Jordan Smith is haunted by his band Diarrhea Planet’s most popular song.
“Whenever someone comes up to us and says, ‘Yeah, I really like ‘Ghost with a Boner,’ man,” he says, aping a stoner’s slurring drawl for comedic effect, “I’m always, like, ‘Aw, dude.’”
He laughs, almost resignedly.
“We’ve done one or two tours where we’ve dropped that from the setlist entirely,” he says. “But usually people keep asking us to play it, so we haven’t been able to totally get rid of it.”
What: Diarrhea Planet
Where: Art Bar, 1211 Park St.
When: Sunday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m.
With: The Fishing Journal, fk mt., Thee Knee Jerks
Price: $7 ($5 advance)
More Info: 929-1098, artbarsc.com
Smith is in Nashville, Diarrhea Planet’s home base, preparing for yet another lengthy tour. His band, on the back of some heavy buzz from the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin, has graduated from living rooms and dives to larger clubs and some festivals. The current tour features a stop at Raleigh, North Carolina’s Hopscotch Music Festival, where Diarrhea Planet will cram itself onto Slim’s postage-stamp stage, which presents logistical issues for the outfit’s six members — four of whom are guitarists.
“Our last tour, we had talked about how we all at some point wanted to get smaller amps,” Smith says. “And we were, like, ‘Man, we’re so tired of dealing with this,’ after three years of big amps and stacking them everywhere and sound guys giving us the eye. Before they hear us, they’re like, ‘You guys better turn down,’ and we’re like, ‘Nah, it’s OK.’”
Diarrhea Planet’s success hinges on that guitar-heavy onslaught, which balances party-punk attitude with arena-sized hooks and some seriously prodigious fretwork. Each of the guitarists displays serious chops but employs a different skill set, varying from classical to pop-punk.
“Everybody has a different tone, and a different voicing, and everybody plays totally different,” Smith says.
The band formed at Belmont University in Nashville, a school with the only accredited music business program in the world (and from which Smith owns a degree). But for Diarrhea Planet, Smith says, Belmont wasn’t all it was cracked up to be: The group didn’t fit into the school’s commercial music-leaning student body, given its wild-eyed power-pop and wide-open live shows (and, yes, its absurd, scatological name). But Nashville clubs also wouldn’t book Belmont bands, Smith says — their crowds didn’t drink enough — so Diarrhea Planet honed itself in East Nashville’s basements and dive bars.
“You have to be pretending you’re something else constantly,” Smith says of Belmont; Diarrhea Planet wasn’t having it. “We were like, ‘Well, we’re doing this the way we want to do it, and whoever wants to get on board, can.’”
Diarrhea Planet doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a rock band, but its goofy name shouldn’t imply that it is in any way a joke; the group’s focus on musical proficiency aids surprisingly deep songs. That blend of fist-pumping riffs and emotional catharsis reaches its apex on last year’s superlative I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, its hook-crammed explosions drawing from deep wells of loss and disillusionment. “Babyhead” finds Smith pining for a girl he can never have over a swaggering Cheap Trick riff that resolves into a swelling end that recalls The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” As harmonized guitar leads surround driving riffs in “The Sound of My Ceiling Fan,” Smith wonders if he might be wasting his life. “Kids” is a slow-burning torch song that touches on the poignancy of growing up too fast; it progresses with subtletly and patience before it explodes into a surging coda led by three-part tapped-guitar harmonies.
Even “Ghost with a Boner,” from Diarrhea Planet’s earliest EP, touches on crushing post-collegiate ennui: “Drinking my beer / and bitching,” Smith howls in the song’s second verse, as if at a party but feeling totally miserable.
“It’s our most popular song, probably by far, but it’s just like, dude, that’s not even a real song,” Smith laughs. “We’ve got other stuff that’s, like, real music.”
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