We Should Do Stick N Pokes

Outside the door of SPACE Gallery in the heart of Portland, Maine two girls hold each other in black and white on craft paper. I am on my way into the arts venue to interview the pop-punk duo Diet Cig when the mural catches my eye. For some reason, the image makes me feel slightly melancholy. It is the afternoon of my seventeenth birthday.

Inside SPACE, the lights are dimmed. Straight-backed wooden benches line both walls and a few staff members are busy getting the venue ready for the evening show. On a low stage at the far end of the room, Diet Cig is in the middle of sound-check, gathering their instruments and gear, getting their set-list organized, and—most importantly—making friends with the sound guy.

Pixie-haired Alex Luciano, the 21-year-old guitarist for Diet Cig, looks casual and relaxed in a Nets basketball t-shirt and jean short-shorts. Drummer Noah Bowman wears a white Antler & Woods shirt with ripped black jeans covered in paint. Luciano’s youthful spirit and high-energy bursts out on stage. Bowman may appear mellow in comparison, but it’s his busy drumming that propels Diet Cig’s sound and fuels Luciano’s stage presence. Together, Luciano and Bowman create a whirlwind of sounds, it feels like there is more than two instruments. Their songs are relatable, fun, and easy to dance to.

Just three hours before their lively evening performance at SPACE, I sit down and talk with Luciano and Bowman about Diet Cig’s summer tour, tattoos, and eye surgery.  

“Art, of course, is a way of thinking…” John Gardner

Do you like Portland, Maine, so far?

Luciano: Yeah, it’s been really fun. We’re actually staying on a boat that looks like a pirate ship tonight. Someone Facebook messaged us, and they were like “Do you wanna stay on our sailboat?” and we were like “sure, it’s Maine,” like I guess sailboats are just everywhere, people live in them. And we get there and it’s literally a pirate ship, it’s SO big! And so crazy! So, I like it a lot so far. We got led onto the ship, down into the quarters, and we were just like freaking out. We were just like; this is not real! Boats like this aren’t real!

Bowman: It was like we were going to summer camp.

Luciano: It really fulfilled my expectation of picturesque sailboats in Maine.

Have you ever been to summer camp?

Bowman: I went to a Rock N Roll camp when I was 13, it was awesome. You stayed for a week, you made a band. You got there and you were assigned a band, and you wrote a song, did a music video and recorded it, and played a show.

Was that the start of your musical career?

Bowman:  No actually, I started playing a long time ago. My dad is a drummer; I was just born into that world.

When did you (Alex) decide to pick up a guitar?

Luciano: I had learned a couple chords and stuff in high school, and would just learn covers of songs that I liked, but I didn’t start playing electric guitar till we met (Her and Noah) and decided to start playing music. We were super bored one afternoon, and no one knew that I had written some songs on the guitar, and he was like, let’s just try and do this as a band, like just see if we can flesh out a song with drums. I was like okay.  And I plugged the guitar in and turned it on, and I was like BRUNNN! I was like WOAH this is cool! I’ve been missing something because I haven’t been doing this. So it was like August 2014 when I was like damn, I wanna do this, I wanna rock out.

Is it true that you guys met through a lighter?

Luciano: Or lack of a lighter.

Bowman: I was playing a show with another band, But I was playing guitar in that band at the time and I didn’t even know who she was yet, but she came up during the middle of a set, was like “do you have a lighter?”  I’m kinda like wait, why are you asking me this question, I’m in the middle of a show right now, this is so weird, but I was kinda like yeah, I’ll get you one just wait, and I had a bottle of wine, and I was like just hold this, you know so she’ll just like stay there, and then afterwards, we started talking and then we kinda became friends, and started a band.

Do you have any tattoos?

Luciano:  Noah gave me a tattoo the day that we met, we hung out, or it was like the day after, the day after the show and the party, and he texted me “Hey we met last night do you wanna come over?” He was dubbing tapes at our friend’s studio and so me, and my friend went, and we went to go hangout, and we were all bored, and we were like “we should do stick n pokes”, cause all of Noah’s tattoos are stick n pokes. So I was like damn like, you must be good at this you have so many stick n pokes why don’t you give me one, I’ll get one. I got a daisy on my foot, but like it’s so lumpy.

Bowman: It was like the second one I’ve ever done

Luciano: As he was doing it, I was like this is horrible! I don’t know, I was trying to be nice cause I wanted to be this person’s friend, but like this is not looking like the way I drew it on my foot. Yeah it’s very low-key, and it’s small, but I was like I’m never gonna see this person again, this is fine, whatever, how funny is this. Now I’m like ****, now I have a tattoo from Noah.

I discovered you guys through your music video Scene Sick, was that your first music video and what was it like filming it?

Bowman: It was fun cause we did it all in a day, we kinda came up with a concept (that day). We got up super early and it was cold. I remember it was really cold out

Luciano: It was so cold, we did it in like November/December and I’m like a t-shirt the whole time and I was FREEZING. That’s why Noah is wearing a coat

Bowman: I would drop the coat and right after I would just wrap her up in the coat, she was so cold. But that was fun we just drove around all day, and we’re like “that’s a cool spot lets shoot in front of that.”

What is Scene Sick about?

Luciano: That song is about being new to a scene and being like ugh, everyone takes this so seriously, I just wanna like dance and be a weirdo. I was really frustrated with like, just you know, scene politics and stuff, like boys being ****boys and the usual, like whatever. Now that I’m in a band a lot of people are like, “oh do you like understand now? Do you feel differently about the scene?” I’m like no, everyone is still just too much of a chiller. I have like no chill. I’m just like that whacky person, like I just gotta dance!! And so it was just me being frustrated that everyone had so much chill

What was it like filming Dinner Date?

Luciano: That one was really fun because we had a lot of our friends do cameos in it. All the people I’m arm wrestling are all of our friends. I would love to release the outtakes of that because there were so many more characters and stuff that I arm wrestled, but it was a short song so we really didn’t get to include everyone. I had a black eye in the video and I had just gotten eye surgery, and so my eye was like actually ****** up. It was like an emergency eye surgery and my eye looked so gnarly, and we were like what’re we gonna do, like we have to shoot a music video.  My friend Ben from Power Bottom was like, girl I got you, and like bruised up my eye with all this makeup and stuff. It was really fun and we had to get pretty creative with it. It was just like hanging out with all of our friends in costumes.

What happened to your eye?

Luciano: My retina was detached from the back. I had had an injury in a soccer game in high school, and it was something if they did a little procedure then it would’ve been fine, but they didn’t so like two years later, or maybe even three years later I started seeing this patch in my eye, like darkness. I was like am I going blind?! So I had to get emergency surgery like the day after I went to the doctor. They were like so invasive. I had stitches in my eyeball and my eye was gnarly, it was so insane looking. It was like the white part of my eye was so swollen that like the iris was in a half moon shape because it was swollen over it. I was like is my eye gonna go back to normal?! Did you cut a part of it out?! It was so whacky, and thank god it’s pretty much back to normal now.

What was the first gig you ever played together?

Bowman: It was at New Paltz house show. We played four songs and I remember it was the first time she’d ever played live to anyone really, and she was terrified

Luciano: Well it was like, all my friends, all the kids. I wanted to be cool. They were all my homies. I performed before, like I did musicals and stuff when I was a kid, but I was like ****, this is like… my stuff, if this is bad I’m gonna be embarrassed like hardcore. It was probably horrible. I hope no ever took a video or anything, I’m sure it was bad

Bowman: But, it was cool, because I didn’t care if it was good or bad. After every song I was like, okay three more songs, okay two more songs. All you gotta do is get through that first show and then it’s like you figure it out.

Luciano: Everyone was so nice about it though. It was like one those things where everyone is like “that was so good” and I’m like I know you’re lying, but you’re so nice so thank you. It took me a long time to be like okay, I’m confident, I can do this. I’m not nervous, and feel good about how we play live. For shows we’re not great, but that’s okay. They’re not supposed to be good at first.

You seem pretty comfortable now

Luciano:  Yeah well I feel like we’ve done it so much in the past year that I’m like this is the one part of my day that I get to actually be me, and everyone is here to watch us do our thing, and it’s a cool feeling. We’re super grateful for it, but it definitely makes it easier to get on up there.

Do you find only having two band members being an advantage or disadvantage?

Bowman: I was in a lot of bands before this where it was like you’d have as much as five people or three or so and this was the first band with just two. I guess as far as like getting everyone together it’s super easy cause it’s either like can we do practice? Yes, alright cool. It’s one phone call in a way but, yeah it definitely was a challenge at first cause we want to keep it a two piece but how do we, live, make this feel like there’s more than just a two piece. It definitely took us a couple months when we first started.

Luciano: I still think we’re constantly trying to figure it out though, it’s definitely a constant thought of oh how can I make my guitar tune like cut through and not be too bassy, but still have enough fullness, it’s fun though, it’s a constant experiment like sound vise but it’s also good financially to have two people. Less people to feed and pay and everything.

Bowman: It definitely helped too when we first started touring cause we toured in my Honda Element and we’re like this is perfect! We have more than enough room in here.

Luciano: I wouldn’t say more than enough room…but we made it work. Sometimes though it’s tough when you only have two brains thinking on one song. The other day we were working on a song and we had Nate and Hunter there and we were like what do you think we should do, and just having that extra input really helps so sometimes it’s a disadvantage when you have only have two brains working to solve one song

How would you describe your music?

Luciano: Slop pop

Bowman: We like to call it Slop Pop

Luciano: It’s sloppy, it’s poppy, it’s fun, it’s real, it’s like we might **** up on stage but it’s because we’re being goofy and having fun, it’s catchy, but also kinda rock, it’s like, yeah it’s sloppy pop, a rock band playing pop songs.

As I left the show that night I reminisced about all the events that happened…Alex Luciano screaming of excitement upon hearing it was my birthday, Diet Cig dedicating one of their new songs to me, and of course dancing all night long. I left feeling ready to take on whatever being seventeen handed me.

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