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Photo by Shervin Lainez

High-energy New York indie duo Diet Cig transcends the hype machine 

Bite back

It's the kind of story that, years from now, just might be the stuff of indie rock legend – that night at a show in New Paltz, New York, when Alex Luciano interrupted Noah Bowman's band between songs to ask him for a lighter ... and at that moment, Diet Cig was born.

Well, kind of. Later in the evening, Luciano offered to make a music video for drummer Bowman's then-band (Earl Boykins, for the curious), which was all fine and good until she realized that she wanted to play in a band of her own. The pair quickly started making music together as Diet Cig, drawing from songs that singer-guitarist Luciano had written in her bedroom, and ended up with their first EP, 2015's Over Easy cassette. The five songs' worth of jangly, skeletal pop were bursting at the seams with sheer energy.

It was nerve-wracking, Luciano recalls, to share those songs with their New Paltz scene live for the first time, but it became a certain kind of artistic catharsis: "This form of reclaiming these feelings and these experiences and turning them into something to be proud of; that feeling of being like, 'OK, I'm sharing these really embarrassing and personal stories but now they're mine, and I can take ownership of them.'"

But the genuineness of Luciano's reclamation, along with the humor and self-aware vulnerability, struck the exact right (power) chord people wanted to hear. In the kind of DIY dream that doesn't come around too often, Over Easy fast became a golden child of music blogs and college radio, catapulting Diet Cig into a move to Brooklyn and near-relentless touring.

As Bowman confesses, when their first major tour began they "really hadn't even played that many shows," but this forced the duo to grow with rapid acceleration, as Diet Cig shaped their sound and figured out what they really wanted to say.

This April marks the release of Swear I'm Good at This on Frenchkiss Records, Diet Cig's first LP and the product of that growth. "This new record represents what we have become through this band," Bowman says. "We [took] the energy everyone has given us and [made] a record out of it."

Though they're not green anymore, Diet Cig certainly haven't become jaded – Swear I'm Good at This, recorded back in New Paltz, is shot straight through with the authenticity that's always been at the heart of Diet Cig's appeal.

Notably, much of the record focuses on the sexism Luciano has faced both from DIY scenes and the music industry at large: "This idea that you kinda have to prove yourself ... in a way that often times men don't have to. [Femmes] are told often times that what they're saying is too dramatic, or too emotional. ... Why when I talk about my feelings am I called 'snotty,' or a 'brat,' but when men talk about their feelings it's 'poignant' and 'heartbreaking'?"

Diet Cig want to create a space outside of that, where anyone at all is welcome to "be goofy and have fun and rock out and feel the same thing all at once." Now, with copies of Swear I'm Good at This hot off the presses, Diet Cig are bringing their bounce-off-the walls live show to Will's Pub and making their Orlando debut.

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