- 'TURN TO GOLD': Six-piece Nashville band Diarrhea Planet may have started as a joke, but the group's gained a real following since its inception at Belmont University.
Diarrhea Planet was basically a party band that was too good. Everything from their ridiculous name to their abundant guitar solos began as a way to blow off steam among hypertalented music students at Belmont University in Nashville. Then, it kept working.
As "party band" gave way to "actual band," the group has kept the ridiculousness: four guitars reigning down hair metal solos, lyrics about "ripping through the streets of heaven" and a raucous live show replete with crowd surfing. "Even if we were playing classical music, I feel like we'd still be running around," Evan Bird, a guitarist for the band, told me in a conversation ahead of a performance at Revolution on Friday, Aug. 4. You should go watch them shred.
How has your writing as a band evolved over the years?
Nowadays, when we write, it's a bit harder because I think we are a little bit more aware; it's not spray and pray like the old days. Because, I mean, it kind of was a joke originally. Well, not necessarily a joke, but it wasn't supposed to be particularly serious. I think the four-guitar thing — at least when that lineup was solidified for the band — I don't think it was supposed to be a real band. It just snowballed into this thing where we all said, "OK, maybe let's give it a real shake." Out of necessity, we learned how to listen to each other and shifted from being this college party trick with a drunken circus act live show to really having to back it up musically. When more and more people started paying attention to us, we realized pretty quickly that we didn't want to be a one-trick pony. And I'm sure certain friends of mine would light a real fire under my ass hearing me say that — I bet they'd be able to just torch me — but, yeah, we grew. ...
There are so many more doors that are open to us now, though, since we've been playing together so long. We can kind of choose whether we want to be ridiculous. Do all four of us want to play power chords right here? Or do all four us want to play one note, and it makes a chord? Or do two of us solo? It gives us a lot of freedom [live] that a lot of other bands only have in the studio when they overdub.
Was there a song or a specific point where you found yourself saying, "This is what Diarrhea Planet sounds like"?
Well, I was not initially in the band. And one of my friends had been actually trying to get me to see DP for a long time. But I kept blowing her off and going, "Diarrhea what? Oh no, I'm cool." "No, you got to come with me, they've got a song called 'Ghost with a Boner'!" I was like, "Yeah, that's not really helping your argument; I think I'm going to stay in tonight." But, finally, she brought me out. They were playing somewhere; I can't remember how long they played even, and the song "Raft Nasty" stood out. I was like, "All right, here's some not particularly challenging but thoughtful guitar playing. Here's a very poppy sound hook. Here's a lot of ridiculous soloing over some parts. And the big gang vocals thing." It just ticked every box for me. That was the first song where I said, "Maybe there's more to this; maybe I should have given this more of a chance." After that, I started going to more of the shows, and that was right around the same time that Emmett [Miller] and I were playing in this side band. One thing kind of spiraled into the next and suddenly I was in the band.
Your sound has grown and matured, but at the same time, it doesn't sound like you've lost that edge of, essentially, being a party band. How have you kept that?
I think from day one we were not afraid to take risks, especially live, and we are doing that in the studio now, too. In the early days, it was like, "What do you mean that guy just spent three songs in the mosh pit getting almost strangled by his own guitar cable? He can't do that." Well, you can do that. "What do you mean this guy is climbing the speakers and falling over and he threw his guitar and just danced for a song? You can't do that!" Well, again, you can do that. One time, I played an entire show in roller skates I found on the street on the way to the venue. That stuff is just fun! It's making me laugh; it's making Emmett [Miller] laugh. Shit, the audience will probably laugh. It's a guy making faces sliding all over the stage but playing seriously, executing it in a very serious manner. Maybe that brings it full circle to why this band even exists. I mean, if you want to start a band with your buddies and literally pick the worst name you think of at the time, do it. Nobody is going to stop you.
Was there something going on in Nashville that helped y'all create that?
The big thing that pushed us all together, as people, when we first met was that we were going to a school that has an incredible music business program, and they have incredible commercial performance programs. You could pick any instrument, you could be a producer, and I mean you could be anything. It's really pretty incredible, but their whole strategy was if you want to play music and make money and win a Grammy and be successful and have a street named after you, then do all of these things. ... But, I don't think any of us were particularly concerned about how this was going to look to an accountant. You know, none of us were thinking, "What do I do now so I can buy my mansion and fleet of Jet Skis?" I think we were more focused on, "How do we just play and have fun?" ... So, to very clumsily answer your question, I think we were kind of more "right place, right time." I think Diarrhea Planet would've existed in some form or another, but it really does take a village to raise a bunch of idiots with Marshalls [guitar amps].
Diarrhea Planet plays at Revolution Friday, Aug. 4, 8:30 p.m., $10-$13.