When fellow Daily Arts Writer Sean Lang and I first walked into the press tent at Audiotree Music Festival, I walked up to Diet Cig and introduced myself, thinking they were waiting for us to start the interview.
Instead, it turned out we were interrupting another conversation they were having.
As I called myself an idiot a million times in my head, their manager came over to us and apologized profusely, saying some random fans walked up and started talking to them, and he allowed it, thinking they were us.
After a failed first attempt at contact, I finally had a chance to properly introduce myself. What I received in return were two of the most genuine smiles from singer / guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman. They seemed to apologize for themselves, for no reason. Suddenly my nerves from before seemed to vanish as we casually slipped into a conversation that was supposed to be classified as an interview.
After an energetic performance, we got to sit down with Diet Cig and talk to them about their music, creating safe spaces and DIY.
The Michigan Daily: Sean and I are both involved in the DIY scene back in Ann Arbor, and I know that you all had your start in your local scene. Do you still think, despite playing these bigger festivals, some of those lessons you learned in the scene are still useful to you today?
Luciano: Yeah, I mean, we came up in the DIY scene. Our first shows were basement shows, and it kind of influenced who we are as a band. I think it will always kind of contribute to who we are as a band because that’s where we came from. It’s cool because we do get to play these larger festivals, and I feel because we played DIY shows we’re really good at breaking down and getting our shit out of the way because, you know, if you’re playing a basement show, you need to make sure all the bands play before the cops come, you gotta move on.
Bowman: Yeah, and with troubleshooting, too. We’re really good at thinking to ourselves, “OK this isn’t working, but we can make it work.”
Luciano: Yeah, and it’s nice because we do get to play these festivals but we still get to play basement shows. We have a really amazing agent who’s super down to book us for DIY shows, which is something a lot of bands fear with getting an agent, that they won’t be able to play house shows. But Brianna, our agent, has still booked us for some really cool shows, so it’s still a part of who we are.
TMD: Well we’re glad that you’re sticking true to your DIY roots. One of my favorite things about the DIY community is how important activism is within the community. And I noticed on stage that you took the time to address a few issues, which is something that can be important for artists to do. But for you, do you think that it’s important for an artist to use their platform to talk about these issues and create a safe space and all of that?
Luciano: I think it’s every band’s choice. I feel like with the platform we have — which I feel very grateful for having, and these are things we care about — it’s not super hard to say something like, “Hey, go vote,” especially when you have a microphone right in front of you. When it comes to having safer spaces at shows, I think it is the responsibility of the artists. No one wants to be at a show where they’re fearful of being touched inappropriately, or getting hurt because some person won’t stop dancing and hitting people. So I think at least for us it’s super important to make a climate that everyone can come to. When your space isn’t safe, it just excludes people, and we just want everyone to be included.
TMD: Have you ever had a show where you had to address seeing something in the audience?
Bowman: Oh yeah, we’ve had a couple times. I forget where it was, but some dude was being a total fucker, and we were like, “It’s OK you’re having fun, but can you just mind yourself?” He was a big guy, and there was a bunch of smaller people. But then on the next song, he was worse, so we just stopped and said, “You gotta stop.” And the coolest thing was that the bartender stood up on the bar and just pulled him over.
Luciano: We have had to stop and just be like, “We’re not gonna play again until you chill out.” We want people to enjoy our shows, and stopping for a second to make sure everything is OK is definitely worth it.
TMD: I know a lot of bands will go up on stage, make a little chit-chat and not say much else, but I like how you all acknowledge the audience frequently.
Luciano: I feel like we’re pretty transparent too, like our stage persona and our online persona and all that is pretty much who we are. You don’t really get anything else. It’s kinda cool that we can be personal like that, and it makes for a nice community.
TMD: Well on a little bit of a different note, I know you talked about astrology a little on stage. Personally, I’m a Capricorn, but I really don’t feel like I am.
Luciano: No way, Noah’s a Capricorn.
TMD: Do you identify with Capricorn?
Bowman: Oh yeah. Do you think I’m a Capricorn?
Luciano: Yeah, you’re like a textbook Capricorn: setting the plan, super chill, knows what’s going on, you know.
Bowman: Sometimes it sucks, and I wish I wasn’t, you know, it’s like I gotta know what’s going on all the time and be super organized and all that.
Luciano: We’re a good match though, Michelle and Barack Obama are a Leo-Capricorn. Michelle is a Capricorn, if that makes you feel any better.
TMD: You know, the more I don’t like being a Capricorn, the more I realize I am one.
Luciano: Yeah but our personalities go really well together. I’m really extroverted and really all over the place, while Noah is really calm and collected. He’s the one that really gets it done while I’m like, “AHHHH! I have a crazy idea!”
TMD: So, on stage you said you’re a Leo sun, and a Cancer moon; so my follow up would be what’s your rising?
Luciano: Sagittarius. Which I feel goes really (well) with my Leo sun because they’re both fire signs basically saying, “I’m here.”
TMD: Yeah I can definitely see that. I sometimes I want to say that it’s crap, but the more I look at it …
Luciano: Well there are so many different versions of yourself, you’re not just (a) one sided person. Sometimes maybe you’re feeling your Cancer rising … or your Aquarius moon, you know. It’s fun to just talk about yourself. It’s so easy to be like, “What’s your sign?” I love astrology. Thanks so much for asking me about it.