"Hard to Be Punk in a Skirt": The Personal Revelations of Diet Cig

"Hard to Be Punk in a Skirt": The Personal Revelations of Diet Cig
Photo: Shervin Lainez
DIY indie duo Diet Cig gained a lot of attention and praise for their 2015 debut EP, Overeasy, and a subsequent seven-inch. But when it came time to record a full-length, singer-guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman had to rethink their entire writing process.
 
"It used to be that Alex had all the songs written before I saw them," Bowman recently told Exclaim! "For this record, it was more of a collaboration. We would jam and work things out together."
 
A more collaborative approach meant that the two musicians needed to communicate with each other more than they had in the past, bouncing ideas off one another. As a result, their debut, Swear I'm Good at This (out now on Frenchkiss) feels like the work of a single unit, rather than the loose recordings that marked the band's earlier material.
 
That shift was intentional, says Luciano. "We wanted more sound, more intention," she explains. "We wanted to feel like we had advanced and gotten more mature musically."
 
But getting there was no easy task. Work on the record began in earnest shortly after Diet Cig release their "Sleep Talk"/"Dinner Date" seven-inch in September of 2015. "Sixteen" was the first clue as to where the band would head, but after writing the confessional song about carnal relations with someone who shares her name, Luciano felt the track "was too weird" for the record, even though the record only existed in her head.
 
"This is not what we sound like," she recalls saying.
 
Despite the breakthrough, further writing was hampered by relentless touring, making it difficult for Luciano to dip back into the vulnerable headspace from which some of her best material originates. "I'm not really ceremonious about how I write, but it takes a lot to reach that vulnerable place and sometimes it happens unexpectedly," she says. "I find that I think of my most personal lyrics when I'm in a place where I'm out of my comfort zone. Random things will spark ideas that resonate with me and turn into lyrics that are really personal."
 
But the heart on sleeve narrative doesn't capture the sense of humour that lies at the heart of many of Diet Cig's songs. Awkward situations like the one detailed in "Sixteen" or wry one-liners like "It's hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt" are simultaneously hilarious and righteous, a product of the "honest place" from where they came. "All the things that I write about are things that happened to me," she says. "The writing process is when I can reclaim those emotions and see the humour in them."
 
By the fall the duo had ten songs ready for the studio, but writing continued throughout tracking the record. Album highlights "Maid of the Mist" and "Link in Bio" were originally not on that list, but came together during recording. "I don't think we knew how it was going to come together until the very end," admits Luciano. In fact "Sixteen," a song that was deemed too weird at the outset, now opens the album. "I didn't get that full wash of relief until after we finished the record. It's a good collection of songs, it's something I can be proud of."
 
With the pressure off, the band are set to hit the road hard, something they do often and do well. On the day that Exclaim! spoke with Luciano and Bowman, they were two hours into their current tour, having just left Brooklyn where they've lived for the past two years. In fact, as of April 1, the band are technically homeless.
 
"Brooklyn is so expensive and it sucks paying for a place you're not really living in," says Luciano. "We're trying to be on tour and take over the world forever."