Diet Cig’s Alex Luciano & Noah Bowman hang out at SXSW and chat Swear I’m Good At This

The end of SXSW is the glorious culmination of a week of full on shows, barely any sleep and poor dietary choices, for the most part. While the hangover extends to all areas of your body, the time spent exploring different parts of Austin and connecting with bands from all over the world is well worth it. For New York’s Diet Cig, the festival in Austin, Texas left them with calves of steel and a good insight into how shows off the back of forthcoming album Swear I’m Good At This could be set to develop, once the album is released in April.

Well, we have come to the end of SXSW. We’re all tired and exhausted. How are you feeling? How did the shows go? Tell me all about your SXSW experiences.

Noah: The shows were great. We did ten shows so its just a lot of running around and lugging gear and playing and then running again. But it was fun.

Alex: It was good. It was super crazy hectic, it was a lot of fun. It was a little more chill than last year but at the same time, I feel like it kind of kicked out asses physically more than last year; we did a lot of walking. We’ll have legs of steel after this weekend, I think.

My calf muscles are at least three times the size.

Alex: Totally. It’s been a long week of hustling around but it’s been fun, its been great. Shows are awesome.

It’s cool timing for you guys cause you got the album coming out in like a few weeks so it’s like people don’t quite … Don’t obviously know all the songs yet, but you’re ready to get them out into the world.

I assume that a lot of the songs, I mean it seemed like you’ve been playing the songs for a while, most of them. Fans will be familiar, to some extent, but how has it been playing the record as you lead up to its release?

Alex: It’s crazy because we used to always end our set… we kind of lived by that whole idea of ending your set on the banger. End your set on the song everyone wants to hear. We’ve always ended our set with “Harvard” which was, before this record, kind of our biggest song, our favourite song. We have a lot of fun playing it live and if you don’t know our band, if you only know us a little bit, you might know that song other than the other ones.

This week we’ve been playing “Barf Day”, which is one of our newest singles, last, and people are coming out to us before our sets like “Oh are you going to play “Barf Day”? Are you going to play that song”? So we started playing it last and it feels weird to kind of have this new hit, in a way, to play. It’s been fun. It’s really cool to play these songs for people and have them be like, “I can’t wait to hear that on the record,” or like, “Oh my God, I love that song” or [have] some of those people that know the words. I’m like, “How do you know the words? That song’s not even out yet!” It’s been really cool.

You know, your band is really well known for your live show and that’s a huge element to kind of what’s gotten you to the point that you are now. How difficult is that to replicate on record? Is there an element to that where you try to walk that line or try to go, “Okay we want this to be emblematic of one of our live shows.” Of course, you can never bring that true energy to a tour…

Noah: I think going into doing the record, we knew we wanted to have a bigger sound and make it just sound like it was bigger, just like your at a live show or something like that. I think, when we were tracking it too, it was still jumping around. We were still acting like we were outside because it made it feel like we were playing live so at least that feeling would try to come across. It is definitely difficult to portray a live set in the recording, because you do want it to be perfect.

Because [in] our lives, there can be flubs and things happening all the time, which makes it fun. On the records, this is going to be this way forever. You spend more time thinking about it.

Alex: I think it’s cool though. I think we stretch a little more on the record and we get to explore some stuff that we don’t get normally get to try live. They’re both so different. They’re kind of their own things.

You can layer it a lot more. There’s a lot more production you can do to it.

Noah: There’s more than one guitar going on. There’s bass on it, there’s some synth and there are multiple vocal tracks, so we get to really have fun with it when we record it.

Alex: It’s cool because this week, we played a lot of songs that we haven’t released yet but we didn’t totally give it away because there’s still so much of it that’s different on the record that we’re so excited for people to hear.

Right. And I’m sure your still working out how to do it live as well?

Alex: This is kind of our trial run in a way, of some songs. And they went really well, it was fun.

So, what happens for you after SXSW? Obviously, the album comes out April 7th, so you’ve got some shows around the release?

Noah: Yes, yes. We’re actually flying to St. Louis tonight to play a college show tomorrow night. Then we fly back home to New York for 10 days, we move out of our apartment, and then hit the road the beginning of April for like the rest of our life.

Alex: We’re super stoked.

The debut album cycle begins. You guys have been playing relentlessly for ages now it feels like. I’ve been seeing you pop up so often for the last couple of years. You must feel like you’re a pretty comfortable live band now; you must be pretty comfortable with each other on stage.

Noah: Yeah, we definitely know who we are as performers now and honestly, I think we’d rather be touring and playing live shows than sitting at home.

Alex: Yeah, totally. I think that we’ve also just from playing so much, [we’ve] really kind of gotten in sync with each other a little bit. We can communicate on stage without stopping and talking, you know? When we started it was so not like that. I was so new to this and we were both so new to performing together, so now I feel like after touring so much, we’re finally at this point that were like, “Yeah, we know what we’re doing a little bit. We’ve got this. We can do this”. It feels good to be about to be going into a tour feeling like that.

After those years of hard work, having a debut album to kind of push into the world must feel like you’ve … It’s always the hardest thing, they say, you can take a lifetime to do your first, but then you’ve only got a couple of years to do your second so it must feel good to have gotten that out of the way almost and have that work that represents where you’re at now.

Noah: But its strange because our progression was so weird too; we had that five song EP, Over Easy, and that was like seven songs but then we toured that almost like it was a record. It’s weird when you think about it, we actually don’t have a full record.

Alex: We didn’t even put a record out yet!

Noah: Yeah. And so going into this, it’s nice because we actually have more songs to play in our live show.

Alex: Totally. It’s cool to be able to give it back to everyone whose kind of been showing up for us the past couple of years and to be like, “Okay. We felt like we did this for you guys”. I feel like this record is for everyone whose shown up for us and supported us even though we’ve had seven songs this whole time.

It’s just a technicality, really, when you say, “This is the debut record.” It really isn’t. It’s just this has a certain number of songs, but that is an advantage. Now you kind of pick and choose what you want to play where as in the past you’ve must have been like, “Um , I kind of have to play every song that I’ve got”!

Alex: It’s pretty cool. We’re really stoked to go into our first tour with that situation.

You mentioned you’re touring the world relentlessly for the next year. Is there a plan to get to Australia?

Noah: There’s talk.

Alex: We’re chitchatting about it. There have been a couple of little email talks but nothing’s set in stone yet, but we would love to come. We’re really pushing for it. We just want to hug koalas. I want to drink with everyone. We want to do all the cheesy stuff and we want to just shred. I feel like people rock so hard in Australia. Everyone I know that’s toured there has been like its the most fun place in the world.

Are you familiar with any Aussie bands?

Alex: Hockey Dad is actually an amazing band. They’re awesome. They’re on our booking agency as well and we just played a showcase with them and I’ve never gotten to truly see their full set live before the other night and I was like, “Oh my God”! They work so hard. Love them.

I want to leave it on this and that’s, you know, you’ve finished your second week of SXSW, your second year. What parting wisdom would you like to provide to the next generation of bands looking to play this clusterfuck of a festival?

Noah: Water is great. Yerba Mate’s are really good.

Alex: Dude, drink Yerba Mates teas. We’re not sponsored by them. If they want to sponsor us, do it. It’s a great way to get caffeine without having your stomach hurt. We were drinking them all week. And apple cider vinegar for your voice if it’s getting hoarse. It saved my life yesterday.

Noah: A dolly, if you can manage it, is a life saver if you put all your stuff on a cart and roll it. It makes it a lot easier than carrying it.

Alex: That saved our asses last year hardcore. We had all of our gear and there’s only two of us so we like to be our own roadies sometimes. We’re trying to be like tough guys but it’s tough…

Noah: I guess the last thing I had to learn about was be very patient because you’re never going to get the exact sounds you want or the kit you’re going to play isn’t going to be great and its just knowing how to just like, “You know what? I just have to get through this set because I only have twenty minutes”.

Alex: And have fun! People don’t care. They know that your sound isn’t going to be great in SXSW, but if you make them have fun they’re going to remember your set. The sets that people remember of ours are never the ones that we thought sounded good, it’s always the ones that we had the most fun and got to hang with the crowd.

The looser the show, the better sometimes.

Alex: Yeah, totally.

Well, looking forward to everyone getting to hear the record. It’s out April 7th. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

Alex: Yeah, totally. Thank you!

Swear I’m Good At This is released on April 7th. Stay up to date with Diet Cig here



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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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