Diet Cig are great. They just are. Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman use their band to help as many people as possible - and they have a kick-ass debut album to boot.
There's nothing like a Diet Cig show. They're loud and in-your-face, the ceiling dripping with the sweat of euphoria and even the coolest kids edging their way to the front. They're a band who can make you feel alive for the first time in a while; everything they strum and hit and sing is felt with such vigour, it's no wonder that vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano often ends up lying on the floor in the middle of the crowd. And it's this intensity that extends to debut album 'Swear I'm Good At This'.
On the surface, Diet Cig write songs about crappy ex-boyfriends and stupid parties, but beneath the trashy fun, there's a poignant comment on the impending fear of adulthood; of trying to find your way in the world when all you feel is lost, of navigating friendships and solitude and never wanting to get out of bed because let's be real, the world can really suck sometimes. However, alongside this poignancy rears a certain power – something that says ‘I'm here whether you like it or not, pal'. The band own their uncertainties and turn them into anthems for those who never really felt like they fit in.
"I never thought we'd make it to this point," Alex Luciano says. "I remember we were making our ['Over Easy'] EP and we had four songs, and Noah [Bowman, drums] was like 'Why don't you just write one more so we can have a nice, even five' and I was like 'ONE MORE SONG? ARE YOU KIDDING?' I didn't know how people made records because one song to me was insane and now I'm like 'Oh my god, we've travelled, and we've written a record, and it's beautiful, and it makes sense'. I feel like a proud parent of our band, just like, good job! We did it! We believed in ourselves that we could do it. We were right."
Alex speaks with an impassioned fervour; much like the lyrics of Diet Cig's songs, she's relatable and gutsy, her excitement proving so contagious that I almost want to get out of my chair and start jumping around my office despite it being an extremely dreary Monday afternoon. And this is what Diet Cig are all about – spreading messages that make you feel good and true, pushing you to get up and get out there.
"Our songs have an aggressive feel to them sometimes, but we like to keep this vein of radical softness. It's punk to feel your feelings, and it's punk to tell people what you feel; to stand up for what you believe in and take into consideration how others feel instead of just raging your way through and not listening to anyone else," she continues. "It's punk to care; support each other and be there for your friends for when they're sad. I think that's more punk than having a mosh pit or something; like talking to your friends about your feelings is punk as fuuuuuck!"
The songs on 'Swear I'm Good At This' are introspective and personal but in such a way that allows the band to speak to the twenty-something masses. While most attribute a certain catharsis to the songwriting process, Alex reveals it was a little difficult to put herself out there like that. "It was definitely hard because a lot of the feelings I was unpacking on this record were feelings I had recently or the past year or so," she says. "It's weird exposing yourself like that. When we were recording, and we finally got to vocals, I was like 'Oh my god, I'm going to sing these 100 times each to my friends in the room right now'. It was super cathartic, but it's also weird to have all these feelings, and I'm having to sing them over and over. It does feel good though because it's nice to be able to put those feelings into something that I can be proud of – we're proud of what we've made out of it, and we maybe hope that it will help people with the stuff that they've gone through."
This ability to help people is evident throughout each show that Diet Cig play, as fans shout every syllable back at the band with a hopeful sincerity. This feedback of energy and love throughout their hectic schedule last year certainly had an impact on the album, as Alex explains. "I feel like we wrote this record for every single person who's busted out a dance move at our show or patiently waited after our show just to say hi. Or held me while I was crowd surfing," she says. "It's for everyone, and everyone waited so long and were so kind, and that still blows my mind every day. We're so thankful for every single person. Those people just stuck with us and believed in us too because we weren't even sure if we could do this. Without everyone's support and dance moves and awesome enthusiasm, we may not have been able to do it at all. I definitely think that the feedback we got from touring was a huge influence in making this record."
While the album has all the tenacity of what we've come to know and love about Diet Cig, there's also a notable maturity in the songwriting, something which Noah agrees with. "I feel that this record helped us grow as people in finding out what strengths we have and what things we can put together and put out into the world and how we affect certain people," he says. "It's a scary thing but an exciting thing. I feel like we learned a lot on this record of what we're capable of. It's hard to explain because we're still growing and we're still so young, and we're still living it; we're still in the middle of it. But it's exciting."
"I feel like we've got a confidence, even just personally," Alex adds. "We spent so, so much time writing and making sure this record was done before we recorded – when we were recording parts this time we were like 'Oh my god! We're nailing this!' We so feel like we've honed everything in and I felt like I could play all my guitar parts super well including some of the complicated overdubs and stuff and like, playing with different beats and tracking and trying new things. I think we felt like this is what we've been working for – this is why we constantly tour to get better, and we had a confidence boost after recording and then listening back to it and being like, 'Holy shit! We made this thing!'"
The band recorded the album with Noah's twin brother at Atomic in New York City before heading back to New Paltz to work with friend and Over Easy producer Chris Daly. But it wasn't all work and no play, as Alex reveals she left the session to go and meet one of her heroes. "I left to go meet Guy Fieri at his book signing because I'm obsessed with him; he told me some really good wisdom, and we bonded. I recorded our conversation on my phone, and I took the best tidbit out and put it on the end of the physical record," she laughs.
With lead single ‘Tummy Ache' spitting lyrics like "It's hard to be a punk when you're wearing a skirt," it sets a precedent for the inclusive and no-nonsense approach that 'Swear I'm Good At This' exudes. The video for the single also features girls from the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and Girls Rock Philly, while Alex has been hard at work producing crafts to raise money for LGBTQ+, women's and immigrant charities. "I think that if you have a platform, you should use it for what you believe in," she says. "Some people have been like, 'Just stick to the music, stop being so political' - but for myself, my existence as a woman is inherently political, and our band is such an extension of us, and so it's impossible not to get political.
"We're the kind of people who are going to try to use our platform for good and raise money for charities and include young girls and aspiring musicians in our music videos. It's just who we are, and if we didn't do that it would be dishonest and a misuse of the platform we've been given. It's so heavy right now. It's really hard to just be a human being at the moment." And with 'Swear I'm Good At This', Alex says she just wants people to know they're not alone. "We stand with them. Just know that somebody's got your back and someone has felt your feelings before. Stay radically soft, stay empathetic, stay woke!"
Diet Cig's debut album 'Swear I'm Good At This' is out 7th April.