Outside of a handful of shows, Diet Cig have virtually no footprint; the song we’re premiering below, “Scene Sick,” is the first track they’ve ever released to the public. So I’m going to have to get a little personal to get my point across that you have to listen to this band. Since I got my hands on an advance of their heart-stopping debut EP (which is out next month via Father/Daughter Records), I’ve been playing it non-stop: on lonely subway rides late at night, dancing around my apartment alone — it helped me get through a particularly depressing holiday season with a smile. I’m pretty sure my roommate is convinced I don’t listen to anything else (and she’s partially right). So who are they, and how do they manage to bring so much joy?
Diet Cig are a duo made up of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman, based out of the fertile ground that is SUNY New Paltz. Their clean-cut, driving punk isn’t treading any new sonic ground, but they have five stone-cold classics on their debut Over Easy EP, which is brimming with an intense and undeniable energy. They’re instantly likable, effortlessly anthemic, and delightfully easygoing — and they inspire a boundless enthusiasm in me that feels like I’m rabidly foaming at the mouth.
The EP plays like a greatest hits record, even though the band only came together this past summer. Luciano’s lyrics are incisive, endlessly quotable, and beg to be dissected and taken to heart. On “Breathless,” she acutely captures the overwhelming freedom and crushing unpreparedness that comes with moving into your first apartment: “I don’t have any kitchenware, but I can walk around in my underwear,” she sings, later asking “but will you come visit me?,” all too aware that we’re all works in progress, down to having no shower curtain in our shower. “Cardboard” is a scathing indictment of someone who desperately tries too hard: “Do you still have to act cool in front of certain people? Does your record player still have a broken needle?” And you’ll no doubt be shouting along to “Harvard” in no time: At the track’s climax, it blows up into a ball of raging fury and Luciano screams, “Fuck your Ivy League sweater, you know I was better,” lighting a match on some gasoline and blowing up everything around her.
Noah Bowman injects these songs with a gooey and lived-in freneticism; his drumming is like oxygen fanning the flame. “Scene Sick” lays out their modus operandi clearly: “I don’t care, I don’t care,” Luciano sings repeatedly, drawing you in close. “I just wanna dance, I just wanna dance/ Come on take my hand, fuck all your romance, I just wanna dance.” And you best follow their lead — take Diet Cig by the hand, and don’t let go.
Listen to their first song and read an interview with them below.
STEREOGUM: Let’s start with basics: How did you two meet?
NOAH BOWMAN: I was playing a show with Earl Boykins at a house show in New Paltz.
ALEX LUCIANO: It was at my friend’s house and the first band was so bad that my friend and I actually almost left. Earl Boykins was next and I really needed to get a lighter for my roommate, and I guess Noah, like in the middle of his set, seemed like the best guy to ask. I asked him if he had one, interrupted the show and he didn’t have one, gave me a bottle of wine instead. Then I convinced him I’d make him a music video and got his number.
BOWMAN: It worked. Started hanging out ever since.
LUCIANO: Then the next day we hung out and he gave me a tattoo. Stupid little daisy on my foot.
BOWMAN: It came out OK. I thought so.
LUCIANO: Haha, yeah yeah. Didn’t think I would ever see him around again but here we are so ya…
STEREOGUM: When did you start talking about maybe making music together?
BOWMAN: I guess it was over the summer. Alex had a bunch of bedroom songs she wrote on acoustic. I had the fun idea to try the tunes plugged in with drums.
LUCIANO: Yeah, we tried to record them all cutesy acoustic at first and it just sucked. Needed the drums real bad.
BOWMAN: It rocked pretty hard.
LUCIANO: It was pretty much a “we have Sundays off and we’re bored” kind of thing over the summer.
BOWMAN: Never really had any intent to make anything out of it.
LUCIANO: It ended up being WAY more fun than I ever expected. It was like the first time I had ever played an electric guitar. I was amazed, haha.
STEREOGUM: So what motivated you to take this further and turn it into a real “thing”?
LUCIANO: I guess it was just that people liked it. It started ’cause we were bored and I wanted to play shows. It looked so fun. So we played a show and people liked it a lot and we started talking about maybe doing legit recordings. Noah moved in with our sound dude Chris [Daly] this summer too, and it was just convenient and fun. I had never done ANY of this before so it was kind like … well, why not if we can?
STEREOGUM: So how/where did you guys record this? Because it sounds reaaally good.
BOWMAN: We recorded at Salvation Recording Co in New Paltz with Chris. He also worked on the Porches., Quarterbacks, and Earl Boykins records. I moved in with him after tracking the last Earl record, Everybody Likes Dogs. One of the best dudes.
LUCIANO: Yeah, Chris is awesome. We busted it all out in two days. The second night was Halloween and it was very spooky.
BOWMAN: Really knows what he’s doing.
LUCIANO: It was nice that I got to escape my house. There were so many trick or treaters and I had no candy at all … I tried to give them quarters.
STEREOGUM: What other music stuff have you guys been involved in before this?
LUCIANO: For me it was a first for everything. Like literally everything. Noah has more of a history… But like I said, two months before we recorded I played an electric guitar for the first time ever. (Actually not true — I got a black Strat-looking First Act electric guitar for Christmas in like 2004, and I played it twice.)
STEREOGUM: Switching gears a little bit, how did you two write these?
BOWMAN: Alex had the songs pretty much written already. I just came in and tweaked them fit with a kit and dynamics. So writing was pretty stress-free.
LUCIANO: Yeah, it was actually really easy. I had some chords and lyrics and Noah made it ~punk~. He gave me an OCD pedal and turned me into a rock star. But the first time we even sat down to write, we got three songs done right away.
BOWMAN: After seeing how easily the first three songs came together, the next two just fell into place pretty quick.
LUCIANO: We took a lot of breaks to play with puppies. That was helpful.
STEREOGUM: Oh, well that’s the best then. What kind of pups?
LUCIANO: Well, I guess only one was a real puppy. He’s a lil Weimaraner. They’re Noah’s pups and they’re great morale boosters.
BOWMAN: Here’s a pic.
STEREOGUM: So let’s talk about “Scene Sick” a little bit. Where did that song come from?
LUCIANO: Well, it stemmed from my frustration with everyone in our “scene” and how everyone is so like … serious. Especially in New Paltz, everyone’s obsessed with their bands and how cool they are and they have this crippling ~coolness~ where they can’t even dance and have fun!! I was very frustrated for a while about that.
BOWMAN: It’s about having a good time all the time.
LUCIANO: Pretty much. That’s what we’re kinda all about, why we started and junk… Just to have a good time all the time.
STEREOGUM: Do you think a lot of people try to “fake it” or whatever? Like there’s that line in “Cardboard” that goes “Do you have still have to act cool in front of certain people?” or all of “Harvard”? Feel like a lot of the songs on the EP are about keeping up appearances or something like that.
LUCIANO: Sort of… I just think a lot of people are really worried about appearances and put a lot of people up on pedestals. “Cardboard” definitely references those feelings a lot, but “Harvard” is more just a song about an old boyfriend who is just a butt, haha. It’s easy to get worried about all the appearances and what’s hip and who’s cool. I don’t know, we’re just trying to make music people will dance to and maybe forget about if it looks cool or not for at least two-and-a-half minutes.
STEREOGUM: Do you think New Paltz in particular in susceptible to that kind of attitude or is it just the music scene in general?
LUCIANO: Ehh, I think it’s everywhere. New Paltz is just where I’ve experienced it. Don’t get me wrong: the scene here is really great and positive, and there is a lot of support and fun coming from most everyone.
BOWMAN: New Paltz has always had a great scene. I feel like we’re in a dip that’s increasing now. Definitely a new wave of bands coming through…
LUCIANO: Yeah, it’s actually really exciting. There are a lot of awesome bands kind of stepping up as an older generation moveson.
STEREOGUM: Yah, I feel like all of my favorite bands come out of one of the SUNYs.
BOWMAN: Purchase definitely had some great bands that are now doing it. LVL UP and Porches. was the golden era. SIRS too! I went to school with all those guys at Purchase for a while, great dudes. Spook Houses was the best!
LUCIANO: Yeah, SUNY really pumps out a lot of good stuff. New Paltz and Purchase specifically, I feel like they have a pretty strong link. Scenes intertwine hardcore. It’s really awesome.
STEREOGUM: Speaking of local scenes, how’d you get involved with Father/Daughter? They’re all the way out on the West Coast.
BOWMAN: Dean Engle from Quarterbacks actually helped us out.
LUCIANO: Yeah, he sent Jessi [Frick] our tunes, and we just started talking. They’re a label we had known of and thought was rad for a while, and it was really exciting when we got in touch and everyone was so pumped on both ends.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, F/D are the best. So, do you guys have any expectations going into the EP release?
LUCIANO: GOING PLATINUM BABY (lol). I don’t know, just excited for our tour right after the release in mid-March.
BOWMAN: Maybe take us to Disney World. You know, the works.
STEREOGUM: So are you working on new stuff right now?
LUCIANO: Yeah, we’re actually in the middle of writing an LP. We are also making a music video and trying to get our hands on some Diet Cig lollipops. Haha, but ya, always writing!! We’re just really excited to release our tunes. My grandma wants to hear, and I told her she has to wait just like everybody else so…
Over Easy Tracklist:
02 “Pool Boyz”
03 “Scene Sick”
01/09 Brooklyn, NY @ Legion Bar
01/15 Kingston, NY @ BSP Lounge
01/16 Philadelphia, PA @ Lava Space
01/24 Beacon, NY @ Quinn’s
01/30 New Paltz, NY @ Jordan’s
Diet Cig’s Over Easy EP is out 2/24 via Father/Daughter Records.