Jordan Smith, guitarist and front-man of Tenn.-based guitar-rock sextet Diarrhea Planet, is aggressively interested in making sure everyone is having a good time.
“For real man, f— you throwing punches and throwing f—— elbows like that,” said Smith, as a particularly intoxicated Planateer – the preferred nomenclature for Diarrhea Planet fans – got overzealous in the mosh pit. “We’re all here to have a good time. If somebody bumps you wrong, it’s fine. Those were some f—— hard punches. He’s way smaller than you. Shake his hand. Tell him you’re sorry.”
But with the exception of this brief condemnation of a vulgar act of machismo, it’s nothing but good times at the Diarrhea Planet camp.
Diarrhea Planet, a six-piece rock outfit with four guitarists from Nashville, Tenn., was somewhat of a happy accident. Formerly a Belmont University party band, the group formed under relatively contentious circumstances.
In protest of a musical curriculum that Smith referred to as “semi-unbearable at times” that was geared more toward commercial communities than indie communities, Smith and bandmate Evan Donahue sought to create the noisiest, most unlistenable band ever. But when they hit the practice space, strangely enough, what emerged were pop songs.
“I made a record in summer 2008 that was a noise/grind-core record that was initially supposed to be Diarrhea Planet,” Smith said. “And then Donahue, the other guy that made DP with me, made a bunch of feedback noise tracks, too. Initially that was what we wanted, but the more we thought about it, the more we were like, ‘This isn’t going to work live.’ And then when I started writing songs for the band, they were just pop songs. So it’s one of those things that’s like, there’s other types of music I’d like to play, but I don’t want to write it.”
In its onset, Diarrhea Planet – a band initially comprised of members preoccupied with more serious musical endeavors – thrived in beer-soaked, sweat-stained Nashville basements. However, it wasn’t long before demand for the group was at a point where it was getting asked to play three to five shows a night for an entire semester.
“It ended up that we couldn’t keep up with everything and Diarrhea Planet was just going much stronger than all of our other things,” Smith said. “So we were like, ‘Well, this was not supposed to do this, but let’s just go ahead and make this our thing.’”
Although Diarrhea Planet now exists on a larger stage, its propensity for playing an absurd amount of gigs has gone nowhere. In 2013, the band lent its shred-heavy, punk-infused brand of rock ‘n’ roll to roughly 200 shows.
As the dreary winter makes way for warmer, more chipper times, so does the lineup announcement of a litany of music festivals. On gaudy flyers, underneath names like the Flaming Lips, Tegan and Sara and Vampire Weekend, is the moniker of Diarrhea Planet. The displaced rockers are on the bill of both Alabama’s Hangout Fest in May, and New York City’s Governors Ball in June. And Smith said he couldn’t be more excited.
“To be totally frank, I don’t miss playing house shows or small shows at all,” Smith said. “There are moments where there’s things I miss about them, but we are just a band that thrives on a big stage. For us, we love it because we want to put on a show. And every level of stage that gets bigger and bigger for us, we see more things. Like, ‘Oh, we can climb on that. We can jump off that.’ Or, ‘I can run over on this or dive off of it.’ Or, ‘I can get down and play upside down on this thing or something.’ For us, it’s like we come in and we’re looking at a jungle gym.”
The irony of the fact that a band that originally started as a destructive joke is now achieving a level of success that’s downright mainstream is not lost on Smith. In fact, when he thinks about it, he said he can’t help but find it funny.
“It’s cool because it feels like we’re playing a giant joke on everybody,” Smith said. “I really like that. I really like that we’re playing the biggest joke in music – or what could potentially be the biggest joke in musical history, if we would get on a really big level. Like, having people tell their friends, ‘My favorite band is Diarrhea Planet,’ or having to tell their friends, ‘I’m going to go to see a band called Diarrhea Planet.’ I think that’s hilarious.“
Attendees of its recent Philadelphia gig at Boot & Saddle were laughing, but band members were clearly laughing with them. At one point in the night, Smith called up “the least punk person in the room” to the stage. When he arrived, the band improvised a punk song and had the non-punker yell vigorously about what he hated the most – spoiler alert, it was exams – but in the midst of bouts of laughter were passionate sing-alongs, constant pogoing, and perhaps most importantly, a raucous good time.
Seconds after the fight that temporarily stilted the fist-pumping soiree that is a Diarrhea Planet show, Smith chimed in again. The most surreal part of the situation was that the mile-wide smile that seemed permanently etched on Smith’s face was replaced with a look of concern.
“You OK, man?” he said.
The injured bystander gave a nod.
And on a dime, the lush, hedonistic grin that was otherwise omnipresent on Smith’s face reappeared.
“Next time it’ll be a hatchet, a guitar hatchet coming down on you, bro.”
David Zisser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.