This crawl space became a sort of symbol for her at this formative phase of her life.
With each new song and performance, however, successes and encouragement began to pile up and while at the beginning Tei Shi flourished in a collaborative and peer-based environment she realized over time she needed to reclaim her own singular creative space. “I started to realize I didn’t have a clear sense of myself as an artist independent from the people I was surrounded by,” she says. Ultimately it took the end of a relationship that had begun around the inception of herself as Tei Shi to spearhead her own musical development. “That relationship was not only a huge part of my life, it was an integral part of the identity I had formed around Tei Shi,” she explains. “It had spanned my whole experience as Tei Shi and had been very interwoven with it.” That breakup came to a head partway through recording the songs that would come to make up Crawl Space, and while the relationship is deeply embedded into the album, the songs explore something less like heartbreak, something closer to the deconstruction of identity.
Crawl Space traces the arc of major changes across every facet of Tei Shi’s life, and embodies the sound of an artist creating and commanding her own space. And while the process can be claustrophobic, Tei Shi proves that it can also be liberating, even exhilarating.