While most artists purge the internet from any remnants of their pre-professional work, Tei Shi, a.k.a. Valerie Teicher, revels in it.
“I’m a bad singer. I confess it. And I’m a hell of a bad girl,” her 10-year-old-self mumbles into the microphone, inflicting a tinge of danger on the word “bad.” The sample is sandwiched between two tracks on her full-length debut Crawl Space, along with a few other tidbits from her childhood days of messing around with a recorder. Under most circumstances, the juvenile rambling would be considered embarrassing, but for Teicher, it’s just a reconnection with her roots.
“These are really personal for me because they’re bits of recordings I made of myself on cassette tapes when I was about 9 or 10,” Teicher says. “I used to sit in my room and record myself singing, making up songs, talking to myself, all sorts of stuff. I came across them again a few years ago and kept them in mind for when I made a full-length album. It made sense to me to tie my first album back to my childhood and my desires at that time to be a singer and performer when I grew up.”
Each excerpt is a cute addition to Teicher’s very mature debut, except anyone who’s paid any attention to her knows that she shattered eardrums with “Bassically” in 2015, the tune that proved her stake in the powerhouse pop industry. Now with the equally potent, stirring, and groovy Crawl Space in tow (it dropped in March via Interscope), Teicher performs at Great Scott on Thursday (May 11) with support from Salt Cathedral.
Ironically, there’s no place that more like a “crawl space” in Boston than the intimate Allston venue.
“I really liked the physical and instinctive nature of the word ‘crawl’ and the album name stemmed from that,” she adds. “I think there’s something unsettling but also familiar and intimate about a crawlspace, and I think that’s a good contrast of feelings that I like to play with in my music and visuals. There’s also a theme of confronting fears woven into the album and the process for me of making it.”
From the album’s lead single “Keep Running,” a slinky electro-R&B confection, to the deliciously hard synth line of “How Far,” Teicher fills the album with breathy sensuality, only occasionally coming down from her vibe-y stratosphere to press play on her childhood recordings. Her vibrant surrealism peaks on the album cover, where she bares a very real tarantula on her cheek.
“The tarantula artwork was also a practice in that, something to confront and overcome,” ” Teicher explains. “Getting comfortable with the tarantula was a bit of a process but once I held it in my hand, I was able to see how relaxed and innocent that particular one was. Once I got past the initial fear of having it on you, it was quite relaxed.”
Luckily for fans, Crawl Space ain’t no Pet Sounds, so the show should be arachnid-free — though we can’t speak for the rest of Allston.
TEI SHI + SALT CATHEDRAL :: Thursday, May 11 at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston, MA :: 9 p.m., 18-plus, $14 in advance and $16 day of show :: Advance tickets :: Bowery Boston event page :: Featured photo by J.J. Medina