If you’re a fan of Diet Cig, please send them the name of a good conspiracy theory podcast.
The pop-punk duo ran into a unique problem while trying to keep themselves entertained on their current tour. The sort of people who think that the Illuminati wants their mind, soul and their bodies tend to have more enthusiasm than broadcasting skills.
“We spent a day in the hole of bad conspiracy theory podcasts,” the band’s vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano told me over the phone last week. “But they all seem to be their first podcast. It’s somebody spending the first 25 minutes explaining what they’re going to do.”
And they aren’t just some gawkers dipping a toe into the wingnut arena, Luciano is clearly a believer and exactly the sort of person who would love a good audio breakdown of the truther movement, if only the host could get his levels right.
“I love conspiracies,” she said. “I definitely think that Bush did 9/11 and I’m all for people saying we didn’t go to the moon.”
The great thing is, if you think you know the name of an entertaining tin-foil hat type and want to share, the band is remarkably easy to reach. The band work really hard to connect with their fans on Twitter and foster the community that have latched on to Luciano’s uber-personal-as-hella-political songs. A quick scan through their social media will find the band responding to fan art images, fans’ selfies in homemade t-shirts and people just generally enjoying their new album.
“We spend a lot of time reaching out to our fans,” Luciano explains. “These are the coolest people and we get to meet them every night. It’s so great to have a community of awesome people who love our band. And we get to communicate with them in a real, anti-corporate way. We’re able to kind of connect with them and be our real selves.”
“Once every show it seems like we run into someone and it’s like ‘Oh my god. I know you from Twitter. How’s that thing you’re working on?'” she recalled.
Of course, a band doesn’t simply generate a fan base that cares so deeply out of nowhere. Diet Cig may have the Twitter presence, but that grew out of them having the songs. Their latest album Swear I’m Good At This takes intense, autobiographical moments from Luciano’s life and turns them into blasts of indie-pop whose choruses double as slogans, particularly for her fellow young women.
Throughout the album, Luciano peppers rallying cries that could easily end up spelled out in puffy paint across the torso of an eager fan. From the unfortunately relatable shout of “Don’t tell me to calm down!” to the weary admission of “It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt,” Diet Cig have crafted an album full of rallying cries out of Luciano’s most vulnerable moments. And fans have responded in kind.
“In think, during the writing process, I have to get to this very personal and vulnerable space,” Luciano said. “I have to dig for these feelings and package them into something that means something more…I’m taking these anecdotes and personal stories and direct references to my experiences and reclaiming them, turning them into something that other people can connect with.”
People are definitely connected, with everyone from excitable Tumblr bloggers to the New York Times taking notice of the band’s debut album.
“[That] was wild and crazy and exciting,” said drummer Noah Bowman about the band’s recent profile in the Gray Lady. “I definitely didn’t expect to be at that level at this point. It’s cool that I can be like ‘Look, mom!'”
While Luciano agreed with the idea that their elevated profile was “really crazy,” she sees it as a natural extension of all the work they’ve put in to Swear.
“There was a moment of ‘What is this band even?'” she said. “But since we put out [the 2014 EP] Over Easy, we’re really proud of what we’ve done and we stand behind it all. It’s really like our hard work did kind of pay off.”
That’s not to say there aren’t naysayers to Diet Cig’s rise. A review of the band’s debut in Pitchfork was particularly vicious, and many readers believed the write-up to be fairly sexist in its critique, but when I bring the review up to the group, they portray the same sort of desire to accentuate the positive that is all over their album.
While Luciano admitted that it was “rough” to read that piece, she quickly added that she didn’t want to talk about it before pivoting back to her deep love for the band’s fans.
“I am definitely thankful for all the people who had our back and supported us,” she said of the backlash to that review. “I’m just really, really thankful for all of them.”
And that sort of unerring positivity is something that fans should keep in mind if they decide to make podcast recommendations. In spite of some of the difficult things that Luciano details on Swear, she rarely lets rage get the best of her (a few extremely cathartic shouts of “F*ck off!” notwithstanding).
“I like all the theories that aren’t mean or hurtful,” she said after both band members detail their love of the conspiracy theory that Avril Lavigne has been replaced by a body double.
In fact, the band’s podcast deep-dive unearthed a theory that clearly was still bugging her by the time we spoke: The idea that the Sandy Hook shooting was a made-up operation to further the gun control agenda.
‘This apparently was a widely known thing but it’s really evil,” she said. “They think that [President Barack Obama] staged it. That is just the most insensitive bullsh*t.”
The Newtown conspiracy leads Luciano to drop a few questions that could have easily slotted into the shout-along choruses of Swear.
“Who thinks this?” she asked, incredulous. “Who the heck are you?”
In some alternate timeline, there’s a Diet Cig fan hard at work emblazoning that on a blank t-shirt.
Swear I’m Good At This is out now. Get it here.