Diarrhea Planet settling into more mature, polished sound
Seven years into their career, the members of Diarrhea Planet are starting to question the wisdom of their choice of band name. Like a Mardi Gras tattoo, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The six-piece pop-punk band from Nashville was hatched in 2009 in a Belmont University dorm room by hardcore punk fan Jordan Smith and his friend Evan Donahue. Stuck between the slick jazz-hands sensibility of their fellow university students and the cutthroat commercial environment of surrounding Nashville, the pair were alienated and frustrated. So as a joke, they decided to form the most obnoxious band they could think of — loud, with too many guitars and an offensive name to boot. Thus was born Diarrhea Planet.
Funny thing, though — people started to take the joke seriously. Thanks to its four-guitar attack and notoriously wild live shows, Diarrhea Planet began to build a following, and soon they were earning raves for their performances at South By Southwest and the Governors Ball, among other festivals. Now, with the release in June of their third album, “Turn to Gold,” the band is appearing on late-night TV talk shows and standing on the cusp of mainstream altrock success. But they’ve still got that tattoo.
“We still struggle with it sometimes,” guitarist Emmett Miller says of the name. “We still have a lot of interviews that focus on the name more than the music, and that’s always frustrating. … But for the foreseeable future we’re going to stick with it.”
Miller is the virtuoso in Diarrhea Planet. The Nashville native was studying classical guitar performance at Belmont when he stumbled into his first Diarrhea Planet show.
“I was a huge fan of the band. I actually crowd surfed for the first time at a Diarrhea Planet show,” he recalls. “I didn’t know them at the time, but then drummer Casey Weissbuch and Jordan came charging through the crowd, and they found me, and Jordan said, ‘Yeah, this guy,’ and they picked me up and threw me in the crowd.”
By fall 2010, Miller and Evan Bird had joined the ever-expanding guitar line of Diarrhea Planet. It
wasn’t much of an honor at first; at some of the band’s early shows, there could be as many eight guitarists on stage. But soon the group settled into a core lineup of four guitarists — Smith, Miller, Bird and Brent Toler — backed now by drummer Ian Bush and bassist Mike Boyle.
Even with just four guitarists, the band took a while to learn how to play together. Fortunately, their strengths and weaknesses complement one other. The sloppy Smith and the precise Miller represent polar opposites while Toler brings a classic-rock touch and Bird serves as utility man, filling in gaps left by the others.
“It took a lot of practice,” Miller says. “Sometimes it’s as easy as looking around the room when we’re writing a song and seeing what position people are playing on the fretboard and trying to fill in the gaps. It also kind of informs how we select gear. We recently stepped down to using 1-by-12 cabinets (with one 12-inch speaker) instead of the 2-by-12 cabinets we were lugging all over the country. Bringing our stage volume down has helped significantly. It’s still loud as hell.”
Having honed their sound, Diarrhea Planet were eager to show it off on record. The band’s first two albums, “Loose Jewels” (2011) and “I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams” (2013), were tentative efforts filled with songs from the band’s early days.
For “Turn to Gold,” the band actually took time off from the road to write new material.
“This time, writing was a much more collaborative
Nashville-based rockers Diarrhea Planet play tonight at the Hi-tone Cafe.