The History of Diarrhea Planet: A Q&A with Jordan Smith
Posted on May 12, 2015
May 12, 2015 | by Nick Spacek
In just five short years, Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet have gone from a scrappy punk band to one of a handful of bands revitalizing rock ‘n’ roll and with it, the guitar solo. There are four guitarists in Diarrhea Planet, and they make ample use of each and every one of them. It’s excess in the most fun way possible, and the sextet’s exuberance comes pouring out of each and every song. Diarrhea Planet is seemingly on tour forever, and are currently out on the road supporting last November’s Aliens in the Outfield EP on Infinity Cat Records.
Given that the band has come such a long way in a short time, we wanted to get the story of Diarrhea Planet straight from the horse’s mouth, so we called up singer / guitarist Jordan Smith and got him to take us through the band’s history.
The Runout: I’m curious as to the band’s evolution from that first single, Aloha, on Evil Weevil, to now.
Jordan Smith: The band has changed a lot, whether it’s [been the] lineup or sonically. Diarrhea Planet started out as a conceptual, two-piece noise band. It was me and the guy who created Diarrhea Planet with me, whose name is Evan P. Donohue. He’s an amazing songwriter and solo artist who left the band to pursue that, and I could never blame him, because he’s like, the best songwriter I’ve ever met.
Me and him started it, because we just wanted to have an outlet for our frustration with sort of the scene and music and college. We were just like, “What if we just started a noise band with the intention of just to piss everybody off?”
It started out as that, and then we added a drummer and started writing kind of pop songs. That was at the time of the sort of garage-sounding thing, where Black Lips were getting huge and a lot of bands were imitating that style and we started out doing that. Not necessarily on purpose, but just because it was what we were listening to then. Also, we were just really sloppy and we all really needed to brush up on our chops, so we were really just like a three-piece slacker punk band.
It seems like each album contains hints of what’s going to come next. On Aloha, “Ghost With a Boner” kind of hints at what’s going to come on Loose Jewels, but the album as a whole still has all those super-surfy guitar leads and all the songs are real short.
I think one thing, too, is that as you add members, and you all get used to playing together, you all kind of evolve based on the songs that you figure out you play the best live, and that everyone has the most fun playing. I think that one thing that we keep finding – because we play a lot of classic rock covers – is that we really excel at really fast, shreddy punk stuff and at classic rock. There’s two styles of songs that we really, really seem to do the best at playing, so as we keep getting further and further along, we’re moving further and further into approaching those genres, because we know that we can do them the best.
And then – we were recording our Aloha EP, actually – we were recording in our house through a PA. That’s what we used to record that [EP]. Mike [Boyle] and Brent [Toler] were playing in a band called Spanish Candles, and we were good friends with them. Mike came over and played bass on [Aloha], and we ended up adding Mike, because we were like, “Well, we don’t have a bass player. It’s just two guitarists, so let’s do that.”
Mike and Brent were always hanging out together, so we ended up adding both of them, and it became a five-piece with three guitars. That was when we started experimenting with lead work – like, dual leads and stuff – and started playing more with that. We played with that lineup for a while, and Evan ended up leaving the band, and we were a four-piece.
We were like, “We really need to add another guitar player to this mix,” and Emmett [Miller] and Evan [Bird] were playing in this band that me and our drummer, Casey [Weissbuch] were playing in, called Big Sur, and they just started writing joke parts for Diarrhea Planet songs. They started writing this shreddy, tapping, Van Halen-type stuff. They basically said that they wanted to write parts that were so over-the-top that they would get booed off the stage if they played with us.
We used to do this thing where we would just invite friends to come play with us onstage, and try to have as many guitars as possible. So, were playing around with that for a while, and the parts that they ended up writing were good enough that we just asked both of them to join, and became a four-guitar band.
Loose Jewels is just like, a big collection of songs that we had been playing for a long time in the area of Nashville. Everything is very, very explosive, and every song has like one or two things that are like, this song was created as a vehicle for these moments, y’know? Like, these super-expressive moments.
In terms of those super-shreddy parts on Loose Jewels that songs were based around, are you talking something like “Teepee Toes?”
The main one that sticks out to me is the first song that [Emmett and Evan] wrote parts for. It was the first practice that they showed up and had parts for this song, “Iceage.” Like, the tapping and the [sings awesome riff] and the [sings awesome shreddy part] – it sounds like Spider-Man the movie or something. Those parts: I think those might have been the first crazy things Emmett and Evan wrote.
It was funny, because both of them we were like, “Sorry, man. We’re going to blow this for everybody” type attitude, but then all of us were like, “Oh, this is awesome. We love this. Do more of this!” They were just like, “Really? You want more of this? You want us to do this? Sweet!” That was just another thing in Diarrhea Planet that was supposed to be a joke that became something that we love.
Then, we changed our sound with I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams and mellowed out. We were like, “Okay, let’s write some more mid-tempo-y songs, ’cause right now, we’re playing everything like we’re sprinting straight to the finish.” With I’m Rich, we tried to create a slightly bigger sound. We write and recorded that record – literally, those songs went from rehearsal to in the studio in like, four or five days, or it was a week – something crazy like that.
So, a lot of the songs on I’m Rich, I feel like we didn’t get to rehearse and make them our own while we recorded them, which would be my gripe about that. After that, we toured on that for a long time, and kind of rode in those songs, and made them tighter and like, more our own.
Saying that you recorded I’m Rich in a week blows my mind, especially because you’re saying that you didn’t get a chance to get them solidified. “Separations” was my favorite song that year.
That’s actually my favorite song on that whole record, too. I guess I should clarify. “Kids” and “Lite Dream” were written way before the rest of that record. Literally, like a couple of years before. They had been songs, too, where we had played around with song structures and trying things out for a long time with those songs, until we finally settled, like, “Okay, this version works. We like this version.”
But, yeah: the rest of those songs were literally written in like – I wrote an insane amount in just one week. Then we started rehearsing them for a couple days. We rented out a space in Nashville and it went from demo to record in a period of 2-3 weeks.
We did the Aliens in the Outfield EP this past year, and sort of the idea on that was just a lot of songs that we had been trying to figure out versions that we were satisfied with, because we there was enough parts in the songs that we liked, that we wanted to put them out somehow. There was just multiple versions of a lot of those songs. We just put that out as kind of a b-sides EP of material that we’d just collected over time that we weren’t really sure what to do with.
That was a lot more polished. There were some moments on that [EP] – like, “Peg Daddy” on that was just kind of my experimentation into alternative radio writing, where I was just trying to write a kind of alternative radio kind of song, like you would play on the radio. A lot of the other songs on there are like that, in that vein. They were a little more mainstream-sounding and a little less visceral, but they were a little more thought-out at times, and the production was way better.
With Aliens in the Outfield – I know that Pitchfork said that you were “getting closer to approaching the sweat-spattered energy of their can’t-miss live shows,” which I interpreted as you all getting closer to sounding how you felt, if that makes any sense. I’d really enjoyed the first single, “Heat Wave,” but where did that Pete & Pete video for “Platinum Girls” come from?
That was really like a really weird, nice, random surprise. Nylon Magazine contacted us, and said, “We really want to do a music video with you guys for our website. Our team of people who do this thing just contacted the original Pete & Pete theme song house. The owners have agreed that, if we want to come shoot there, we can, and it’ll be the first thing shot at that house since the show.”
And all of us were like, “What? Really?” because all of us grew up watching that show. So, we just showed up and it was like, soooo hot that day. All of us were just drenched with sweat and trying to hide it in the video. We just filmed at that location spot where Pete & Pete was filmed on. And all of the stuff in the video is seeking to recreate classic Pete & Pete moments from the TV show.
Now, we are currently in our fourth or fifth lineup of the band. I think that this one is “the one” and it will be the lineup for the whole time of this band. Today, though, we were working on the softest song we’ve ever written, and we were all really enjoying it a lot. We were all incorporating a lot of ethereal, country-esque stuff – like how you would play a slide guitar, but on an electric guitar – a lot of parts like that.
As we get older, I feel like, we started out as this angry punk band, who just kind of wanted to make noise, and we turned into this shredder band, and now I feel like we’re writing songs in the same vein, but with a lot more classic rock influence than we maybe have used before.
Listen to Jordan Smith play guest DJ on the Sunglasses After Dark podcast here.