Over the past few weeks, my roommate and I have actually greeted each other in the mornings—not with “good morning,” but with the phrase “fucking slow dance” and a dramatic eye roll.
The ritual is not in reaction to telepathic nightmares, but a lyric from Diet Cig’s 2015 single “Dinner Date” which has over 85,000 plays on Spotify. We too spend the rest of our days playing Diet Cig’s seven songs on Spotify, wondering when there will be more. Or even if it’s even possible to write truer lyrics than “If I told you I loved you I don’t know who/it would scare away faster.”
The pop punk duo consists of New Paltz New York’s own Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman, whose power chord ballads strike a balance between fun-loving and fuck you, and cut as deep as your memories of shitty hometowns and suburban-school expectations. They’ve been declared “A Band to Watch” by nearly every online music news monopoly, and simultaneously propose to destroy the monopoly label “bedroom songs.” Onstage Luciano jumps off drum sets, occasionally into the crowd, and generally requires that everyone quit shuffling their feet and fucking dance.
I stumbled upon the band in March at SXSW: first at Sidewinder, then the next day at the Stereogum showcase where a friend of mine may have had too much free Sapporo beer—he asked Luciano to marry him, and then chucked an inflatable deer at her head (on accident, of course). She didn’t miss a beat.
When I asked Luciano if I could call her for an interview, I reminded her of the deer incident and she seemed receptive. Bowman couldn’t make it. I sat in my bed in Colorado Springs, and she in hers in Brooklyn. We discussed Frankie Cosmos’ simplicity and Diarrhea Planet’s masterful mayhem, and of course, the reason why being a female shredder is essentially cooler than, well, anything.
Catch Dieg Cig with Sorrel and Brick + Mortar opening for the Front Bottoms at Black Sheep next Tuesday, April 12th
Hannah: Have you ever had things thrown at you before?
Alex: No, nothing’s ever really been thrown at me before the deer. I’ve had boys hand me love notes after a set onstage but that’s the extent of people giving me stuff.
Hannah: That sounds worse than the deer. How’d you like SXSW besides that? Was it your first one?
Alex: Yeah it was our first South by, it was super crazy. We played thirteen sets. It was supposed to be eleven but then we played two extra sets called Sessions. I thought we were gonna play two songs and they would record them and then they were like “Oh play a whole set in front of this audience and we’ll record two songs out of the set.”
It’s kind of a blur now looking back at it, but we had a lot of fun and we got to see all the bands. It was really fun running in the streets, running into your homies and being like “see you at the show later!” There was some crazy shit…I stole a gnome and then gave it back but that was before I like air guitar shredded it. Wacky.
Hannah: Dinner Date was actually the first song I heard by you guys and has since been my favorite—probably because of the opening lines. Is it based off daddy issues/a true story?
Alex: It’s a lot of Daddy issue-type feelings. That song starts out with my dad but also touches on a lot of relationships I’ve had with other people, and is me trying to convince myself that even though there are shitty people in my life that have just disappointed me or not treated me well that I’m better than these experiences. I’m taking power back from the people that have done me wrong.
Hannah: Do you feel like you’re running out of shitty situations to write about? You know, like shitty hometowns or shitty boyfriends?
Alex: I think that life is full of shitty situations, even when you grow up and start doing what you want to. You can take the smallest ones and write a dumb punk song about them, so I’m definitely not worried about not having enough shitty situations to write about.
Hannah: If you could describe your music now in one word what would you pick?
Alex: There’s a lot of words combined that I think would describe it. Our music is fun and also really cathartic. It’s really honest—I’d say it’s very honest—it’s like taking songs that like could be sad songs and making them fun. What I’m writing about is shitty stuff, most of the stuff that I write about are like bad situations that have happened to me. But it’s me turning things into a positive, fun situation.
Hannah: What’s your biggest musical influence?
Alex: I really don’t feel like one artist or any thing specifically influences me. I feel like I’m making simple live music that I like. But I’ve been influenced by the attitudes of a lot of musicians. I’m really influenced by Frankie Cosmos in the way that she just writes and writes and writes so many amazing songs and only recently has held off on releasing them because she’s been writing and releasing official records and stuff—but I’m really inspired by the way she released her early songs She would just release them on bandcamp and not worry about who would listen to it. It was just pure, real, honest music that she wrote.
I’m really inspired by a lot of other like strong female musicians. l like Hop Along. I think my music sounds very different than theirs, but at the same time I’m really inspired by what they’re doing and they’re songwriting and the fact that they’re out there and doing it.
Hannah: I really love how short Frankie Cosmo’s songs are—it’s the wave of the future you know? Everything’s getting shorter.
Alex: It’s true and it’s no frills, there’s no jam out guitar parts that last for like four minutes or anything. It’s just like honest lyrics and music that complements it.
Hannah: The biggest thing for me watching female musicians perform in bands is that it’s a breakdown of the male tendency to show off with all these crazy guitar solos.
Alex: It is such a masculine stereotype to do guitar solos and rip out and shred out. But I really don’t like the idea that that’s a male thing because I know so many female fucking shredders. Alicia from Bully fucking shreds—she’s amazing. I think there’s definitely a place for that though. I love Diarrhea Planet and they’re like the ultimate dude-shredder band. It’s all four guitars and guys guitar soloing, which is awesome, but I think that it’s equally as important for artists who aren’t technically proficient guitar players to be represented.
She Shreds the magazine has this really awesome philosophy that shredding isn’t your technical ability on an instrument, it’s the amount of emotion you can evoke through your instrument. I really respect women, or any musician, that can evoke a lot of emotion through their music without having to completely guitar-solo shred. I also have so much love and respect for everyone who’s just like slammin’ out guitar solos because it’s just the coolest thing ever.
H: Diarrhea planet: rock n’ roll done right.
A: Seeing them live is a joyous experience and they represent the kind of guitar-shredding that should be the ultimate. A lot of “serious” musicians take themselves too seriously. They’re serious musicians—but they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is why I think people like them.
H: So what’s a show that you’ve seen—besides Diarrhea planet, of course—that’s really inspired you to write or play music? A show that made you say “I gotta go home and practice the guitar right now.”
A: There’s been a couple that really stick out. When I was a freshman in college at New Paltz I was just getting introduced to the idea of DIY shows and artists producing their own music and I saw Frankie Cosmos’ show. It was actually hosted at my friend Chris Daley’s house (he recorded our music, our EP and our 7 inch) and I saw Frankie Cosmos perform at his studio. It was a really intimate performance and I didn’t really know who she was. I was just so floored by the simplicity of her songs and how beautiful they were, but also how accessible they were, and I was like “hey, I could write songs that are simple and honest like that, I have a lot to say too.” That was definitely one of the first moments that I was like “I can write songs that people will relate to and like.”
Then we did that tour with Bully this year, and Alicia really inspired me to start learning more on guitar, and to want to be more rock n’ roll as opposed to tweeny pop/rock or whatever people like to call us. I’m trying to find that balance all the time.
H: According to Pitchfork, you just need to “mature.”
A: (laughs) Yeah they were like “Well we can’t wait for them to mature.” And I was like okay no one asked you to write about my record. That’s the one thing about Pitchfork, it’s a love/hate thing because most blogs will write about the stuff that they like but Pitchfork will write about stuff that they like and they don’t like. And at first when we had that new record I was like in the back of my head like “Oh my god we have to write a record that is similar to the old stuff, but mature because we gotta get Pitchfork to like it!”
I’ve realized that after touring and playing those songs over and over again that we have to write songs that we like to play. You never know what people are going to like. So the only thing that we can do is write music that we like to play and that we’re proud of. This next record is going to be really awesome and I’m not sure if Pitchfork will like it—but I know we’re gonna LOVE it.
H: This is hard to ask without Noah here to speak for himself—but do you feel like you would have gone in a similar direction without each other? Would you be playing music with other people today if you guys hadn’t met in the first place?
A: I don’t know. I know he would be playing music with other people because Noah’s always been a musician and that’s always been his path. But I had some songs that I wanted to like perform and work on. It could have gone in a very acoustic low-fi bedroom pop kind of direction or it could have been “the band sound” with drums, a little more rockin’ direction—Noah was a really big influence in the music going in the direction that it did. It’s just as much Noah’s artistic vision as it is my own. Maybe I would have done something with music but I it wouldn’t have taken off and been what it is now if we didn’t meet.
H: Do you have any words of advice for people with “bedroom songs”? I feel like that’s a trope when people write about music like “Oh yeah they wrote all these songs in their bedroom.” But you guys got the songs out there, and there are a lot of talented people who haven’t.
A: Like you said “bedroom songs” is such a stupid trope and I feel like a lot of music writers or critics attach that label to women’s music. It’s so funny because Steph Knipe who’s in Adult Mom wrote online that “The difference between bedroom music and dorm music: one of them you’re paying 20,000 dollars a year to write your music” and it’s pretty funny because like what even IS bedroom music, does it mean you wrote it in your bedroom, does it mean that it’s soft and you’d wanna listen to it in your bedroom? I definitely can’t fit a drum set in my bedroom so I don’t know why people are calling my music bedroom pop.
I think some advice for people who are starting off writing songs in their bedrooms is to not feel hindered by the fact that you wrote it there—that shouldn’t define your music. You can write music in your bedroom and you can literally be any genre that you want. You can be anything you want.
H: If you could write a song for any one person who would it be?
A: I’d write one for my sister. She’s 12 and she’s in middle school and middle school is tough. I’m actually kind of in the process for writing this one song for my sister that will probably be on this record but it’s also tough because there’s so much I want to say to her. I want to tell her to be herself but in a way that’s not cheesy like “YOU CAN DO IT” because she is such a special person. She rocks.