Diet Cig Break Down Their Self-Assured LP “Do You Wonder About Me?” Track by Track
Alex Luciano details each track on the band’s sophomore record, out today via Frenchkiss.
“We spent a lot of time after the first record growing as people, being humans outside of tour for a little bit, and trying to shed the imposter syndrome,” Alex Luciano explained in a press statement when her band Diet Cig announced their second album Do You Wonder About Me? back at the beginning of March. Though post-tour exhaustion and the ever-looming anxiety about the dreaded sophomore slump may have influenced the three-year gap between albums, Luciano’s statement couldn’t ring more accurate listening to DYWAM?—it radiates confidence both in its instrumentation and its lyrics directly addressing these themes.
“I’m thriving, thanks for asking,” Luciano repeats on the bold opener, “Thriving,” before the the duo of Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman explores everything from percussionless balladry (“Makeout Interlude”) and ambient sampling (“Worth the Wait”) to freak-out riffs (“Flash Flood”) and heavy breakdowns (“Broken Body”) in the ensuing twenty minutes, with none of it feeling at all out of place.
With the record finally out today, we asked one of the two most qualified people to talk about it to write up some words about the story behind each track. Luciano shares details about the recording process, describing the music in phrases most music journalists could only dream to string together (“The sounds feel exactly like if you were in a phonebooth stuck in the afterlife, just trying to call your mom,” she writes about the piano interlude “Priority Mail”).
You can read the full track by track and stream the record below, and you can order the record via Frenchkiss Records here.
This was the first ~full~ song we wrote for the album, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to start the album. My lyrics here are this chaotic balance between self-assuredness and self-consciousness—a big theme of the record—and it just, like, kicks in the door with that feeling. The driving drums and ascending guitars in the bridge build this sense of anticipation that really reflects the anxiety underneath that question of “Do you wonder about me?” I totally dug into that musical theater/reality TV–obsessed part of my brain and leaned into the melodrama of the lyrics. It was cathartic to just let it be all of the feelings—desperate, goofy, confident, confused.
This was one of the only songs we got to play live a few times before recording, and it was so cool to see people who had never heard the song sing the lyrics to the chorus at the end before the song was over. Karli [Ashlyn Helm]’s chorus harmony really took it to the next level and made it super shiny and pop-driven, which was the perfect contrast to my raw, emotional “Do you wonder about me?” vocals in the outro.
2. “Who Are You?”
This song was written super collaboratively with our producer Chris Daly. We had come up to his studio Salvation Recording Co. to have a little demo/writing day a few weeks before we recorded and I only really had the chorus in my head. I wrote it a long time ago, a rediscovered voice memo I found while scouring my phone for more inspiration. We sat on the porch and I sang it out loud a cappella while Noah and Chris riffed on claps and potential guitar parts. We also workshopped the second verse together later on during recording and it’s one of my favorite verses on this record!
The lyrics are pretty straightforward—we’ve probably all received a late, empty apology from someone who’s hurt us. I kept thinking about how so many times when people have said “sorry” to me, it was just to make themselves feel better and absolved. Did they think it was going to help me heal, too? I hated the idea that my healing was dependent on their apology and when it arrived.
3. “Night Terrors”
I have really wild sleep activity—night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, etc.—and this song was really directly inspired by my experience with that. I wrote the chorus pretty early on in the writing process for the album and one day while Noah and I were riffing on it he pulled out that amazing drum beat! I was like, “Woah, Stop! Do that again!” It immediately felt so good, he had just gotten a second floor tom and it totally blew me away.
We tore this song apart in the studio and put it back together so many times—there was an extensive saxophone solo at one point (shoutout to Travis [de Jong] who totally shredded it) but we ended up going with a more straightforward version that was closer to our original idea. Sometimes you just get it right the first time. (Bless Chris and Joe [Reinhart] who sat with us all day in the studio while we went back and forth just to go back to the original.)
While writing this song I kept thinking about how no matter how hard you try to outgrow and hide past versions of yourself that you may be embarrassed of, the people closest to you are still going to see who you are under the facade. And that’s OK! They’re gonna see the night terrors and the sleepwalking too, and you just gotta hope they’re down with all of it.
4. “Priority Mail”
A little vignette about my family and how I miss them. I have dreams about dying and trying to reach my mom on random busted technology in the afterlife, but it never gets through.
We recorded this on a baby grand piano (maybe regular size grand? I don’t know, it was big) with an electric guitar stuck inside of it. We used the audio from the guitar pickup and had a mic on the piano itself and blended them together. Honestly I bugged the hell out of Noah and Chris about wanting to do something ~cool~ for this one and eventually Chris was like, “OK I’ve got it, we’re putting the guitar in the piano, go play the dang song.” I love how moody it turned out—the sounds feel exactly like if you were in a phonebooth stuck in the afterlife, just trying to call your mom.
5. “Broken Body”
I tore my ACL on stage in November 2017 and got surgery for it in the summer of 2018. This song is about the depression I went through not being able to walk for six weeks and feeling like I’d lost a part of myself. I came out of it questioning why I had put so much of my self worth in my physical abilities. I had to tell myself every day that I wasn’t some lesser version of me while my knee healed, just a different version that was still full of value. I also reminded myself that my knee injury didn’t cancel out all the things I loved about myself before it happened. This song celebrates all those versions of me.
We wanted this song to be a banger to play live—it’s going to feel so triumphant to play this when we can be on stage again. Noah’s rhythmic, earth-shattering drums, the thickkkkk guitars, that harmony? It’s going to be so cathartic—we knew it the moment we wrote it that it would be so special live. The verse drums are so dynamic and I actually wrote the vocal part to the drums here instead of the guitar. I love how the two parts weave in and out of each other.
6. “Makeout Interlude”
We started playing this song live as an intro to our song “Bath Bomb” from the last record. It was just this natural little transition, a moment to take a pause. I jokingly started calling it the “Makeout Interlude” because it was the point in the set where everyone would makeout! We’d play it closer to the end, so maybe everyone was just blissed out enough on rock ’n’ roll to makeout in a crowd. It’s one of my favorite parts of the set, we all get to take a breath and feel romantic for a sec, which is kind of the purpose it serves on the record, too.
7. “Flash Flood”
We wanted to write a punk-ass fun song we could play live and be goofy with. We didn’t even have any lyrics to it until the day I recorded the vocals in one shot on a weirdo microphone, all distorted. It was a really fun relief from all the nitpicking we were doing with all the other vox on the album. Isn’t that drum intro amazing? I’m obsessed with all the drums on this song. You should be shotgunning a beer while listening to this one.
8. “Worth the Wait”
OK, so Chris’ wife Sam is, like, the most wonderful person in the world and had mentioned the idea of putting the little shuffles and clanking and quiet conversation of making a meal together in this song, and so the whole middle part of this one is accompanied by the sounds of us doing just that. We recorded probably over an hour of sound while the four of us made dinner one night—it was fun to pick through it for the part we used which is less than thirty seconds. It’s nice to have that little snippet of time preserved, we spent a lot of time in that kitchen while tracking, taking breaks to eat gummy candy and bake cakes and commiserate over a decades-too-old Trivial Pursuit board game.
There’s a voicemail in that middle part, too, of my late grandmother, Joanne. She was always in the kitchen cooking for everyone she loved, so it felt special to include her here. I miss her all the time.
(One last special thing about this song is that the line about hearing my favorite song in the gas station was written about being in the rest stop on the way to tracking the album in Philly and I was so nervoussss about recording and all of a sudden my all-time favorite song, “I Love You, Always Forever” by Donna Lewis, came on and I genuinely think it was a sign. I immediately felt OK and knew everything would be alright.)
9. “Stare into the Sun”
I read online somewhere that staring at your phone for three hours a day was equivalent to staring into the sun for ten seconds straight and it freaked me out (let it be known this claim is totally unverified, but I thought about it for weeks as I stared into my phone unrelentingly). This song is about being tired of being Seen online as this one-sided version of myself. It’s about wanting to show the whole picture instead of just one curated image. It’s about using things like social media and alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety and being over it. It’s about reaching out to loved ones and being vulnerable even, though it’s so hard to break the shiny walls we put up around ourselves.
Alsoooo we used an arpeggiated synth on the outro, but we didn’t record anything to a metronome so Chris literally tap-tempoed the entire last minute of the song on a delay pedal with his hand, which is hard to explain or imagine if you’ve never done this or used these things—but it was a true hero move and genuinely made the outro so dope.
10. “Night Terrors (Reprise)”
There’s a feeling where you accept what you’re doing and who you are and the wash of relief floods over you, only to realize you now have to hope the people closest to you will practice that acceptance towards you, too. It’s scary, but somehow feels OK because you know deep down, as long as you’re true to you, your people will be there too. If they’re not, they’re not your people. This song’s about wanting to wake up next to your people despite all the freaky stuff you’ve both got inside.
I had the idea for the reprise before we got into the studio, but didn’t have the arrangement completely together. Chris and Noah were so patient as I learned to navigate the analog synths just so I could even show them what was going on in my head. We put it together piece-by-piece, and with every layer we were more and more hyped. It was really cool to push outside of our sonic comfort zone to make something we’ve never made before, and we were so proud of it, we just kept listening to it over and over after we finished tracking. I’m still in awe that we made this song.