Jordan Smith is ready to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done when your band is named Diarrhea Planet. Since their formation in 2009, the Nashville band has built up a reputation for being over the top. The punk sextet features four guitar players, including Jordan, which if you do the math amounts to 66 percent guitar. Their live show is legendary, rife with plenty of wild guitar shredding, acrobatics, crowd surfing and general mayhem. And their catalog includes song titles like “Ghost with a Boner!”
The band’s built up a strong critical following in the past half decade, though even their most ardent supporters sometimes lament the grossness/silliness of their name. In March, Stereogum managing editor Michael Nelson tweeted, “Kinda sucks that the band I’ve been waiting for my whole goddamn life is called Diarrhea Planet.”
Smith acknowledges in a phone interview that their name doesn’t lend itself well to good marketing. But that just means they have to work harder.
“If we had a different name it probably wouldn’t be as much of an uphill battle,” he says. “With a name like ours, the live show is the only thing we can count on to shut people up. Everyone’s whining about our name…and it’s like, alright, we just play super hard to turn the naysayers into believers.”
Diarrhea Planet’s third album Turn to Gold, out in June via Infinity Cat, could very well be the record that elevates the band to the proverbial next level. Smith, bassist Michael Boyle, drummer Ian Bush and guitarists Brent Toler, Evan Bird and Emmet Miller have delivered their most ambitious record to date, featuring both their biggest sounding productions and most immediate melodies. From the opening fanfare of introductory instrumental “Hard Style,” there’s a sense of grandeur and drama that suggests something bigger and better from the band, and that’s before we actually hear any vocals.
Turn to Gold balances the scruffy, scrappy underdog charm of The Replacements, the big-stage showmanship of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the blazing fretwork of Thin Lizzy. Sometimes it’s heavy (“Life Pass”), sometimes it’s subtle and pretty (“Let It Out”), and sometimes it’s firing on all cylinders (“Bob Dylan’s Grandma”). In an interview with Stereogum, Bird joked that this album was their Back in Black. Though in all seriousness, Smith said they pushed themselves harder than ever on this one.
“We took a long time to make this one,” he says. “It was kind of a growing pains record. We spent years honing our live show, and got lots of recognition for the live show. People would say, ‘Oh you have to see them live, the records don’t do them justice.’ [This record is] just kinda us making an effort at taking the band in a more mature direction to try and round out our individual flaws.
Diarrhea Planet plays April 12 at Soda Bar
“It’s kind of fun, we’re taking it into kind of a direction like the Eagles,” he adds, noting the shift toward giving different singers a showcase, rather than actually sounding like Eagles. “We’ve got lots of guys who can sing. So we’re making it a team thing: Team DP. I want to grow as a guitar player, too. I don’t just want to be a guy behind the microphone the whole time. I want to play guitar and rip solos and stuff. And the other guys want to sing a little more, too. So it kinda works out.”
Diarrhea Planet has undergone a significant evolution as a band, and pushing themselves harder to make the best music they can is just one small part of it. As Smith noted, the band’s live show is a crucial part of their identity, but spending as much time on the road has also led to changes in the non-musical aspects of the band.
Smith says as the band’s members approach their thirties, they’ve shed some of the party animal instincts that they had in their early twenties. Now they only play shows sober, and they’ve embraced moderation in general, which he says is key to longevity in their line of work.
“When we started touring we were all 22 and now we’re coming up on 28. You just kind of learn the ropes on the road,” he says. “The road kind of smooths out rough patches in your personalities. When you’re in a van for so many days with a bunch of people, you have to learn how to not get on each others nerves and not drive each other crazy, and be kind and courteous. But the band has mellowed out a lot. I feel like a lot of people would think that it would be the opposite because a lot of bands go crazy and party on the road. You learn after touring so much that, for the most part, it’s the show that it’s really about. You just have to learn to take care of yourself.”
When Turn to Gold finally drops, it’ll be an opportunity for Diarrhea Planet to prove how far they’ve come and how much they’ve matured as a band. And perhaps that name might still prove to be an obstacle, but whatever happens, Smith says, they take their music very seriously.
“We’re just six super normal dudes who have really committed ourselves to an ideal or a dream,” he says. “It hasn’t been easy all the time. And I don’t think it’ll always get easier. As you reach each level, the amount of work you have increases. But I hope people see Diarrhea Planet as a wake up call. Whether you’re starting a band or a company or something, I would hope that people see, yeah these guys made a company that had the worst name ever and drove it to success through hard work.”