Q&A with a bae: Alex Luciano of Diet Cig

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.

Song of the Day: Flo and Eddie – Keep it Warm (Gucci Mane – Lemonade)

This popped up on my discovery weekly the other day. I was tearing it up on my bike on the way home when I heard these lyrics:

Write another song for the money

Something they can sing, not so funny

Money in the bank to keep us warm

Mmm… I like that

So after a little research, I discovered that this band, Flo and Eddie, used to be The Turtles (made famous by their late-60’s hit “Happy Together”). On their Wikipedia they’re described as a comedic duo, so take that as you will. To me, they sound like the beach boys (“I’m picking up good vibrations” featured in the song) and a bit like the Partridge Family.

Anyway, when I got home I put the song on again, so I could show my roommate. He recognized it, but a different version…

After a quick trip to whosampled I figured it out…

and it’s amazing.

Please skip to 1:15 for glory.

Song of the Day: The War On Drugs – Touch of Grey

Tribute albums have always been tricky for me. While there are few things more satisfying than seeing a group of incredible artists collaborating to cover the music of some legendary group from the days of yore, these sort of projects can easily fall flat.  The Flaming Lips’ With a Little Help From My Fwends, for example, was a track-for-track tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that made me feel like I’d rather just listen to the Beatles or the Flips separately rather than some unsatisfying marriage of the two.

When I first heard about the forthcoming Day of the Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute album curated by two members of The National, I had mixed feelings. Sure, the thought of an all-star cast including Courtney Barnett and Wilco covering some of my favorite Dead tunes is more exciting to me than an 8th Harry Potter book. Initially, however, I couldn’t help but wonder if the execution could possibly live up to the hype.

If the singles released off Day of the Dead thus far are any indicator, the album will be a huge success. The War On Drugs’ cover of “Touch of Grey” is a prime example of how insanely good a cover can be. It’s not exactly a major innovation on a melodic theme — the new version sounds pretty damn similar to the In the Dark original. The beauty of this song is really in how well Kurt Vile’s voice adapts to Garcia’s lyrics, almost as if the tune were written for The War On Drugs. With a single like this, the rest of the tribute album could be absolute trash and I would be more than okay with it.

Song of the Day – “I Wanna Boi” – PWR BTTM

Today’s Song of the Day is “I Wanna Boi” from the queer punk duo PWR BTTM. Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins met at Bard College and spend their playing shows on the Bard campus. Their raw punk sound is reminiscent of something heard at a house party somewhere around CC. However it is their unconventional lyricism that works do break down norms of sexuality and music makes PWR BTTM worth a listen. If you love the song email ob8419@Bard.edu.

 

Song of the Day: Brian Eno – King’s Lead Hat

Brian Eno is one of the most prolific, innovative, and influential musicians around. His first four solo records are all fantastic, he was a pioneer in the field of ambient music, and his collaborations with Robert Fripp, David Byrne and Cluster are excellent. From ’73 – ’83, Eno was killing it with each and every release. He even developed a way to help musicians break creative blocks, called Oblique Strategies. Now, you might think you’ve never listened to a song by Brian Eno. And you’re probably wrong about that. Eno collaborated with David Bowie for his entire “Berlin Trilogy” (Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger). He also produced three Talking Heads records: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain In Light, which are all fantastic. If you’ve ever aggressively sung along to “”Heroes”” or “Once in a Lifetime”, you were belting out songs Brian Eno helped write.

But I digress. I could go on about Eno for days, but if I had to pick one favorite Eno record it would be 1977’s Before and After Science. “King’s Lead Hat” is the lead single from BaAS, and it’s a seriously great track. “King’s Lead Hat” is an anagram for “Talking Heads”, even though Eno recorded this song before he had recorded with the Talking Heads. Still, as the name would seem to imply, “King’s Lead Hat” is very reminiscent of Eno-produced Talking Heads. This song is infectiously catchy, unique, and has a killer groove. Eno’s lyrics are sharp and clever, and the synth part at the end kills. Just listen to it, it’s really good.

SONG OF THE DAY – Ben Aqua – “Don’t Play Dumb”

DON’T

lol don’t we know this by now? SMART is cool! KIND is cool! DUMB on purpose is NOT cool.

If u smart, listen to this song. It is from Ben Aqua, who has worked with PC Music (audio gold), DFA Records (unknown to me) and has his own “experimental electronic music and art label #FEELINGS”. Despite the questionable but likely satirical naming of that label, I am often fond of this kind of music. Which surprises me. Isn’t electronic music #MINDLESS? I’m starting to think not!! Imagine the landscape of this track in physical space with every beat and type of sound possessing a different line — how complex and calculated!

This being said, Ben Aqua and those that he might associate with  (AG Cook of PC Music) are getting a lot of attention for what is being called “The online underground: A new kind of punk?”. An article/podcast of this name from Resident Advisor explores this concept using Ben Aqua as a main talking point (find at residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?2137). Even though the nuances and specifics of this comparison are beyond me (I will read the full RA article and get back to you), the idea is not far fetched. With a record label that contains a “hashtag”, successful sales of a T-shirt  with “NEVER LOG OFF” printed on it, and a proliferation of ideas manifested aesthetically across some sort of media is undoubtedly similar to the progression of the punk movement.

“signs and connotations of the digital medium are appearing all around online music in the same way that punk wore its gritty origins on its sleeve” (RA).

don’t play dumb, b as smart as u can b

Song of the Day: Ituana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Why the frick can’t I stop listening to this song? There’s so much to hate! The song is part of a compilation, which is part of an even bigger “Bossa Nova Cover” compilation. This one focuses on 90’s songs. Most of it sucks.

Just look at the freaking album cover! It reeks of shittyness.

And then check out that description:

“the coolest and sexiest songbook of the nighties”

The coolest? ya… no.

The sexiest? Hmm… yes?

I love this song. I gotta admit it – good female jazz vocalists are my shit. She sounds so… sexy… like she’s whispering in my ear “load up on guns, bring your friends” Mmm…

And the song choice! They turned the song on it’s head.

Instead of a “YAHHHH!!!

It’s a (whisper) “yahhhhh

And i’m like ¯\_(°–°)_/¯ 

 

Song of the Day: A Tribe Called Quest – Check the Rhime

In honor of the 5’3″ phenom lost to the hip hop community, A Tribe Called Quest classic is an easy pick for this Song of the Day. Malik Taylor a.k.a. Phife Dawg passed away yesterday at the age of 45 due to complications from diabetes.

Known for their funky production and clever verses, A Tribe Called Quest has been making waves in the world of hip hop for over three decades. 2016 will be remembered as a bittersweet year for the group, as Phife Dawg’s key partner in rhyme, Q-Tip, was recently named the JFK Center for Performing Arts’ first-ever Artistic Director for hip hop.

Not only does the 1991 hit “Check the Rhime” showcase both Phife and Q-Tip’s lyrical prowess, but the track features one of Phife Dawg’s most iconic opening lines: “Now here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am / Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram.” Phife’s passing is certainly a tragedy for the music world, hip hop and otherwise. Yet this legendary rapper is immortalized in Tribe’s music, and his legacy will surely live on for generations to come.

 

SONG OF THE DAY: Neil Young – The Needle and the Damage Done

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the music of Neil Young has dotted many times in my life. When I was really little I used to hate his voice, not understanding how meaningful and personal that sound was for my parents.

His music will always be so tied to the time it was made in whether it be about heroin in the 1970s or his current campaign against GMOs and monocropping. This song is in response to his grief over the loss of more than one close musician friend to the “needle”. Neil seems to always have been able to translate intense personal tragedy into something beautiful, without compromising the inherent pain of the situation.

This from Neil in a recording of “Live at Massey Hall 1971”:

“Ever since I left Canada, about five years ago or so… and moved down south… found out a lot of things that I didn’t know when I left. Some of ’em are good, and some of ’em are bad. Got to see a lot of great musicians before they happened… before they became famous… y’know, when they were just gigging. Five and six sets a night… things like that. And I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But… strangely enough, the real good ones… that you never got to see was… ’cause of, ahhm, heroin. An’ that started happening over an’ over. Then it happened to someone that everyone knew about. So I just wrote a little song.”

“Every junkie’s like a setting sun”

SONG OF THE DAY: Untitled 3 – Kendrick Lamar

Earlier this week, Top Dawg hinted that a new project would be dropping this week from an unnamed TDE artist. Last night, an album by the name “untitled” appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s Spotify page. The album is a collection of some unreleased songs, and others that Kendrick had performed only live. Unitled 3 was debuted by Kendrick last year on the Colbert Report. The song is driven by an urgent and energetic beat that complements Kendrick’s cadence well. In a sort of call and response style he spits 6-8 bars and is interrupted by a woman’s voice: “what does the black man say?” “what does the white man say?” “what does the indian say?”. Her questions are addressed by Kendrick, and he provides some answers, but more than that he gives the listener an enjoyable ride through a complex and rich piece of music. The internet allows artists to drop projects with virtually no warning, and while “untitled unmastered” is not a complete album in the way that good kid, m.A.A.d city or TPAB both are, it is worth giving it a listen or twenty when you get a chance.

THE SOUNDS OF COLORADO COLLEGE