DIARRHEA PLANET IS A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Nashville sextet defies scuzzy stereotypes
9 p.m. Sept. 8, Underbelly,
Downtown, $8, 699-8186,
If you aren’t familiar with the scuzzy gross-out humor that pervades much of America’s garage-rock underground, you’ll probably balk at the thought of a band named Diarrhea Planet. And even if you can laugh off the nauseating moniker, you’d probably assume that this six-piece pedals the same kind of sloppy, lo-fi histrionics many of its Nashville contemporaries display.
Yet Diarrhea Planet succeeds at puncturing all easy stereotypes. Yes, they started out as hell-raising juveniles singing songs like “Ghost with a Boner” and selling T-shirts featuring a cartoon character shoving his arm up his own rear end. But their sophomore full-length, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, sounds polished and professional in a fist-pumping, pop-punk, Weezer-inspired way.
And sure, they might be the only band proudly boasting four guitarists in their lineup, but Diarrhea Planet considers it a point of pride that such a blaze of six-string glory locks together so coherently. “Now that we’re used to having four guitarists, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else,” says frontman Jordan Smith. “We’ve got way more tones and textures to work with, and we all know each other’s playing style so well that we never step on each other’s toes anymore. To me, it makes way more sense than just having two guitars.”
Formed when Smith, Evan Bird, Casey Weissbuch, Brent Toler, Mike Boyle and Emmett Miller attended Belmont University, Smith says the attraction of picking such a repulsive name was pissing off the school’s staid music industry establishment — and standing out in Nashville’s crowded rock scene. “When we started, we weren’t very strong,” he says. “Because Nashville can be a critical city — especially if none of your band members are particularly plugged in anywhere — we played out as much as could so we could become favorites and get really tight.”
Inside of a year, Diarrhea Planet developed a cult following (dubbed The Planeteers) consumed by the sextet’s bombastic performance style: hair-metal-worthy solos, Van Halenesque fret-tapping fireworks, and shouted group lyrics about love, loss, 20something inertia, and the perpetual pursuit of good times that bands like KISS and Thin Lizzy honed in the mid-’70s.
The band’s 2011 debut Loose Jewels was an undeniable shot across the bow, but 2014’s I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams took the hard-rocking formula to epic heights, thanks to studio work at Marcata Recording in upstate New York. “We expected I’m Rich to get us a little bit farther, but we didn’t expect it to be so positively received — or to create such a demand for us to tour,” Smith says. “We had already planned on doing this as a career, but things took off so quickly in a way that we’re really excited about.”
Smith says Diarrhea Planet will probably write and record another album next year to capitalize on their successful 2014 — they’ve crisscrossed America three times now. But he says he much prefers the band’s manic live performances.
“I enjoy making records after I’ve made them,” he says. “But the process of writing and being stuck in the studio terrifies me and makes me feel almost naked. I love being in a crazy live band. Touring full-time is our job, and when we’re home, we work a little bit but mostly just play guitar, do band stuff to stay busy, chill and eat. I’d much rather be gone on the road.”
Which is where they’ve been nearly every night since July 25, with only a day off here and there. Though most of the venues are still relatively small, Diarrhea Planet is packing each one to the max, revolting band name be damned.
“I think if we had a different name, we’d definitely be farther than we are now,” Smith says. “It took us forever to get a booking agent, and lots of big labels have said they’d sign us right now if we had a different name. But whatever. Every single time someone has complained about the name, they’ve apologized within a couple of months of listening to our music and seeing our show. So I’m cool building stuff on our own with a small label like Infinity Cat. Then, in the future, when people say, ‘We were wrong about the name,’ they’re going to have to pay us a lot more because we have a bigger fan base and more leverage — and they were totally wrong.”