Self-described "slop-pop" band Diet Cig stumbled into the world by virtue of a lighter and boredom.
The friendship's origin story goes like this: Noah Bowman was playing a DIY house show in New Paltz, N.Y., when Alex Luciano interrupted his set to ask for a lighter — which he didn't have — but he handed her a bottle of wine instead. A friendship quickly formed, and a few months later, the pair started messing around on drums and guitar. Soon after, they recorded an EP and began touring as Diet Cig.
"That afternoon was one of the first times I had ever really played electric guitar, and I remember plugging it in and being like, 'Oh my god, this is so cool, this is rock 'n' roll!" said Luciano, 20, during a recent phone conversation. "We had a ton of fun that day. For me at least, I was learning how to play with a drummer with an electric guitar, so it was really exciting."
The independent music scene soon wanted in on the fun, and Diet Cig — which plays Metro Gallery on Monday — quickly infected listeners with joyful, danceable punk. Songs, typically lasting under three minutes, range from music-scene malaise to telling off an Ivy League ex, all with an endearing air of innocence and sense of beginnings.
It's been about a year since Diet Cig broke into the scene with "Over Easy," a debut EP on Father/Daughter Records, and extensive touring followed. Just as the band's formation was a relative surprise to Luciano and Bowman, so has their success.
"It hasn't stopped being so overwhelming and exciting," Luciano said. "Anytime anyone ever says something nice about our music, we're like, 'Oh my god, thank you' -- that is crazy that people are listening and enjoying it."
Forming a band in New Paltz can seem inevitable; there's a palpable DIY spirit, and indie successes like Quarterbacks and Porches have also called the area home. In October, however, Diet Cig graduated from the small college town to Brooklyn, N.Y. (Luciano and Bowman, 23, also have dropped out of school.)
"It's been wild generally living in a city as opposed to a town," Luciano said. "It's really exciting because there are so many bands in Brooklyn. ... We're constantly surrounded by working artists and working musicians, and it's very inspiring to keep doing what we're doing being surrounded by so many people who are living their art."
It can be easy to lose the joy in something when it becomes a job, but Luciano said that's not the case for the duo. The fact that they can make the band into something financially viable motivates and validates them.
"We're the kind of people who like to work and we enjoy that hustle, so now that we can take this seriously a little bit, it's still so much fun, but I feel like it's even more of a push to be the best that we can at it and really make it real for us," she said.
Diet Cig hopes to have a full-length album out before the end of the year. It won't be on Father/Daughter, but Luciano said she could not reveal more information. The pair planned to head to upstate New York to focus on writing songs, taking a more deliberate approach than they have on past releases. (The EP was written in a day or two, and recorded in a day. "It wasn't as much thought going into it," Luciano said.)
"The songs are gonna be a little bit more mature, but at the same time it's still going to stick to our original sound: quick songs that are fun and have honest lyrics and fun beats," Luciano said. "I think we're trying to stick with our sounds but be more conscious of how we're writing, what we're writing and trying to make it the best it can be."
Though their sound is maturing and they've largely moved on of playing basements, Diet Cig won't tamper down their trademark high-energy live sets, Luciano said.
"We've had people come up to us and say we've made their week better and they couldn't stop smiling during our live set, and I think that's the biggest compliment for us," she said. "We're having so much fun in our live set, and all we want is for the audience to also be having a great time."