Opinion: Diet Cig creates name for femme punk

Diet Cig is a pop punk duo made up of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman, who met at an Earl Boykins concert. The group was formed in September 2014 in New Paltz, New York. 

Genesis Hansen, Columnist

Two friends transition from college band to band of the people.

The stage lights are soft. A young girl is at the microphone, behind her a young man at the drums. The speaker is loud, so the sound of the electric guitar floats like a bubble in the air. Each sweet note leads to a voice. “I like to stay in the bath till it gets cold.”

The pop punk duo Diet Cig formed in September 2014 in New Paltz, New York. The band consists of 21-year-old Alex Luciano on guitar and vocals, and 24-year-old Noah Bowman on drums.

Luciano grew up in Albany, New York, and went to school at the State University of New York in New Paltz. Bowman grew up as a twin in Brooklyn, New York. Before Diet Cig, he played in Earl Boykins and Just Kids.

The two met at Bowman’s concert for the band Earl Boykins. Luciano interrupted Bowman’s set asking for a lighter for her cigarette and the next day Bowman gave her a tattoo; they’ve been a duo ever since.

Retiring as a college band, they’ve reached No. 27 on the independent album billboard. Taking their success outside of New York, the band has decided to come to Portland, Oregon on Feb. 12, 2018 at the Aladdin Theatre. Tickets are on sale now at ticketfly.com for $15.

“Diet Cig established its hallmark: peppy, overdriven anthems that transcend simple trappings on the strength of Ms. Luciano’s expert phrasing and super-specific, pithy, slice-of-life lyrics,” Joe Coscarelli of “The New York Times” said.

“I think they’d be a great act to see live, and exciting to watch,” Cameron O’Connor, Oregon State University music instructor and guitarist, said.

O’Connor is currently in his second term teaching at OSU; he is trained in classical music and has experience playing live with a band.

After their first extended play record, “Over Easy,” released in 2015, the band came out with a new album consisting of 12 tracks, titled, “I Swear I’m Good At This” on April 7, 2017.

“I hope this record can tell other people their feelings are valid,” Luciano said to DIY Magazine’s El Huny in an interview.

“We become what we see,” Dana Reason, the musician, instructor and coordinator of contemporary music at OSU, said in a phone interview.

Luciano is concerned with representing the femme perspective in punk and popular music. With the increase in female participation in music production, women can have a perspective and some space to make an influence in the industry.

“Alex embodies the continuation of the Riot Grrrl Movement of the 1990s. Girls who want to perform and play guitar,” Allison Johnson, an instructor of grunge and popular music at OSU, said in a phone interview. “If she can do it, why can’t we?”

Luciano is an empowered female musician in a male-dominated medium. She is taking a stand and making way for women everywhere.

“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,” Luciano said in an interview with The New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli.

“I just play the drum parts. I don’t really have any input into what she’s singing. I hate to admit it, but I don’t even know half the words to these songs. I just know vocal cues,” Bowman said in an interview with Ron Knox of Noisey.

Although he may not know the words, it takes incredible skill and understanding to anticipate the energy and decisions that Luciano makes whilst live on stage.

“A good duo is really like an organism, sometimes they individually function like a heart or the breath,” Johnson said. The duo operates on the hinge of unity, moving to the music as one.

The eighth track to their new album “I Swear I’m Good At This” called “Bath Bomb,” really emphasizes Diet Cig’s attitude to conforming, and relishing in who you are.

In the song’s first lyrical segment, which reads, “I know it’s hard, showing the world, who you are,” Luciano dives right into the true struggles that society imposes on her as a woman, and acknowledges that it’s difficult for people to give themselves permission to live authentically. It’s as if there has been some unwritten rule that being who you are isn’t enough, and Luciano is changing that rule.

Luciano’s singing style revolves around a punk, rock, indie, and pop sound.

“When she comes in with her vocals, it’s as though she’s splashing color across the blank canvas of the accompaniment,” O’Connor said.

“A lot of indie vocalists don’t push their voices, but (Luciano) has really daring vocals, holds nothing back, and isn’t worried with what she sounds like,” said Olin Hannum, director of athletics bands and associate director of bands. Hannum has been a member of the musical faculty since the summer of 2016.

Later in the song “Bath Bomb,” the lyrics “I know you are patiently waiting for some type of big unveiling of who you are and what you mean” express that as people it’s easy to get caught up in the train of thought that takes you to the station of questioning your existence, or role in society.

Do you stand out, or do you try to fit in? This song speaks to the truth that we are all searching, waiting and hoping to discover our purpose.

In another passage of the song “Bath Bomb,” Luciano states that she enjoys the sight of wrinkled hands from the water of the tub.

“She is deeper than her skin,” said Reason in an analysis of Luciano’s intentions with lyrical composition. “She’s saying that her gender shouldn’t limit the span of her ability, and that she isn’t just something or someone to look at.”

The wrinkled hands indicate an eroded soul, worn and withered from the degradation that has been endured. The bathtub is the life we explore, and the wrinkled hands represent the ways by which we are affected by said life.

In the next line, “I’m not that patient,” she’s aware that if she spends all her time wondering about who and what she is, she’ll miss out on her life, and she isn’t going to wait for life to hand her a revelation. She’s ambitious with her life and isn’t shy to explore within it.

As listeners and music connoisseurs, we must look at this message and make a decision. Should we wait for life to hand us lessons, meaning and value? How can we respond to the feminist movement around us? You are the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be, so why waste time and be resistant to the events of your life? We must get out of the cold empty bathtub that keeps us sedentary, and tackle life with ambition and excitement. 

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