Diet Cig, “Harvard”

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Earlier this month we learned of twee-pop New Paltz duo Diet Cig, whose debut EP Over Easy is out in February via Father/Daughter. On their first single, “Scene Sick”, Alex Luciano sings trenchant criticisms of the aesthetics and cultural attendants of independent music. She sounds both brittle and brave, lilting on lyrics like, “Fuck all your romance/I just wanna dance,” as if the visceral could and should supplant the needlessly critical.

On the band’s second single, “Harvard”, Luciano chases to the top of her register on what amounts to a break-up song shot through with a dose of cultural Marxism. Luciano is here the jilted lover, having lost to a lock-jawed Harvard girl, asking “How’s your new Ivy League girlfriend? Is she boring too in the way I couldn’t stand to be?” as the guitars shamble and then explode behind her. The arrangement builds to its final lyric, “Fuck your Ivy League sweater/You know I was better.”

Luciano’s defeat is defiant: she both loses to the girl with the Ivy League sweater and still insists on superiority anyways. The song allows for heartbreak and independence in almost the same breath. Like the panacea of the dance floor on “Scene Sick”, Luciano screams her pathos and victory here too: “I bet she’s not as loud.” “Harvard”, loud and unboring, is a victory anthem for the kids with nothing but sweat on their sweaters. The track is streaming below; also read on for our chat with Diet Cig on their creation, the EP and why it all adds up to a pleasant nothing in the end.

How did you two meet and start making music as Diet Cig?

In February we met at a house show in New Paltz. Drunk business deals were discussed about music videos and we ended up hanging out ever since. We didn’t start making music until the end of the summer. In a whir of puppies and tennis balls, Diet Cig was born.

I’ve heard the cigarette described as the ultimate Western invention: It is intentionally disposable and produces nothing but the desire to have another, kind of the ultimate, modern emptiness. How much of a finger-in-the-eye-of-our-cultural-vapidity is in your band name? Are we the worst?

Yeah, you are the worst. Everyone reads way too into it. Maybe we do leave you with a desire for more without being bad for you. Maybe we’re the nicotine patch for the people trying to take a step away from the pretentiousness of everything. But it probably means nothing.

What is the challenge of being a band based in New Paltz? It seems like the Hudson Valley has become something an alternate (and cheaper) locale for artists/bands, and yet so much of zeitgeist seems to still take place in Brooklyn.

We’re in New Paltz because Alex goes to school there, but honestly there is a scene growing and thriving up here too. But it’s 2015 and we have the internet and automobiles so it’s really not hard to stay connected to everything in Brooklyn. We play where people ask us to play. Sometimes it’s Brooklyn. There isn’t much of a challenge at all except maybe Alex having to pee a million times on the ride down.

The narrative thrust on “Scene Sick” is both super obvious and immensely satisfying: Cut the scene-y bullshit and dance. It sort of reminds me of the Dandy Warhols “Bohemian Like You” in its self-conception. Do you view your role as reminding listeners about the basic functions of music, minus all the accumulated cultural garbage that attends it?

If our songs can make people forget about being cool and just dance like a weirdo for two and a half minutes, we’ve reached our goal. We just wanna have fun, and we want you to have fun with us.

Given how your first single hit listeners, and how well the EP is going to be received, how do you avoid being co-opted by the same aesthetic you decry so well on “Scene Sick”? How ironic was it to see the “scene” (read: small media outlets) go nuts for a song about how stupid the “scene” can be? Is all success, in some sense, self-parody at this point?

It was great! Everyone knows the scene is dumb. The frustration is something everyone in it can relate to. The “scene” knows better than anyone why we just wanna dance.

What are some of the bands that inspire your recording?

Bruce Springsteen. PS Elliot. Frank Cilantro.

How did you guys hook up with Father/Daughter for the EP release?

Our friend Dean in Quarterbacks sent our tunes over to F/D. Jessi (F/D) was just as excited about our EP as we were so we joined forces to take over the world.

What does the 2015 hold for Diet Cig?

A springtime tour, more tunes, DISNEYLAND(WORLD??)

Diet Cig is on a sinking cruise ship, and there’s only one life jacket. Which one of you gets it and why?

The dog.

Diet Cig tour dates:

30 New Paltz, NY at Jordan’s

06 Brooklyn at The Flat
14 Philadelphia, PA at Two Piece Fest
20 Albany, NY at The Low Beat
22 Bard College at The Root Cellar

02 Purchase College at The Stood w/ Rivergazer + Small Wonder
03 Brooklyn, NY at Shea Stadium w/ Rivergazer + Small Wonder