When a band returns from tour after their debut album, having criss-crossed the globe for years and relentlessly set out their stall, they’re rarely the same people that left. For Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman - aka Diet Cig - the period following their four-year-long tour around ‘Swear I’m Good At This’ brought with it a heavy dose of reflection. The questions Alex would ask herself got about as deep as they could possibly go: “Who am I now? Have I grown? How have I grown? Who was I before?”
And so, after throwing themselves into the homebound hobbies that they’d neglected while on the road (Alex learned how to screenprint, while Noah spent his days on lengthy bike rides), the duo wrote ‘Thriving’ - their recent single and the first step towards new album ‘Do You Wonder About Me?’. A driving powerhouse, the song beckoned in a new era of the band that’s slower, chunkier and more deliberate. “I’ve been holding my breath for way too long,” Alex sings on the track, with the deep exhale of coming back home bringing a whole load of unanswered questions with it.
“‘Thriving’ made us realise that we don’t have to be so in everyone’s face anymore,” Noah reflects. “With this record, we have our fans now and we’ve tried things out, and we have people that wanna hear this record. So we’ve been trying to slow ourselves down, really think about what we want to do, and be more intentional instead of just big, loud, everything in your face as fast as we could play it.”
‘Swear I’m Good At This’ introduced Diet Cig in a whirlwind of bubblegum pop and impassioned, yelped lyrics that remain as savage as they are sweet. Looking back on its relentless nature while working on its follow-up, the band wondered, as Noah explains: “What if we just took a breath and gave everyone a chance to think about it and feel it more, instead of just the crazy energy?”
Subsequently, the rest of ‘Do You Wonder About Me?’ picks up the baton set by ‘Thriving’ and runs with it. Highlight ‘Who Are You?’ packs a wonderfully sweet chorus into a background that feels more robust than the band’s beginnings as purely a guitar-and-drums duo, while ‘Night Terrors’ finds Alex as adept at delivering evocative hushed vocals as she is screaming her head off on previous tracks.
“Writing these songs really allowed me to get vulnerable with myself.”
— Alex Luciano
It’s ‘Broken Body’, though, that puts Diet Cig’s flag in the ground. “I’m still all the people I’ve ever been,” Alex sings on a visceral reckoning with her past, realising that, in order to move forwards and change as a person, you don’t have to resign all the regrettable versions of yourself to the bin.
“It’s so not fair to yourself,” she says. “You would never pick those pieces apart about somebody else. It’s this cruel way we look at ourselves and pick ourselves apart. It’s OK to have grown and to celebrate that growth, but to also accept that the things you’ve grown out of are still a part of you, and that’s OK.
“Writing songs is such a cathartic process emotionally, and I don’t often let myself think through feelings like that,” she says of the album’s vulnerable, honest tone. “My gut reaction is, ‘Oh no, don’t dredge that up!’. Writing these songs really allowed me to get vulnerable with myself, and I feel like every time I write and record a song and then hear it again later, it’s almost as if my past self was like, ‘Oh, Alex - this is the feeling, this is the message’ and I’ll listen back and be like, ‘Wow, I really get me!’. Sometimes even in the moment of writing a song, I don’t even really fully grasp the entirety of the emotions that I’m unpacking, and then I’ll listen later and see it all. It’s like my subconscious is sending a nice message to my regular brain.”
Throughout ‘Do You Wonder About Me?’, Diet Cig re-evaluate themselves, as people and as musicians, from the ground up. Preconceptions and social pressures are cast aside, and instead the band lay all the pieces out, examining their whirlwind past half-decade and ever-changing personal landscapes, before picking up the ones that still fit and building something bigger, better and stronger.
“I don’t wanna say that we were scared before,” Alex reflects, “but there was a subconsciousness on our debut where we needed to prove ourselves and prove that we fucking rock - its title, ‘SWEAR I’m Good At This’, says as much. That record was about trying to show everyone that we belong here.
“But this album has got us to realise that yes,” she smiles, “we do belong”.
‘Do You Wonder About Me?’ is out now via Frenchkiss.
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