Musical healing

Folk-punk troubadour/promoter processes trauma through song

Acie Schiff, also known as The Human Twitch, says their goal with music is to connect with people emotionally, to share personal struggles “so people can listen to it and not feel alone.” (Photo by Ashiah Scharaga)

When Acie Schiff was 21, they were living in their car and working at a ski resort in Tahoe, using all the money they earned to pay off a DUI fine and attend drug and alcohol classes. A few years later, they went through a traumatic breakup. Struggling with depression and bipolar disorder, Schiff attempted to take their own life.

Through this painful part of their life, Schiff turned to music to cope—writing raw, emotional folk-punk songs reflecting on these experiences, trauma and grief, which they’d later release under the moniker The Human Twitch.

“That was a really really hard part of my life. I’m really glad that I got though it. Sometimes looking back, I’m just amazed that I did,” they said. “That is where my lyrics come from—it comes from the pain and shit that I’ve been put through. … If I didn’t play music, I don’t think I’d be alive.”

Now, seven months alcohol-free and in a loving relationship, Schiff is back in Chico (where they attended college) and creating and playing music and putting on shows around town. They are focused on learning to fully love themselves and live their life authentically—as a transgender, gender queer, nonbinary musician and actor—while creating safe performance spaces for other artists to do the same.

Schiff plays a mischievous musical fairy in Legacy Stage’s 2022 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Photo by Martin Svec/Black Point studio)

In April, Schiff officially launched Far From Normal Productions and has been producing and promoting punk and folk-punk bills at house shows, venues like the Naked Lounge and even at nontraditional outdoor public spaces. In a short amount of time, Far From Normal has made a mark on the community, bringing a fun and youthful energy to the local music scene.

Music, writing and acting have been an important part of Schiff’s life since they were about 10 years old.

In eighth grade, Schiff started playing the electric bass and, just before high school, got together with friends and formed a band that played “really loud, really bad” music, they said. Schiff continued playing in bands throughout high school, but it wasn’t until age 18 that they started taking music more seriously as they learned how to write songs and improved their playing ability. At Chico State, where they studied theater, they also picked up the guitar.

One of Schiff’s favorite bands is Against Me! The Florida-born punk group has been influential to them both for its use of acoustic instruments and because of the band’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, a trans woman. Schiff said they have been inspired by Grace’s strength and how she has used music to cope with challenges in her life and be true to who she is.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine to get to a point in my life where I can feel so comfortable with myself that the music is just part of that,” Schiff said. “I’m just being myself, and in that way, being myself changes the world.”

While attending Chico State, Schiff lived with other theater students and started hosting house concerts in 2015. After the first show was shut down by police, Schiff moved the concerts indoors and saw a lot of interest from local acts who reached out to them to join the lineup.

Shortly after that, Schiff was not doing well, partying and drinking a lot. They dropped out of school and moved to Tahoe But it wasn’t long before they returned to Chico and began producing house shows again.

With Far From Normal Productions Schiff has organized shows featuring multiple local and touring bands at a variety of all-age locales, including downtown spots Naked Lounge and Om on the Range, and a free festival under the Highway 99 bridge in Bidwell Park.

“I pride myself on [producing] eclectic shows. I really like having different kinds of music so that it is a variety, that it’s entertaining throughout the entire time, that it has a change up, it has a build,” they said.

Their main goal with Far From Normal is to cultivate a community and shows prioritizing safety and respect, they said. They’ve already noticed regular showgoers, including an increasing number of queer attendees.

“I want things to be fair. I want people to get paid. I want people to be represented,” they said.

In addition to their solo work, Schiff has played in a variety of groups (Babblefish, Fool Of A Took, Sid’s A Dick) and is currently part of grunge punk band H.U.S.T.—with bandmates Bryce Goldstein and Jeff Womack—that will be playing in a Far From Normal show on Oct. 17 at Naked Lounge (see infobox).

As The Human Twitch sings in “Remiss,” the titular track of their Dec. 2021 album recorded and produced in Chico: “The pain and the struggle that I suffer gives me a reason to make more art.”

The Human Twitch (far left) performs with Dumpster Fire Orchestra at the What the Folk Fest, staged in August by Far From Normal Productions under the Highway 99 bridge in Bidwell Park. (Photo by Ashiah Scharaga)

And that art is shifting in a new direction for Schiff, who has been writing more hopeful lyrics lately, they said, which also has been helping their mental health. They are currently working on their next album, Just Enough…, with plans to release it in December with other local musicians under the name Spacey Acie & the Space Cadets.

The album will chronicle their life, starting with childhood. On the song “Just Enough…” they sing, “Every battle’s gotta lose/ Every body’s got a bruise/ You gotta break some bones to heal.”

“Music is medicine, it really is,” Schiff said. “I want to make people cry. I want to make people feel things. I try really hard for my personal music to be really deep, to be really personal so that people can listen to it and not feel alone.”

Preview:
Far From Normal Productions presents East Bay ska punks Stay Out! plus local acts Liquid Eyeliner, Elysium and H.U.S.T.
Monday Oct. 17, 7 p.m.
Cost: $15
Naked Lounge, 118 W. Second St.

Twitch links:
Find The Human Twitch at facebook.com/thehumantwitch and their recordings at thehumantwitch.bandcamp.com

Find Far From Normal Productions at facebook.com/farfromnormalproductions and Instagram @farfromnormalproductions

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