Desire another snippet of Brooklyn life? Sultry goddess Tei Shi takes us on a tour of New York’s answer to Hackney – Bushwick

Tei Shi

Desire another snippet of Brooklyn life? New York’s answer to Hackney, Bushwick has undergone some serious gentrification over the last few years. A hotbed of musicians, sultry goddess Tei Shi is in her element. Come with us as we venture into her subconscious and around a neighbourhood that most describe as magical.

If you need an injection of the unfamiliar in your music library, described endlessly as addictive, Tei Shi provides a much-needed musical fix. Having lived a life that some would say surpasses transient, it’s hard to pin down what musical genre the singer falls under or decipher her musical influences. It is next to impossible to categorize Tei Shi’s unique sound and lines have never been so blurred: her eclectic mix of R&B, electronic and left-pop is a winning formula. One half of an alt-pop power couple, the sea siren steps out with her drummer Luca who is also in folk rock band Yellerkin. Let the journey begin.

Beacon’s Closet

Proudly locally owned and operated, this female founded chain has three stores in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.  If you’re looking for the most diverse range of second hand gear, this is your pit stop.

Tei Shi Beacon's Closet Portrait

Mr Kiwi’s

For those in the know, this unassuming Bodega makes juice of the Gods. Just approach the lovely ladies at the front of the convenience store and choose from a rainbow of exotic fruits and veggies.

Tei Shei Mr Kiwi's

Little Skips

This darling of a café supplies Bushwick with some of the best sandwiches in the area. Once thought of as a hidden gem, the eatery is now packed from dawn till dusk. Tei Shi always plumps for a vegan BLT: it’s all about the cilantro-lime aioli.

Tei Shei Little Skips

Human Head

It’s been an eventful year and a half for this curious record store. Having opened the time Tei Shi moved to NYC, Human Head has become a hub for the singer and her friends. Owner Travis ensures there’s always something on from World Cup showings and shows to Tei Shi’s EP release party.

Campbell’s Cheese and Grocery

Introduced to this foodie heaven by her music video filmmaker, Tei Shi says this delicatessen is a must if you’re in the mood for weird cheese.

Café Capris

Allegedly the best iced coffee in NYC, this little spot serves coffee and pastries amongst other weird and wonderful paraphernalia. Run by a local celebrity husband and wife, the duo has been churning up iced coffee chips since 1974. Tei Shi adores the similar vibe to her grandma’s house.

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Your childhood was transient. How did you adapt to moving from place to place?

From earlier on I developed a personality that allowed me to adapt to different environments because it’s such a part of my family. The biggest move I made from Columbia to Canada was at eight years old so it went over my head. When you’re that young you could be anywhere. I adapted unknowingly at that time.

Tell us what you love about life in Brooklyn.

I love the laid back nature especially of having lived in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. Brooklyn seems less intense than the city and it’s all very residential. I like walking around, playing with my band, writing and collaborating with people.

And you stay with your boyfriend Luca who is part of your band…

He’s helped produced all of my stuff until now and he’s one of the first people I showed my songs to and encouraged me to take them more seriously and pursue music more interestingly. He plays in a band called Yellerkin along with my friend Adrian so he’s involved in a lot of different projects.

And how do you find your working together impacts on your relationship and visa versa?

I guess the line gets blurred a lot because it’s still just an extension of us working together the way we naturally do. And visa versa the working together also get’s us to know each other better.

Your music has been described as R&B and soul to lefty-pop. If you had to describe your genre, what would it be?

I’ve been surprised that a lot of people describe me as an R&B singer. I think nowadays genres are so mixed and people draw upon different influences. There’s less distinction between genres so I like that it’s hard to describe. Mermaid music is something I identify with most. Sometimes I’ll say my genre of music is indie-pop with some electronic stuff.

You’ve said in the past that you resonate with being a mermaid. What do you adore about the life aquatic?

There’s something fantastical about it, something mythical and ethereal.

But the reality of aquatic life is definitely not majestic. It just seems like such an ultimate free life. I think being a mermaid would be a really lovely lifestyle. I’ve had a thing for mermaids ever since I was little. It’s a whole other world that’s in a way untouched and that would be such an amazing environment to hang out in.

You have a sensual stage presence. Is this a persona, an alter-ego or a part of yourself that comes alive during performance?

It’s a very sensual thing for some people, it’s very emotional for others and physically they react very uniquely to music. I feel as if I’m unaware of it because a lot of the time I feel as though I’m in my own head. I peace out a little bit. A part of me that’s subconscious comes out and allows me to let loose more.

Your style of music is pioneering. What influences do you draw upon past and present to create a unique sound?

Things are definitely harder to put in a category these days because there’s more access. Because I grew up in varied environments, I feel like my childhood and my life has a lot of different cultural influences. I’ve been exposed to South American music and Spanish then a lot of Columbian. I grew up listening to a lot of folk and classic rock because of my parents. I also grew up listening to Queen, Bob Dylan and The Beatles, which is not at all present in my music. D’Angelo then later on a lot of hip hop and electronic music so all that comes in to play: I feel like vocally I draw from some R&B influences but I also love the production side of things to include more electronic and minimal.

What was it like working with Glass Animals on Holiest?

It was a very quick process. I listened to some of the instrumental loops that they sent me and the one that ended up being Holiest I love. I wrote over it throughout the day then recorded the vocals over it and sent it to Dave of Glass Animals and he was like “Yeah! Let’s go with it!”

The lyrics in M&Ms “I had a dream that you left me, I deserved it” are arresting. Would you say you were a realist or your own worst critic?

That lyric came out of an actual dream that had nothing to do with a relationship. I had this dream that my dad had left my family and he’d found another woman. In my dream there was this underlying understanding that it was my fault. It’s interesting I had that dream it was when I first moved to New York. It was such a strange thing waking up from a nightmare like that. I totally feel the line could be applied to a relationship. Dreams are such a fascinating thing to me: it’s a distant thing that’s out of your control.

In your video for Never Mind the End you seduce an elderly man. What meaning are we supposed to draw from this?

It’s about a young girl preying on an older man. I don’t know where this image came from but I thought it would be cool to do a role reversal. Usually the girl is the object. There is definitely a seduction element to it. It’s just so off-putting and creepy and it adds a really dark layer to an otherwise upbeat song.

Words: Elinor Sigman.


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