The new wave of spoken/sung post-punk has found its way to Long Beach in the way of upstart quartet Self Improvement. The band consists of Jett Witchalls on vocals (or “mouth” as they call it), Jonathan Rza on guitar/piano, Patric Moonie on guitar/bass/vocals, and Reuben Kaiban (Die Group, White Murder and Bataan) on drums. The group started long-distance, sharing demos between San Francisco and Long Beach before they eventually all ended up in the LBC. “It’s funny because we really didn’t set out to write post-punk songs in the first place. When we started, we wanted to sound like the Spits — they’re the best” says Moonie, recalling the earliest days of the band.
Self Improvement digitally released their debut album, “Visible Damage,” last December. Made and mixed at Wiggle World in Altadena by Spencer Hartling (who contributed synths) and the band with Dylan Hadley (Kamikaze Palm Tree) on drums for the studio sessions, the album will get a full release in October via Floating Mill Records.
The band followed up the album by releasing the single “Crashing” this summer. Witchalls, who grew up in England and has lived in the U.S. for 11 years, cites the U.K. post-punk band Dry Cleaning as an influence, but with a more punk-rock emphasis. But there is also a link to Joy Division — like Ian Curtis did, Witchalls suffers from epilepsy.
“It definitely impacts my writing and how I perform,” she says. “Feeling trapped in your body is a weird feeling and most of the lyrics [on the album] were written while I was still heavily medicated. But by the time we started recording I had decided to come off them. Performing is a trip now because just over a year ago, I could barely look people in the eyes. And now I’m in front of people performing these words I wrote in a really isolated, agoraphobic state. If I feel anxious I just go with it because the lyrics are anxious. I don’t care if I don’t look comfortable on stage because the lyrics aren’t comfortable.”
The band have been busy lining up shows up and down the West Coast. Their recent performance at San Pedro’s the Sardine was a whirl of catchy guitar riffs and intense, fixated stares with the occasional screech from Witchalls answered by fans with dancing, hoots and hollers for the band’s final song of the night, a mashup of the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and “Smack My Bitch Up.”
||| Stream: “Crashing”
||| Also: Watch the video for “Ashes”
||| Also: Stream “Visible Damage” in its entirety