Tei Shi Talks ‘Die 4 Ur Love’ and Shares Her Top Apocalypse Playlist Picks

Tei Shi’s high hopes for 2020 were short-lived.

“I feel like there were personal events that happened right off the bat at the beginning of the year that put me in this sad, dark place,” the Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter and producer explains in an interview featured below. “But also I was feeling a really big existential darkness.”

That was the state that Tei Shi was in when she wrote the five songs on her new EP, Die 4 Ur Love, during a week-long visit to Sonic Ranch outside of El Paso, Texas, back in January.

“I really feel like the essence of the EP came together during that week where I wrote the songs, and then the personality, sonically, came together during quarantine,” explains the artist, who recorded much of Die 4 Ur Love from her home studio in Los Angeles. 

“I wanted the EP to sound really intense and in your face and intimate, but also chaotic and fun and more upbeat than my music has been in the past,” she says. “I wanted people to dance around to it, so I think [the songs] were what I needed during these months of isolation. I wanted to throw something on really loud and dance and thrash around but also wallow in my own misery.”

Die 4 Ur Love’s title track perfectly captures that duality, pairing Tei Shi’s lush vocals with propulsive production. Tei Shi is the moniker of electro-pop savant Valerie Barbosa, who’s been hunkering down in LA since her tour with Blood Orange was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over time with everything that’s unfolded and how this year has turned out to be, [the EP] took on a whole new meaning for me and resonates in a different way,” explains Tei Shi. “The production was really shaped around the emotions that I was experiencing in quarantine and isolation with the loss of all these things—a tour that I had been planning for and was really excited about. Any expectations of what our reality was going to be this year were just pulled out from under us.”

We caught up with Tei Shi by phone last week about her experience writing and recording Die 4 Ur Love, which comes after her 2019 album, La Linda, and her 2017 debut full-length, Crawl Space. She also shared her top picks for an apocalypse playlist. Check out the full interview and listen to Tei Shi’s latest singles below.

American Songwriter: What was the last gig you played before quarantine?

Tei Shi: I played two shows in Atlanta. I was opening for Blood Orange, so it was the first two shows of the tour. They were really good shows!

Can you tell us a little bit about the EP as a whole? When did you write and record it?

I wrote this EP in January. I was at this beautiful ranch in Texas and they have amazing studios on it. I’ve been out there a couple of times—I really like working there. I went there for a week and ended up writing all the songs for the EP. 

Then I shifted gears because I was going on tour, so I put it aside for a bit while I got my live show together and went off on the road. When everything got shut down I came home and that was when I really sat down and decided to finish the EP. Pretty much all the recording and production happened during quarantine—I was working with people remotely.

How did you actually record? Do you have equipment in your home?

I have a little home studio, and I was able to do a decent amount of stuff there. But then I was working over Zoom and FaceTime with different producers that I was collaborating with, so those were virtual sessions where they would be in their studio working on stuff, and I would essentially be “in the room” with them. That was how it happened: a lot of emails, phone calls, Zoom calls.

What are some of the inspirations or influences behind the tracks?

I really feel like the essence of the EP came together during that week where I wrote the songs, and then the personality, sonically, came together during quarantine. The songs were very much informed by the state of mind I was in at the time. 2020 had already started off on a really weird note for me. I feel like there were personal events that happened right off the bat at the beginning of the year that put me in this sad, dark place. But also I was feeling a really big existential darkness. I didn’t know exactly where that was coming from, but if we look back at the last few years with everything that’s been going on and the state of the world, it’s not that hard to see that something really big and bad was coming.

I was feeling a lot of those emotions at the beginning of this year, especially because 2019 was a really tough year for me and going into 2020 I had a lot of hope and a lot of expectations. I was like, “2020 is gonna be my year!” I think we all had a lot of hope for this year, and I feel like immediately that was crushed for me. Then I went into this writing trip and I was in that headspace, so the songs really came out of that space.

Over time with everything that’s unfolded and how this year has turned out to be, [the EP] took on a whole new meaning for me and resonates in a different way. The production was really shaped around the emotions that I was experiencing in quarantine and isolation with the loss of all these things—a tour that I had been planning for and was really excited about. Any expectations of what our reality was going to be this year were just pulled out from under us. That definitely played into the EP.

Sonically I wanted the EP to sound really intense and in your face and intimate, but also chaotic and fun and more upbeat than my music has been in the past. I wanted people to dance around to it, so I think [the songs] were what I needed during these months of isolation. I wanted to throw something on really loud and dance and thrash around but also wallow in my own misery. Those were the things that I wanted [the EP] to translate sonically.

In the title track you sing of an apocalypse, so I have to ask what your personal apocalypse playlist would include?

Now I want to make a playlist! It would probably have a lot of Nick Cave, but then—and I feel like these are the two things that I was playing with on the EP in general—it would also have Gwen Stefani and Madonna. It would have really fun bombastic dance pop stuff, but then it would also have low, dark, intimate, tortured things.

That makes a lot of sense.

Yeah, I think there’s something to be said about the “apocalypse”—whether that is a world apocalypse or your own personal, emotional apocalypse—where at a certain point you’re kind of laughing with it. You’re like, “I’m just gonna cry and I’m gonna dance.” It’s that balancing of darkness and sadness with [something] delusional and fun. I don’t even know how to explain it, but I think those are the two extremes I was trying to play with on the EP. At least me, that is what the apocalypse would feel like or sound like.

Die 4 Ur Love is out July 17 via Diktator Records; if you dig what you hear, pre-save/pre-order.


Leave a Reply

Wilderun

Wilderun Release Fan Loved ‘Veil of Imagination’ With Century Media

Figg Release Self-Titled Debut, 10 Years Later