One of the best ways to hear new music is at festivals. The rush of energy from a live performance and responding crowd can create a link from the new artist to their sound, unmatched in magnitude or joy by simply finding a new artist when listening to Spotify radio. Diet Cig, a pop-punk duo from the Empire State, were relatively unknown until its stint in the festival scene, performing last December at Brooklyn Vegan’s and The Front Bottoms’ Champagne Jam and this March at SXSW, but this week the power chord-punching pair were featured in The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Daily News.
I first saw Diet Cig at last December’s Champagne Jam at Webster Hall. While waiting for the Front Bottoms to go on I saw New Brunswick-products dollys and Hodera and with time before the headliners, I stumbled upon the zealous Alex Luciano, 21, bouncing around on guitar, and drummer Noah Bowman, 24, a calming on-stage compliment. Together, their set was unforgettable — but, really, how could you ever forget a set at a major festival that ends with the lead singer and guitarist crowd surfing?
Diet Cig formed just three years ago in Upstate New York, when Luciano was a SUNY student and Bowman was performing with another band. Luciano told The New York Times earlier this week that she intended on being on stage from the moment she saw her future musical counterpart.
“I want to jump around and be stupid onstage. I want to try!” she said to the Times.
The following year, Diet Cig released a well-received, five-song EP called “Over Easy” and stand out singles “Dinner Date” and “Sleep Talk.” From there the momentum has only picked up: Basement show gigs from 2015 that established Diet Cig’s frontwoman as a peppy pop punk princess and their sound as upbeat and open as the duo are on stage turned into major shows, a record deal with Father/Daughter Records and a move to Brooklyn, N.Y.
Today (Friday, April 7, 2017), Diet Cig’s debut, full-length LP “Swear I’m Good At This” is being released across the country and the power pop pals have already delivered upon the expectations set by their 2015 works. Rolling Stone has already called the album “fantastic fuzz-pop” and gave it four stars.
The 12-track album had three singles released incrementally over the course of the last few weeks and they share they same raw and related lyrics as the previous EP, but as the Times highlighted it’s not all “did you ever run across the quad in your underwear?” There are important themes about gender and the difficulties that can come with being a femme-powered band in a male-dominated scene.
In hit single, “Tummy Ache,” Luciano sings “Well my stomach hurts/ ‘Cause it’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt” along with “Finally it’s time/ to make my words count / In a way I haven’t quite figured out” and “I don’t need a man to hold my hand/ And that’s just something you’ll never understand.”
“It was a lot of white men. I was super-frustrated by that but tried to play nice and do my own thing,” Luciano told the Times. “College towns go in waves, which is really cool. Right now in New Paltz, there’s incredible femme and women musicians rocking. I was inspired as a woman to do my thing because of other female and femme artists — Hop Along, Frankie Cosmos, Best Coast. Hopefully we’re leading the same way for people coming next.”
The silver lining is clearly that the result of these circumstances is amazingly relatable and impossible-to-not-sing-to lyrics and an uncensored look into Luciano’s life. Luciano told the Daily News that she’s never hesitated in being transparent with her lyrics and nothing is off limits.
“Everything that I share that is so personal, I don’t feel like I’m actively omitting,” Luciano said, “But I find a way to take really personal things and package them into digestible anecdotes for myself and for others.”
Diet Cig fans already know this is part of the band’s charm, but newcomers to the group should be prepared for real and honest looking into the life of a pocket-sized femme rocker ready to make a name for Diet Cig.
“Swear I’m Good At This” uncensored in content, unmatched in feminist pop-punk power and unprecedented by the New York-based Diet Cig is bound to be fantastic, but, honestly, I can’t wait to see the songs performed live — maybe, at another festival.