From exclusive interviews, live performances, special collections and more, we’re celebrating music all month long. We talked to the bands and artists playing our upcoming UO Live in Austin shows about their musical beginnings and the places they’re headed next. Click here to read from our favorite musicians.
Diet Cig is an incredibly fun rock band. Singer/guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman had to cancel this interview the first time because they went out to a weird Tiki bar the night before and woke up with food poisoning. But later that same day, they dropped a video for their new song “Tummy Ache.” Food poisoning sucks, but there’s something undeniably fun about puking all day while fans are enjoying your “Tummy Ache” video. Gross, sure, but fun, too.
Alex and Noah met a few years ago in New Paltz, where Noah’s band Earl Boykins was playing and Alex was in college. They met randomly at a house show so it only makes sense that now they’re in a band together and their debut album, “Swear I’m Good At This,” is coming out April 7.
When they first played together just over two years ago, Alex had never even strapped on an electric guitar before. Now she’s writing catchy, smart, timely, and raw pop rock songs that capture the thrill of being young and alive. Diet Cig’s album is one of the year’s most highly anticipated indie debuts, so we talked to them about how it all came to be.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news today, you’ve probably seen that seven Earth-sized planets were discovered. If we were to be introduced to some friendly new life forms in the next few days, what’s the one album you’d gift them?
Alex: Good question. It’s hard to pick one album because there are so many important, incredible albums. I think the most appropriate would be the Space Jam soundtrack. It’s like a mixtape and it’s thematically appropriate. I’d love to introduce them to Michael Jordan. I found a CD copy of that soundtrack once in the back of my mom’s car, so I’d give them that. Also, I’d give them a copy of NSYNC’s Celebrity. That’s the first album I ever got so it makes sense that it’d be the first one they ever get.
Alex, I know Diet Cig was your first official band, but were you in chorus or anything as a kid?
A: I did musicals when I was a kid. I kinda hated chorus, but I did it. I wasn’t a punk rock teen in the way I wish I were. When I was in 8th grade I was in the musical Grease and I was Cha-Cha DiGregorio, who steals Danny Zuko away. That was the highlight that I really hold on to.
Noah, what’s your music background?
Noah: I was born into it. My dad was a drummer and he built recording studios, so from the womb I was in that world. I’ve always been in bands and played a lot. I never did musicals, I didn’t do chorus, I didn’t even do band.
A: But you were in cool bands! You were that cool middle schooler who skateboarded and was in a punk band. I was the one who was in musicals and I played sports and I was totally uncool.
N: I played basketball and baseball!
A: I think if we’d met in middle school, you would’ve said, “Ew, I hate this girl.”
What are some of the important music experiences you had as kids, like first concerts and stuff?
N: The thing that was really cool in my town, and I didn’t realize it until after high school, but we had a lot of bands that played original music. There were a lot of good math rock bands. We had this really good music program in our high school that was just this random thing, but it was really cool. Everyone was really into Radiohead and doing weird, math-y stuff. It pushed me and my peers to stretch and do more than just Zeppelin covers.
A: there was no music scene where I grew up, in Albany. My first concert was Avril Lavinge, when I was 12, and I was super excited. It was at an outdoor arena and I was like, “She is so cool, I want to be like her!” All of my early shows were at big venues like that, bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. I didn’t get that sense of DIY punk community until I went to college. But it was OK to grow up the way I did. I was really into pop punk and cheesy arena bands because I was a kid in a small town. In college, it was the first time I realized I could be part of a music community.
Did you go to college together?
N: No. But she was going to SUNY New Paltz, and I was touring with another band that was playing a house show there when we met. It was a random act that brought us together. We had no ties to each other before.
A: If we didn’t meet that night we wouldn’t have met at all. We didn’t have any mutual friends and we both lived in different places and we were just passing through on this one night. I said, “Hey, let me get your info and I’ll make you a music video.” That’s what I was going to school for at the time. We just started hanging out and it was cool. We didn’t go to college together, but we sort of met in college.
N: New Paltz is a college town so there are a lot of bands coming in and out. It goes through waves and a lot of cool bands have come form there. What’s cool about it is that there is a town, and it’s not just the campus. There are clubs and bars where you can play, and you can play on campus too.
A: I think right now there’s another cool wave of bands coming from there. Back when we were there we were one of the only bands that wasn’t all dudes, but now there are a lot of femme fronted bands there. Some of my friends are in amazing bands and it’s exciting to see how they’re driving the scene right now. There’s this one band called Foxy Dad that are really amazing and another one called Tiny Blue Ghost.
How long did it take after you met for you to start playing music together?
N: We wrote the EP about five or six months later.
A: I initially went to a lot of his band’s shows taking videos and stuff, and I thought, “Damn, I want to do that.” One weekend we were just hanging out and I said, “Do you want to just try to play some songs I’ve written.” I plugged in the electric guitar, and I’d never played before, and I was like, “Oh my god!” It was the coolest feeling. I felt like a rock star. I only knew a few chords, different variations of the same four chords. I didn’t know what I was doing at first.
I think in pictures I have seen, you play a Telecaster, right?
A: I did for a while. Noah built those early guitars.
N: It was a Squier Telecaster body and a Squier Strat neck.
A: That guitar rocked. I still use it. I just bought a new guitar. It’s a weird, cheap copy version of this really expensive Gibson guitar. The guy who did our record had the same guitar in the studio and I played it on our record. The guitar was awesome and I asked him what it was and he said it was a $100 copy of this other guitar. After we recorded, I wanted to treat myself to a new guitar, so I tried to buy the real version, but it fucking sucked. It was too heavy and it wasn’t the same. So I went on Craigslist and bought the $100 shitty version. It sounds so good! It’s my go-to guitar now.
What was the first Diet Cig concert liked?
A: I was terrified. I thought I was gonna die. I had an out of body experience I was so scared. I think my vocals were coming out of the same amp as my guitar. It probably sounded like the worst thing ever.
N: I think it sounded pretty good! We only played four songs, so our set was seven minutes long. We opened up at this house show in New Paltz and all our friends were there. It was a lot of fun.
A: A few weeks later, Noah asked if I wanted to record the songs we had played so we had a reference for what we’d done, and I was surprised he wanted to still do this band thing. I thought it was a one off show.
Alex, what motivates and inspires you as a lyricist?
A: It’s a lot of my personal experiences. The lyrics are super honest and they reflect all the emotions I have. This record specifically is super transparent, it’s all my emotions bundled into one: happy moments, sad moments, angry moments. A big theme of this album is just expressing myself as a femme person because women are told that certain emotions are OK to have, but others make you crazy and melodramatic. Fuck that. I have all these emotions and I’m going to yell all of them whether you like it or not.
The title of the album is “Swear I’m Good At This.” There’s the admission of uncertainty but it’s also interestingly confident because you’re proving it to yourself more so than to anybody else.
N: We said that phrase a thousand times while making this record. There are moments when you have no confidence and then days when you feel like you’re fucking killing it and life is great. That phrase was really important to how everything came to be for us as a band.
A: It’s like a personal mantra.
Do you have day jobs now or are you doing music 100%?
N: We’re 100%. Full throttle. At the end of last year, we were touring so much it was hard to keep a regular day job. We’re confident now. We’re music full time.
A: We’ve just been home for the longest break we’ve had from touring. We picked up some random work because we’re so bored. But we’re so excited to go back on tour.
Is it frightening, as a young band, to throw all the cards into music when so few rock bands are making the bucks these days?
N: What’s the worse that can happen? I think it’s worth taking the risk. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll find something else to do. If it does work out, then fuck yeah!
A: Honestly, I was more scared about going to college, graduating, and not finding a job. So being in a band, which is financially unstable, isn’t really that different. And this is way more fun than college. We’re just shooting from the hip and hoping for the best.
See Diet Cig this month at UO Space 24 Twenty for UO Live in Austin. Click here for more schedules and information.