Exclusive Interview: Self Improvement Rejuvenates Post-Punk Bliss
Currently based in Long Beach, CA, Self Improvement is dishing out post-punk bangers riddled with raw energy and lyrics that'll make your brain stew for a bit. After releasing their debut project, "Visible Damage" earlier this year, they've been having fun hitting stages and embracing the post-pandemic scene. Fresh off a tour with Kamikaze Palm Tree, the group's been on fire across the coast. Go roast in the fire, hit their next show, and let us know how it goes.
Photo by: Spenser Judd
Self-Improvement started up as a long-distance project during the pandemic where the members sent songs back and forth from San Francisco to Long Beach. With Jett Witchalls on vocals, Patric Moonie on guitar/bass/vocals, Jonathan Rza on guitar/piano, and Reuben Kaiban (Die Group, White Murder, and Bataan) on drums, the band now resides in LBC where they've been building up a name within the local DIY scene.
Back in July, I drove down to San Pedro, CA to catch them play at The Sardine. I was stoked to find out it's a local record store/bar/venue, let alone they're super supportive of the local community. Definitely felt like some Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire shit when they walk into the tent at the wizard tournament and it's like a hotel inside. The front of the shop's basically a mix of your favorite dive bar and a cozy record store. Once you get to the back door, it opens up into a pretty spacious venue, perfect for a punk show.
Local energy conduits, Hoop Jail and System Exclusive opened up the night, leaving the crowd buzzing for the headliner. Once Self Improvement hit the stage, time started to disintegrate. They really brought the energy with their quick time changes, unique distortion, and rhythmic vocals. I was surprised the crowd wasn't moshing much. I'm assuming they were as entranced as me by the collision of noise onstage.
Self Improvement's chaotic in the way a math rock band can switch up beats and riffs with the same amount of force that a crash test dummy flies into a windshield. The guitar feedback almost sounds like broken glass, or a ping pong match where the guitar and bass battle it out. On top of all the instruments, Jett's vocals lure the listener in with introspective lyrics and a cadence reminiscent of early punk bands like Naked Aggression or X.
As a photographer, standout tracks from the set like "Shapes" and "Fear & Power" helped me tune into the moment to capture a bit of the intensity from the night. The stage's backdrop was the same type of velvet you'd see in a movie theater, mix that in with some colored lighting and voulais, the stage was set for some psychedelic shots. The group closed out the night, adding some fuel to the flame, with a cover of "Firestarter" by The Prodigy. Do I need to say they burned down the house? Nah, go find out for yourself and see Self Improvement the next time you see them on a bill.
About a week ago, we had the opportunity to catch up with Jett from Self Improvement about their current journey as a group. Here's what they had to say...
Q: How did Self Improvement initially get together?
A: Pat and Jonny had started a project together sending demos back and forth. At the time, Pat lived in Long Beach while Jonny and I lived in SF. I lost all my jobs during the pandemic and had been making my own music at home, but Jonny left one of their demos up on the computer so I recorded vocals on it - this ended up being our first song