Alex Luciano made the brave decision to pull back the curtain on her private life when writing songs for Diet Cig’s debut full-length, Swear I’m Good at This. It’s to be expected, then, that fans at the Brooklyn duo’s live shows aren’t shy about getting personal when they line up to talk at the merch table afterwards.
“Things get heavy sometimes,” the frontwoman says, on the line from Missouri, where she and bandmate-drummer Noah Bowman have just had a Super Bowl–centred tour off-day. “There are folks who tell us our music has really impacted them, so they want to talk about how they can really relate to our songs. We’ve had people come up and literally say ‘Your songs have changed my life.’ That’s crazy, but amazing.”
That Swear I’m Good at This has proven inspiring makes sense. Start with the album title, which one might read as Luciano giving herself a heartfelt pep talk. For years, she dreamed of starting a band, but lacked the drive and focus. After she met Bowman at an all-ages show—when Bowman was on-stage and she asked him mid-set for a light—the two began a friendship. That led the older Bowman to push the singer to stop writing songs for herself and start sharing them with the world.
“Noah is a doer—someone who gets shit done,” Luciano says. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of ideas, but usually my head is in the clouds, which means I don’t always get a lot done. He’s the kind of guy who’ll go, ‘That’s a great idea—let’s do it.’ After meeting him, and having him go ‘These songs are cool,’ all of a sudden I was like, ‘Whoaaaa—I can actually do this.’ ”
Swear I’m Good at This finds Diet Cig progressing from the scrappy DIY garage pop of its 2015 debut EP, Over Easy. The album’s 12 songs draw on ragged ’90s-vintage college rock (“Bite Back”) and Pacific Northwest grunge (“Leo”). The pair knows the power of a duo cranking the amps (the savage “Bath Bomb”), but isn’t afraid to get vulnerable with the acoustic guitar, as on the wounded standout “Apricots”.
Luciano is proud of the way that she’s progressed as a guitar player since Bowman convinced her she had something to say, and she’s thrilled at the way fans have connected with her lyrics. She acknowledges taking a risk on the record, starting with the kickoff track, “Sixteen”, which begins with her going at it with a boy also named Alex in the back of his truck, and then shifts to town, where he’s telling everyone she sleeps around.
The payoff for the singer, who hails from the New York backwater of New Paltz, can, again, be measured by the lines of fans waiting to meet Diet Cig after club shows. And as heavy as things can get, they’re not always so.
“It spans the spectrum from deep, intense conversations about emotions to, sometimes, ‘Oh my god—here’s a picture of Guy Fieri, because I know you like him.’ ”
That’s right—Guy Fieri is something of an obsession. Sometimes on tour you have to do more than rock.
“I like his show, but he also seems like a good dude,” Luciano says. “I like his attitude and energy and that he’s a goofball. After we play we go to the hotel, throw on the Food Network, and watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It’s just cool.”
Diet Cig plays the Cobalt on Saturday (February 10).