New York has long been a mecca for introspective indie rock, meaning that punkish duo Diet Cig have had a wealth of inspiration to draw from.
From the slick touch of The Strokes, to the bleak but distinctly bohemian sounds of Vampire Weekend, and the burgeoning synthy post-grunge of acts like DIIV and Triathlon, the band are spoiled as far as the reputation of the scene that they inhabit goes.
So how did they go about writing their second LP Do You Wonder About Me?, given the rich artistic tapestry they found themselves in?
“We packed up and moved to Richmond, Virginia and got away from the city,” laughs frontwoman Alex Luciano, joining us on the phone with bandmate and drummer Noah Bowman to reflect on their journey thus far.
“It was less stressful. We almost needed that lack of adrenaline in order to write this. You can hear that in the songwriting, it’s a lot more introspective, as opposed to having some sort of a commentary on the world,” she says.
“When we arrived in Richmond we were really overwhelmed with the city lifestyle….so coming out here gave us a chance to really chill, try stuff that wasn’t music, but also write this record properly.”
“I was able to lean into making visual art, we now have our own space to practice our songs and write them!”
“Moving down here, we could get something that was just ours, that was so helpful for me”, adds Noah.
“When I want to flush something out I don’t have to check a calendar. That was something that I didn’t really get to do on our first record.”
There’s definitely a sense of mature self-examination that runs through Do You Wonder About Me?, with Luciano’s musings about identity and self-worth set to sunny punk arrangements that feel markedly more paced.
“We got to the point where we put all the pieces together; we had this magical moment where, a couple of weeks before we started recording, I had this moment where I was feverishly writing in my journal the thesis of the record…once the dust settled, I was able to really clearly see how things connected together,” says Alex.
“We never really had time to think about anything, to take a second and look at what we were able to achieve.”
Something that is noticeable about Diet Cig is their understanding of the need to not rush and give themselves room. That’s a concept that they note as a sign of ‘growing up’, a phrase that often fills musicians flying by the seat of their debut record with fear.
“Our last record…we were really writing it in stolen moments, but this…we took the time off of touring to give ourselves the space to take a breath and figure out what the songs were that we wanted to write,” says Alex.
“It was getting to the point where we were just tired. Even before our debut album came out, we toured non-stop when our EP came out….we realised ‘shit, we need to actually get some new songs to play.’”
Of course, fate also had its own way of intervening.
“Alex actually had to get ACL surgery, so we couldn’t really tour because she had to recover. That was also towards the end of touring for 2+ years, so the stars aligned in a weird kind of way,” notes Noah.
“We never really had time to think about anything, to take a second and look at what we were able to achieve. So it feels so great now to have a new record in light of that.”
It’s a strange time for an act who had to put a huge upcoming album run on hold in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, good things come to those who wait, and when Diet Cig do eventually get back onstage we can expect to see them with a slightly beefed up live lineup.
“With this record we almost committed to writing with a full band in mind,” reveals Alex.
“On the last cycle we toured just the two of us, but had a couple of runs with other live members, but this time around we decided that all the touring that we would do on this record, we would do that as a full band…we really wrote these songs committing to be a four piece band – at least for our live show.”
We might have to wait a little longer, but allowing ourselves time to sit and look forward to live music might make us appreciate just that little a bit more.
At least we still have a wonderful new Diet Cig album to spin in the meantime.