Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who are unfamiliar with the music of raucous Nashville six-piece band Diarrhea Planet tend to focus on their name. Until they hear them play, that is. After that, the band’s scatological moniker ceases to matter, lost in a thunderous barrage of explosive hooks, riffs and solos that seamlessly blend the best aspects of punk, pop and classic rock.
Formed in 2009 by frontman Jordan Smith, along with friend Evan P. Donohue and drummer Casey Weissbuch, Diarrhea Planet was their answer to the far-too-serious environment at Belmont University, where they were students. Bassist Mike Boyle and guitarist Brent Toler joined shortly thereafter, and the band released their debut EP, Aloha, which tallied over 10,000 downloads. After Donohue left the band in 2010, guitarists Evan Bird and Emmett Miller were added to the roster, and their twelve additional strings enabled Diarrhea Planet to begin writing the sort of bombastic, stadium-sized tunes that are showcased on their 2011 LP Loose Jewels.
In 2013, the band released their second full-length album, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, which was recorded in upstate New York in the studio of Kevin S. McMahon, the indie producer behind records by Titus Andronicus, Swans, The Walkmen, Real Estate and more. The album is boisterous and unabashedly fun, but beneath the house party anthems lie a lyrical and musical maturity, with the band fully utilizing its four guitarists to achieve a layered, orchestral effect.
On the road, the band has electrified crowds with their on-stage theatrics and six-string tricks. They’ve shared stages with Jeff the Brotherhood, Fucked Up, The Men, Wavves, Screaming Females and Titus Andronicus, and with recent appearances at South By Southwest, Bonnaroo and Alabama’s Hangout Festival under their belts, Diarrhea Planet is quickly becoming known for more than just their name.
Learn more the band and view upcoming tour dates at www.diarrheaplanet.com.
What was your childhood like, and when did you first find a creative outlet with music?
Jordan: I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian household. My dad was a pastor for about the first decade of my life. I was not allowed to listen to secular radio or buy secular music, so I had to take what I could get by sneaking listening to rock stations at night on a boombox with headphones. I would record songs off the radio onto cassette tapes and hide them in my room. Though my parents and I disagreed about music when I was a child, I am grateful for being brought up the way I was because I feel like my parents pushed me to think outside of the box a little more. We weren’t allowed to watch a ton of TV and my parents encouraged my sister and I to play outside a lot, so I developed a pretty strong imagination as a kid.
As far as discovering music as an outlet, there was never that moment for me. I was just born with an extreme interest and passion for the electric guitar. The only career I ever wanted for my entire life was to be a guitar player.
What was the first song you learned to play?
Jordan: “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
What sort of challenges come along with having four guitarists in a band? Can it be difficult finding opportunities for each member to showcase their abilities or individual styles?
Jordan: The main challenge is learning what you can specifically bring to the table sonically and then doing that in a way that doesnt crowd anyone else or step on their toes. Four guitars is surprisingly easy, so long as you listen to one another and put the good of the song as a whole over your ego in everything that you play. There are moments to musically wank off onstage and it’s good to know when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to do so. We are pretty good at sharing the floor with one another so it’s pretty easy to let each other have our “moment in the spotlight” each show.
What was the inspiration behind “Ghost With a Boner”?
Jordan: A drunken frat dude who didnt think he needed to pay for a cup for beer at a party that was a fundraiser for a class at our college.
How has Diarrhea Planet evolved musically since your early years as a band?
Jordan: We employ a stronger use of dynamics in our songwriting. We used to go at 110% the entire set. After a while, we decided we needed to write some good slower songs too, in order to provide a little more variety and depth. Everyone has grown so much as a player as well. The songs have gotten more and more complex as a result of that (not that they are super complex, just more so than they used to be).
How did you become acquainted with Kevin S. McMahon, and what role did he play in shaping your band’s sound on your most recent album?
Jordan: We met him through Titus Andronicus. I always dug how his records were always ones that you wanted to listen to all the way through. They have a certain sonic charm that really sucks you in and makes them addiciting to listen to. All the harmonics and notes between the notes seem to really shine on his recordings. It was cool because he set up mics and then was very hands off. He let us play and do our thing; he encouraged us to do it live with no click track, which we all enjoyed very much because it was basically like recording a live show, but without jumping around and having beers thrown at you and stuff (which kind of sucks sometimes, btw).
What does it feel like to walk out on stage at an event like Bonnaroo or the Hangout Festival? Do you prepare differently for a show like that than you would for a smaller venue?
Jordan: It feels a little more laid back. You don’t worry about people showing up, because it’s a festival and there are like 60,000 people there, so you know you will be playing for a good number of people. Festival crowds are different, too. Usually they are a little more subdued, all in all. If the festival staff are on point, it is pretty relaxed environment. Fests are easy.
What goes through your mind in the moments before you walk out on stage, and how do you unwind after a show?
Jordan: It really varies based on my mood that day. In general, though, I usually am either thinking about vocal control and vocal placement or recently I am thinking about protecting my back and staying aware of how it is feeling during the set to make sure I don’t over do it (I have back issues, haha). I usually unwind with a ginger beer (I don’t drink alcohol) and a playlist I have specifically for winding down after the set. With adrenaline being pumped through your veins that late at night (most sets are between 10 pm- 1 am), it’s important to have a winding down and relaxing process or you won’t go to sleep.
When touring and traveling from city-to-city, what’s your go-to snack food?
Jordan: This changes from tour to tour. I actually rarely ever snack. When I do it is all over the place. I’m not a huge snack guy to be honest. Fruit, chips, yogurt, Clif bars, etc… I’ve tried it all!
How has your approach to songwriting, touring or performing changed as Diarrhea Planet’s profile has grown?
Jordan: I definitely care more and put a more intense effort into songwriting. A lot of what I do is more purposefully done now as opposed to before, where I would stumble through ideas in a more scatterbrained manner. Since this became my job, I started treating it that way and try to put in hours songwriting each day we are off the road. You have to save up material and ideas for times when you have none. A riff you record one day could become a song a week later.
Aside from your own, what’s the best band name of all time?
Jordan: Probably Turf War (an awesome band from Atlanta).
What are you working on next?
Jordan: This winter, we will be writing and recording our third LP.