Di­ar­rhea Planet set­tling into more ma­ture, pol­ished sound

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - LIVE MUSIC - By Mark Jor­dan Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

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.

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