Diet Cig is the irreverent but hopelessly sincere duo of Alex Luciano, 21, and Noah Bowman, 24, who started making scrappy lo-fi music together after meeting at a show in New Paltz, New York. It was Luciano’s first time making music pretty much ever; she writes and sings the songs, while Bowman plays drums. The pair started putting out music in 2015, and next month, they’ll release their debut full-length, Swear I’m Good at This. (It’s due April 7 from Father/Daughter Records.) We caught Luciano and Bowman the morning of their appearance at SPIN’s SXSW showcase to talk making an intentional record, moving to the big city, and the best ice cream of all time.
This is your second time at SXSW. Why are you here? What motivates you to come?
Noah: It’s just South By. It’s insane. It’s crazy. There’s so many cool things. We call it summer camp because you get to see all your friends from all over the world and all over the country that you don’t see all the time.
Alex: I guess technically we’re here promoting our record.
Noah: Oh, we’re doing that? I thought we were just running around.
Alex: We have a record coming out in April. We’re super excited about it, and we were like, let’s come here and run in the streets with our friends and maybe tell people about our record and see what happens.
So your album is coming out in three weeks. Can you talk about making that?
Alex: Oh my god, it was so fun. It was such a different experience than making our EP [Over Easy]. I feel like we’re so confident this time. Like we know what we’re doing, and we spent an entire month doing it, and picked at every little piece of it until it became what it was. It was fun.
Noah: I guess it was more intentional than the last thing, you know? We kind of went in knowing what we wanted this time.
Where did you work on it?
Noah: We did basic tracking at Atomic Sound studio in Red Hook and then we went up to New Paltz, where were from, to Salvation Recording company with Chris Daly.
Alex: He did our EP as well and our 7″. He’s just the best engineer. We love working with him.
You’ve got two songs out now, but of the stuff that’s not a single, what are you most excited for people to hear?
Alex: I’m excited for people to hear our album opener, which is this song called “Sixteen” that was the first song we wrote for the record. It was so funny, we wrote it and I was like, “This song’s weird, it’s not gonna be on the record,” even though we didn’t even have the record written! I was like, “This doesn’t fit on the record,” even though like there was no other songs to compare it with! And it ended up being the intro to our album and I’m really excited for people to hear it.
Noah: I think “Maid of the Mist” is the one song that I like. It was going to be a single, but then we switched it last minute, so we have a different song coming out.
Alex: But still a banger. It’s one of our faves, too.
I’m glad you brought up “Sixteen,” because it’s a grabby opener, as a journalist would put it. You get really real about sex and about being slut-shamed, basically. How did you write that? Where did that come from?
Alex: Oh my god… I don’t even remember when I wrote that. I had that whole intro written for a long time. I actually found on my phone recordings a whole different version of that song with that intro but completely turned around and weird. It was like the peak of this honest songwriting that I was doing. It was just playing my guitar and just word-vomiting. I dated a guy with the same name as me and it kind of ended a little sour. And I was like, that’s the most ridiculous situation. Everyone thought it was so funny that we had the same name, so I was like, you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to reclaim this whole experience and make it a funny, good piece of art that I can be proud of instead of rolling my eyes at it all the time.
Did you end up moving away from New Paltz, like you were talking about in old interviews?
Noah: Yeah, we moved to Brooklyn… [both together] the place we told everyone we’re not gonna move!
Alex: We’re in Brooklyn now. I don’t know how long we’re gonna be there for. We’ve been there a little over a year. It’s everything we thought would Brooklyn would be, it’s fun but also expensive. I don’t know where we would go next. We’re kinda thinking about that though—we’re people who like to move around a lot, we can’t stay in one place for too long.
You guys met at New Paltz—what did you study in school?
Noah: I wasn’t actually going to New Paltz at the time, she was.
Alex: I studied digital media production, so video editing kind of stuff with a media twist to it. When we met I was like, “Oh, I’ll make you a music video,” and that’s how we got each others’ contacts. I tried, I didn’t really like being behind the camera as much. What were you studying at [SUNY] Purchase?
Noah: I was studying arts management, and I realized a semester in that you can’t really teach it, you gotta just do it. It got to the point where my teachers and guidance counselor were asking me questions, because I was touring so much in other bands. I was like, why am I not getting paid for this?
Do you have some goals for the band in mind?
Noah: We haven’t toured Europe, or Australia or Japan yet.
Alex: We did U.K. twice and we did Paris, but we are really are excited to do full Europe, and Japan/Australia would be a dream.
Do you feel like you’ve seen the other person mature or grow up in the last couple years?
Noah: Oh shit, yeah. I met her when she was 18, a freshman in college. Definitely from being on the road, and as a guitar player too, how much she’s progressed. Even just being in real-world situations, because we’re in it all the time in different cities and countries now. She’s definitely not the same kid I first met, but you’re still the same person.
Alex: I think the same with Noah. We were both feeling a little lost, like “what are we doing?” when we met. And now I think we have this purposefulness to ourselves. Noah is super chill, so chilled out. And I think that you are more woke. I think this band installed some hardcore wokeness, like politically, which is cool.
Noah: Yeah, I agree.
Alex: We roll with a big pack of dudes at home, that just happens to be our crew, and I feel like I’m always that person who’s like, “You guys! You can’t say that!” And the world is opening. Everyone is becoming so much more concerned with others’ feelings, how their actions affect others, and I’m like, “Yes! My boys!”
Who are some working musicians you look up to?
Noah: I’m gonna get real cheesy, but my dad is a drummer and he was always the guy who was like, “Do it! Try it! Why not? What’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen? You’re gonna try a different band?” He’s always been really supportive of me.
Alex: I really look up to Alicia [Bognanno] from Bully. She’s such an amazing songwriter and musician, but she also produces and is the engineer on their records. She’s one of those women in music who is doing everything on her own terms. We did a couple-of-day run with Bully last year, and seeing how their whole thing operates and seeing her being this badass woman behind this amazing band was really inspiring.
On your song “Barf Day,” you sing about wanting to eat ice cream on your birthday. So inspired by that: What is the best flavor of ice cream?
Alex: Crumbs Along the Mohawk from Stewart’s in upstate New York. It’s a weird little gas station-y chain that has their own ice cream, and this one seasonal flavor that I can never seem to find. It’s like graham cracker flavored ice cream with caramel swirls and graham cracker chunks. It’s so good! It’s the best ice cream ever!
Noah: I don’t eat a lot of ice cream, but when I do, and I see it all there, I panic and always pick strawberry. Every single time.