Let’s get one thing straight: Diet Cig do not care for your bullshit.
Specifically, they have no interest in your studied, angular math-rock poses, your immaculately dishevelled stage presence, your boys’ own preconceptions about what does and does not qualify as punk. They do not have time in the day for anything that reeks of the patriarchy, from the President down to your friend Joel, who’s actually, you assure us, a really nice guy. They bet he is. Most of all – and it may be difficult for them to stress this enough – they do not care about your band. They feel they made this abundantly clear on 'Scene Sick', and would politely ask you to refer back to that song for further instruction.
And yet, there’s an awful lot that they do care about. Alex Luciano, human firecracker and Diet Cig frontwoman, cares about making things better. She talks of establishing their live shows as safe spaces, and the positivity that can be conducted on those nights. She tells me that being in a band, or even just going to see one, is a “radical act” in itself today. Noah Bowman, the band’s drummer and “chill” counterweight to Luciano’s nervous energy, cares about how awesome that Pinegrove record was. (We still love it too.) Both of them care about their hometown of New Paltz, New York, but they care about soaking up as much of the world as they can, too.
The duo took some time out to speak to Clash about their forthcoming debut album, ‘Swear I’m Good At This,’ and Alex made some loud karate noises in between. By the end of the call, we cared the shit out of Diet Cig.
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So you’re in San Francisco at the moment. How’s that going?
Noah Bowman: The tour doesn’t start till April, so we’re kind of treating this as a lovely vacation - our manager lives out here, so we’ve been crashing on her floor.
Alex Luciano: We’re also shooting a music video here this weekend, so we’re really stoked about that.
Are there plans to return to the UK this year?
NB: Yeah, we’re looking at middle or end of the summer. We don’t have anything confirmed yet, but that’s the talk.
Any favourite places from the last time you were here?
AL: I loved Bristol! We played Dot to Dot there in June, and we also played somewhere in January as well. We had a bunch of friends who were there last time, and we had this crazy late night party on a boat somewhere… I just remember having so much fun both times we were there.
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We’re kind of treating this as a lovely vacation...
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So at this point you’ve got your own sound pretty much nailed down now. Is there still one band or album that you listen to and think, “Fuck, I want to make a record like that”?
AL: Oh my god…
NB: I don’t know if there’s just one per se. We’ve been influenced by so many awesome bands.
AL: One band we played with pretty often, they’re called Ian Sweet, just put out a record in 2016 that is, like, shit good. Whenever we play live with them, I’m like, “Oh my god, I wanna be that band!” You should totally listen to the record.
What other records are you loving at the moment?
AL: I have been really obsessed with the Vagabon record. It’s amazing. We’re staying with Jessi [Frick] right now, who runs Father/Daughter Records, so we literally just helped her pack like a thousand of those records! I think it’s definitely gonna be a contender for album of the year for us.
NB: My go-to has been that Pinegrove record. It came out last year, I guess we’ve only had two months of this year so far… But that record was my go-to. I like that a lot.
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I think it’s so fun to lull people into this sense of security, then totally rock out and be crazy.
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What we love about Diet Cig, especially on ‘Over Easy,’ is that you almost lull the listener into thinking the songs are going to be sweetness and light indie-pop, bordering on twee even, and then you tear into a punk rock chorus about blowing your nose and taking a shit. Do you enjoy playing with people’s expectations?
AL: Yeah totally. I think it’s kinda fun, and it reflects how we are as people. We’ve had earlier shows where all the other bands on the show were dude math-rock bands. Then we’d come out on stage, and they’d be like, “Oh wow, a two-piece band, they don’t even have a bass player. This tiny girl’s gonna rock out? Yeah right!” And then we’d just turn up like “Wahhh!” I think we surprised a lot of people at first. And I think it’s so fun to lull people into this sense of security, then totally rock out and be crazy.
We heard Noah is the chill one, so is that more your job?
AL: Oh my god, yeah…
NB: I’m pretty chill.
AL: Noah definitely has way more chill than I have. He’s the level-headed one, and I’m just the crazy person running around yelling. But it’s good, we make a good pair. We’re like two, uh…
NB: Peas in a pod!
AL: Yeah, PB&J!
Alex, you started out writing songs on acoustic guitar. Are there quieter moments on ‘Swear I’m Good at This’ at all? A full-blown ballad, even?
AL: We got some hot ballads on this record. There’s one song that’s mainly acoustic, which was pretty cool to do. I think it reflects where we came from, kind of an homage to how I wrote the songs originally, like on ‘Over Easy.’ And there’s one song, too, that I like to call our official slow jam… but for the most part it’s us rocking out. I think there’s a lot of interesting dynamics happening on this record. It’s the same idea of lulling you into something, and then suddenly being like… PAJAAA! KARATE CHOP! KNOCKOUT!
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We cannot wait to hear that. Are there any particular themes running through the album?
AL: I think it’s a lot of reclaiming experiences I’ve had, and turning them into something positive. And showing that, as a woman, society and the patriarchy puts these expectations on which emotions you’re allowed to have, and which emotions make you a crazy bitch. I think it’s just part of me saying, “No, these are all of my emotions, whether it’s happy and goofy, or sad and mad. They’re all equally important, and you need to listen to them all.” It’s really cathartic, it’s super honest. It’s just the inside of my brain.
Do you think, in the current climate, it’s important for bands to speak out about what’s happening in America? Or should they be providing a fun distraction from it all?
AL: I think it can be both. Honestly. As a band we have immense privilege, and I think it’s the right thing to do to use your platform, and the privilege you’re given, to help others – regardless of if you’re a band, or a famous person, or just anyone with a platform. But I also think that being in a band and having fun, even as a concert-goer or a listener, is a radical act in the current political climate. Because all the oppressors want is for you to feel scared, for you to feel alone. And I think it’s really radical to create something that’s super fun, and meant to bring people together.
We like our shows to be this safe place where you can have fun, and say “fuck you” to the idea that we are supposed to be scared and alone. Because we are all in something bigger than ourselves in that moment. But yeah, if you have a platform I think it’s super important to use it to help others, in the same way that, if you have any kind of privilege, you need to use it to help those who have less than you. So I think it works the same way if you’re an artist. I think that’s a really badass thing to do.
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I think it’s really radical to create something that’s super fun, and meant to bring people together.
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It’s not like you’re just delivering your message from on high... It’s a collaborative event.
AL: Totally. We’re all part of something bigger, and everyone in the room has got your back. It just so happens that we’re the ones with a microphone. But we like the idea of everyone just standing together and enjoying it, coming together as a community, forgetting all the bullshit for a second and feeling good.
If you could speak to your fifteen year old selves now, what would you tell them?
AL: I would tell my fifteen year old self that we’re on the same page of Rolling Stone as Fall Out Boy, because my 15 year old self would die… No, I used to be really bummed out when I was fifteen that I didn’t think I had, like, a ‘thing.’ Like I thought everyone in New York had a thing, and I was just this weird person that didn’t have anything special about me. And I think I would just tell myself, “Don’t worry. You figured it out, and you have a thing, and you’re doing good. You can do it.”
You got this.
AL: Yeah, you got this! What would you say Noah?
NB: I guess I would say to my fifteen year old self, “You’re playing drums in a band.” Because I was never a drummer before this band, I was always a guitar player. So I’d say, “Hey, maybe you should stick with the drums. It’s gonna work out.”
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'Swear I’m Good At This' will be released on April 7th on Frenchkiss Records.
Words: Matthew Neale