Maggie Dickman talks activism, memes, and humble beginnings with the New Paltz duo
New Paltz, New York natives Diet Cig still can’t get over the time they were recognized by a fan at Disneyland. “We were in California and someone was like ‘Diet Cig!’ and I was like ‘aaahhh!’” vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano laughs. “That was a really crazy feeling, getting recognized somewhere as random as that.”
That recognition surprises the band, but their lovelorn tunes have been garnering attention for the duo since their debut EP, Over Easy. That release led them on a whirlwind of a ride, with accolades from the likes of The New York Times right from the start. But they’d never let success get to their heads or try to play it cool. Just take a peek at their Instagram, and you’ll be bombarded with photos of the pair hitting every rad pose you can imagine—with plenty of glitter glue thrown in for good measure. Watch their video for “Tummy Ache” and you’ll see an explosion of shimmery tinsel and silly string.
And on their freshman full-length, Swear I’m Good At This, Diet Cig haven’t lost any of the glitter-drenched punk and heartrending honesty that people fell in love with. The record explores Luciano’s attempt at figuring it all out—filled with mistakes, exes and, ultimately, knocking gender roles and claiming her own voice. Beyond the boppy sound, the record asks the questions we all have about attempting to navigate the 20-something years with wide-eyed, yet totally observant, precision.
“The Over Easy EP was just kind of like, ‘Oh, let’s just get something down in a day and have a record of it,’” drummer Noah Bowman says. “But with this, we knew the direction we wanted to go. We had a confidence in what these songs were, and we felt good about them because we had been writing them and playing them for awhile.”
There’s the taco-eating, cross-country confusion in ‘Road Trip’ (“Don’t know which way to go/Don’t know where to call home”), the band’s biting anthem about figuring out who’s going to stick with you in ‘Barf Day’ (“I’m sick of being my own best friend/Will you be there in the end?”), and the ever-familiar feeling of trying to navigate the world of relationships with ‘I Don’t Know Her’ (“Can we hang no strings attached/Listen to *NYSYNC cassettes?”). It’s like opening Luciano’s diary and realizing that no one—not even she—has all the answers.
But that’s Diet Cig: creating something more than just an infectious song that you’ll want to jam and scream-sing in your bedroom late at night when you’re asking the world WTF. Raw and relatable, they are not afraid to speak their mind, and their music has gifted with a platform to do just that.
“I think having a platform like we have is such a privilege, and I think it’s really important to use that privilege to help others who don’t have as much,” Luciano says. “Somehow the universe handed us a microphone. We still don’t even know how this has happened.
“Our band has become this direct extension of who we are, both through the honesty of our songs and the candidness of our social media. I think that the activism portion of having a platform is super important, especially because it’s just a part of who we are, and why wouldn’t we use this voice to kind of help people, or try to at least?”
Watch the music video for “Tummy Ache,” and you’ll see just how they’re using their platform to change the punk scene for the better. Created with the help from some talented young women in Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and Girls Rock Philly, Diet Cig brought their community and BFF-inspired fan relationship from the show to the screen in the most charming—and the absolute realest—way: by putting girls center stage.
Whether they’re sharing Guy Fieri memes and maxing out their use of emojis on Twitter, or selling snazzy DIY patches to support causes like The Trevor Project, the duo are just as astounded by the growing support they’ve received along the way. And thinking back to day one, they can’t help but laugh about how far they’ve come. This is particularly evident when debating whether or not their first show, in a tiny but packed-out basement, was – as Bowman claims – “a train wreck”.
But it’s their charismatic attitude and relatability that make their sugary-sweet offering exactly what listeners want and need. Whether the pair are playing a basement show or at a fest as big as Wrecking Ball, they bring the songs from speaker to stage in the most authentic way possible. Think a massive karaoke party, and although Diet Cig are technically the only ones playing, fans sing along as passionately as Luciano herself.
“I think we try and blur the lines between the stage and the audience,” Luciano says.
“Yeah, we want to break that wall,” Bowman explains. “You go to a show, and sometimes you see a band and it just feels like you’re in two separate rooms. But we want to make it feel like we’re all in one giant crowd.”
“We want to have that vibe like, ‘We’re here to have fun with all of you guys,’” Luciano says. “It just so happens that we have a stage and a microphone.”
From the speakers to the stage, their band/fan relationship involves so much more than shouting lyrics and having a good time, all evident on Swear I’m Good At This. Diet Cig have found a way to connect with listeners on an even more intimate level, admitting stumblings, confusion, and ultimately relaying the message that it’s all going to be O.K. And through it all, the duo have found the best friends they could have ever expected in their fans.
“We’ll share memes and be like, ‘Oh my god, this is so crazy!’” Luciano laughs. “It’s just fun, you know? I think our band is a direct extension of who we are, and our social media presence is the same way. It’s just us.”
And the fact that the duo are simply themselves is what makes Diet Cig the next big name in punk. It’s all about the memes, the memories, and realizing that it’s okay to be your magical self. And if anything’s clear, it’s that the Diet Cig duo are already good at this.