In the late Nineties, CDs cost around $20. Without the means to buy much, my CD “collection” included Green Day’s Dookie, No Doubt’s Return of Saturn, and Celine Dion’s magnum opus Falling Into You. This distinct lack of variety caused me to listen to these albums on repeat for six months at a time. I still find myself listening to certain songs or albums for months on end, until my brain finally screams at me to stop. Diet Cig’s 2015 EP Over Easy and their subsequent singles “Dinner Date” and “Sleep Talk” were on my rotation for much of 2016. This April, the band released Swear I’m Good At This via Frenchkiss; although it’s the band’s first full-length album, it already shows a sense of maturity is setting in.
“I think this band installed some hardcore wokeness, like politically, which is cool,” lead singer Alex Luciano, 21, said in an interview with Spin Magazine. The song “Sixteen” address slut-shaming, with lyrics like “When I was sixteen I dated a boy with my own name, it was weird/And I didn’t think you had to go to town/and tell everybody’s mom that I’m sleeping around.” The playful, high school dreamer sound of their first EP remains throughout, yet based on the subtle evolution of tone, I was excited to see how Diet Cig translated live.
Lisa Prank, aka Robin Edwards, opened for Diet Cig. There was something odd about watching a woman with a crown on, singing solo with a backing track. Prank’s voice is dry and direct. She plays well with the crowd, thanking her backup band with the note “They don’t get paid. It’s actually pretty brutal.” The audience was down with Lisa Prank, shuffling their feet, nodding their heads. Yet overall, the plaid-wearing crowd was ready for the main act.
Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” was playing on the venue soundsystem just before Diet Cig went onstage. My date and I debated whether this was chosen by the band, but our argument was quickly settled when we caught lead singer Alex Luciano dancing wildly by the merch table. Her energy, magnetic and frenzied, carried into the performance with opening song “Sleep Talk.” Pom pom earrings, a babydoll dress, and blue eyebrows completed Luciano’s hodgepodge Nineties look. She smiled, a wink in her eye, as she let the crowd know there’d be no moshing at this show; without the aide of a moshpit, fans danced frantically in one place, like the inflatable tube guy outside a car dealership.
“I feel like I was just high from the room, honestly. Y’all are like smoke stacks here with the holidays,” Luciano reminisced about her last time in Los Angeles (which happened to be 4/20). The atmosphere of the show was straight of an episode of Dawson’s Creek: Luciano, the adorable, quirky lead singer of a band playing prom, her delicate, breathy voice overshadowed at times by formidable drummer Noah Bowman, 24. “Link in Bio” was a highlight of the show, with girls shouting from the darkness “I’m done with being a chill girl! I’m trying to take over the world! Don’t tell me to calm down!”
The band wasn’t joking with the “woke” comment. “The best way to treat someone you hate is with radical kindness,” Luciano grinned after a beat, “Turn to someone next to you and say ‘Let’s smash the patriarchy!'”
As excited as I was to see my “on repeat” favorite songs, the showstopper single of the night was “Barf Day.” It perfectly encapsulates the fresh feeling of high school angst, as life moves forward into adulthood. “Just one birthday card sent to me/I missed my own surprise party/It’s me, I’m only twenty-one years old and now I’m drinking alone,” Luciano sang, her voice melting into Bowman’s warm, rhythmic beat. In the last moment before their final song, she looked at us and implored, “Remember to call your mom.”
Diet Cig’s full-length album Swear I’m Good At This is out now on Bandcamp. They’ve got three more dates on their West Coast tour but will hit the road aha