January 26, 2018
Alex Luciano is as irrepressible and exuberant over the phone as she is on stage. Despite the single-digit temperatures in her new adopted home of Richmond, Virginia, Luciano’s voice rings through my tinny iPhone speaker with the same energy that has had her bouncing around stages across the country for over two years.
Luciano is one-half of punk band Diet Cig, the band she formed in 2014 with drummer Noah Bowman in upstate New York’s quintessential liberal arts university enclave New Paltz. Luciano has found her new sense of quiet downtime to be both tiresome and reenergizing.
“I’ve just been eating a lot of soup! And hanging out. A lot of hanging out. So many of our friends down here work in schools, so they’ve had off a lot with all of the snow,” she said.
This, Luciano told me, is Diet Cig’s first significant amount of time off the road since the band started. Upon releasing their debut EP in the Fall of 2014, Diet Cig began to feel the pull of the road almost immediately.
They began booking themselves some shows and, much to their surprise, were well received in cities that weren’t their own.
“Everywhere we went, people just showed up. There were crowds, which we didn’t expect. So we just kept touring.
“We toured on that EP for TWO YEARS! And it was so great to have toured for so long before our debut album (2017’s Swear I’m Good At This) even came out, because we had a good grip on our routine by the time we released this record and went out on tour. That was really nice because when this big album came out we were in our groove.”
It was a groove that Luciano and Bowman found almost too tight.
“We know each other so well know and have gotten into such a tight groove that we wanted to challenge ourselves and add two more people into the mix just to give these songs everything they deserve on this last run behind our first album.”
Though Diet Cig will be touring with two new members, those people are hardly new to the fold.
“Anna [Cory] plays bass. They play in the Spook School who we toured with in October in the EU. We became really good pals.”
Asked one of her fondest memories of the last few years of touring, Luciano cited a night with Spook School without hesitation.
“One of the best nights we’ve ever had on tour was just hanging out and the last night of the EU run, we gave each other stick and poke tattoos and just the memory of that night is so special. So we’re really excited to have Anna on with us.
“And our new synth player Karli [Roberts-Helm] plays in a band called Plush out of San Francisco. Plush is on Father/Daughter, our first label and our manager linked us up. We love Karli and Karli is super into it.”
While Chicago tends to be Luciano’s favorite place in the country to play, Diet Cig’s North Carolina shows have always been near the top of that list.
“Our North Carolina shows have been amazing,” she said. “We played Charlotte for the first time last spring and I was like ‘Oh just another smaller city, we’ll see how it goes’ and it was amazing! Snug Harbor was sold out and I was like ‘Who are these people!?’ Everyone was on the same wavelength. Charlotte and Carrboro were my favorite shows on that entire tour.”
Long known for being advocates and agents of change behind the ever-growing movements of transgender and gender rights, the members of Diet Cig are using their platform to enact positive change on a grassroots level. They’re insisting that all venues along their tour have gender neutral bathrooms, making sure all fans are aware of their zero-tolerance policy and even going so far as to encourage people to text or talk to their tour manager if they, at any point, feel unsafe or encroached upon.
“I think the most direct way we can show our allyship to marginalized folks is through our shows. We’re constantly working on creating a safer space at our shows and focusing on really basic things that aren’t afforded to everyone in everyday life.”
Now that the album cycle is wrapping up and Luciano can see the light at the end of the tunnel, she is ready to hunker down with her bandmate and focus on writing a new album. When talking about heading into the process of creating a new album, Luciano’s ebullient manner hits a new high.
“We wrote the first record while on the road constantly. Every minute of downtime we were in the practice space, trying to write. So after this final tour we have one or two one-offs, college shows, then after that we have no more shows because we will be writing and recording an album. This past record we wrote in between tours. So it’ll be nice to take a breather, to write without being rushed.”
Diet Cig will, for the first time find themselves with enough space, time and flexibility to write their new album, it was a freak injury suffered by Luciano that will keep the duo firmly ensconced at home and in the writing process.
“I tore my ACL and have surgery scheduled in the spring, after all of our touring is done. So it’ll be perfect. I’ll be immobilized. Which is great for writing and recording.”
Given her buoyancy on stage and her cheerful disposition off of it, it’s weird to consider Alex Luciano as a dormant body, immobilized and stationary. Whether or not that sense comes through on the follow-up to their excellent debut remains to be seen, but the explosive energy with which she regards her band makes it hard to believe that anything Diet Cig commits to comes with anything less than a healthy dose of excitement.
Diet Cig is back in Charlotte on February 26 at Neighborhood Theatre with Great Grandpa and The Spook School. Check out the full 2018 tour schedule.