Formed in New Paltz, New York just over two years ago, the duo of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman, a.k.a. Diet Cig, make upbeat indie-pop you can dance to.
Diet Cig had just a few shows under its belt before its debut EP, “Over Easy” (Father / Daughter Records) caught the attention of several prominent indie music sites and quickly generated a buzz. With the sweet-voiced Luciano at the helm, many of the band’s songs have lyrics with a dark, mischievous edge that could be easy to miss for those who aren’t paying close enough attention. The band likes it that way. It’s all about flipping the switch on other people’s expectations and doing things your own way. As Luciano says, “I’m young and sweet, I’m a force to be reckoned with.”
She Shreds caught up with Luciano to learn more about how changing from acoustic to electric guitars changed her attitude towards playing…and what it’s like to play her guitar while crowd surfing.
She Shreds: Diet Cig originally formed as an acoustic duo. At what point did you go electric? How did that change the dynamic of your songs, both at the time and for anything you’ve written since?
Alex Luciano: We went electric pretty much from the start. I had written some songs on acoustic, but when Noah and I started working together it was all electric. It definitely changed the direction the songs went, because I decided I wanted to make music that people could be happy and dance to and the electric [guitar] and drum combo made the most sense. Our songs turned into rock songs, something I never thought I’d be able to write. Playing electric guitar has given me a sense of empowerment, I could finally rock out and yell and take up more space sonically and physically. It changed my attitude towards songwriting by showing me I could write emotional songs that were still upbeat and danceable. It gave me that cathartic, fun release that I couldn’t get out of an acoustic guitar.
Your track, “Scene Sick” premiered on Stereogum before the band ever toured. Did that exposure change things for you two, as far as people coming out to see you or booking shows?
It completely changed everything. We are so grateful for that initial influx of exposure because it allowed us to start touring right away. Our first tour wasn’t long after we released our first songs, and although there were only a few people who really knew our music at the shows, those few people gave us the courage to keep doing it, to believe that what we’re doing meant something to someone.
How did you get involved with Father / Daughter Records?
A mutual friend of ours, Dean from QUARTERBACKS, actually, connected us. He sent Jessi [Frick] of Father / Daugher a copy of our EP. When we realized Jessi was just as excited about our songs as we were, we knew it was a perfect fit. We instantly clicked and are so proud to be a part of such a badass label family.
There is a great picture of you crowd surfing while playing guitar from a show in February. Was that something you’d wanted to do for a while or were you just “in the moment?” What was the experience like and will we be seeing it again?
That was actually the third, and scariest time I’ve ever crowd surfed at a show! I dove off the monitor in front of the stage, which was way taller than I realized, but I was past the point of no return and just did it. It was the first time I had ever crowd surfed in New York. (the first time was in Cincinnati, the second in London) I knew all of my friends were in the crowd so I really, really wanted to do it once I got on stage. Everyone was super respectful and kept me safe, which is always a concern. Crowd surfing is totally terrifying but so fun. I love doing it because I think a lot of people don’t expect us to be so rockin’ live, and it’s honestly the most rock n roll thing I could think of haha. It’s fun to surprise everyone and show them that even though we’re a two piece and I’m a tiny person who only plays a handful of chords, we can still shred harder than most bands.
Some of your lyrics have an element of a stealth attack, where they starts out very sweet or “innocent” sounding before taking an unexpected turn (which is reminiscent of your band’s name!). For example, on “Sleep Talk” you start with this innocuous line, “I can’t play instruments very well…” before imagining a scene where you expose an affair to your lover’s girlfriend. How did you develop this style? Is it about defying expectations?
You’re totally spot on! I think a lot of people have expectations of me because I’m this 5’3”, 20-year-old goofball, but they don’t realize that even though I’m young and sweet, I’m a force to be reckoned with. In that song specifically, I started with that line because I felt like our songs were being defined partially by the fact that I was a very simple guitar player and I wanted to make it clear that, yes, that is me, but I will still write songs that make you want to dance and yell.
What is your favorite (or dream) piece of gear?
Noah and I actually just built this awesome periwinkle blue guitar that I am obsessed with right now, and it’s totally my dream guitar. It has a Tele body, Strat neck, humbucker pick ups and a custom shape pickguard that Noah designed. It’s so dreamy and it sounds so good. We don’t have a ton of money for gear, so we’re always building our own stuff. I also built my pedalboard which is covered in glitter, stickers, little babies and sea turtles. My dream piece of gear would be a wireless guitar set up so I can dance anywhere I want! I’m constantly moving all around the stage and getting caught up in my cables. It would make my life a breeze.
What are you looking forward to the most at SXSW?
I’m super pumped to run into all my friends I’ve met on tour and don’t get to see often! Also we just got a gear dolly and I’m currently decorating the heck out of it, so I’m excited to show it off too haha.
Can you share any updates on any new projects yet?
We’re currently writing a record to come out who-knows-when but we’ll be playing some new songs off it at SXSW for sure!