Don’t let the potty-mouthed name fool you – this East Nashville band is no joke
If you happen to go on eBay or craigslist and see a Fender guitar for sale adorned with a heart, angel wings, a lightning bolt and stars, send a message to Emmett Miller – his baby is missing.
Dubbed “The Spirit of Tennessee,” the instrument was one of the 24-year-old’s most prized possessions. He took it across the country for hundreds of shows with his punk/heavy metal/garage rock band, Diarrhea Planet. Painted by his mother, “The Spirit of Tennessee” has seen its fair share of raucous shows in the span of a year, getting tossed by Miller into crowds from The Echo in Los Angeles to the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York.
But in early March, Miller was riding around East Nashville, Tn., with band mate and drummer Ian Bush on a mission to get some cheeseburgers when the guitar slid out the bed of a pickup truck and disappeared.
“I’m kind of hoping that it turns up when I’m like, 70, and I see it on TV, and I’ll say, ‘Son, that was my guitar,’” Miller says from his home in Nashville, imitating an old man’s voice. “They’ll go, ‘Ok, Grandpa. Whatever.’ I’ll take them to my photo album of DP ephemera and shit like that. I think that would be really funny.”
In the span of a little over five years, Diarrhea Planet has emerged from Music City, USA (known more for its country and Americana sounds) to tour as one of the loudest bands in the indie music scene today. It features the four-headed electric guitar monster of Jordan Smith, Evan Bird, Brent Toler and Miller, and is rounded out by bassist Mike Boyle and drummer Bush.
<<MORE: Stream “Sucks Either Way” – the debut single from Spill. The newly formed post-hardcore band makes its hometown debut tonight opening for Diarrhea Planet.>>
Diarrhea Planet initially caught the ears of publications like Rolling Stone and Spin magazines with their critically acclaimed 2013 release, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, followed up last year by their Aliens in the Outfield EP.
Miller, who grew up in Nashville, says he was 12 years old when he first started playing guitar, finding inspiration after he heard Jimi Hendrix’s performance at Woodstock. He studied classical guitar in high school and attended Belmont University in Nashville where he majored in classical performance.
It was at Belmont in 2010 that Diarrhea Planet took its current form. Smith approached Miller and Bird to sit in with the other DP members to see what their musical chemistry was like. Miller says Bird made a joke that the two of them “have to write the most over-the-top Avenged Sevenfold, ripping off Danny Elfman-esque leads and tapping solos over everything” so that they would immediately be kicked out. However, the joke was on them, as Smith and the rest of the band adopted the slightly tripped-out metal sound.
“We’ve always been shooting for that [style],” Miller says. “I think we’ve just gotten more nuanced with it, and we can kind of dial it back when we need to or make it even more over the top. We’re just getting better at the orchestration.”
Finding the proper orchestration with four different electric guitarists who all have a different playing style is a gargantuan task – especially when they’re throwing themselves around on stage like maniacs. Miller says making four guitars work together on stage is “kind of like a Sudoku puzzle,” making sure to see where everyone else is playing on the neck of their guitars and being able to fill in any gaps.
Miller points to Bird’s ability of filling in the gaps as the cohesive gel of their sound, while Toler’s strong suit is his single-note melodies. He says Smith goes for an extreme, animal-like playing style, while his own style relies on providing texture to the songs through arpeggios and tapping of the guitar strings.
While his background in music theory has helped Miller find guitar parts that blend seamlessly with the other players, he can still cut through and stand out, wowing the crowd with his different guitar styles, including Rasgueado flamenco.
But what stands out for many people approaching Diarrhea Planet for the first time is the band’s name – a memorable, if slightly off-putting moniker that conjures any number of odious images. Miller says DP members “constantly” encounter people who come up after their shows, telling them they thought the band was going to be a joke because of their name. However, he says most are simply blown away by their sound and live show.
“The name sets the bar just low enough that not only can we clear that, we can do a back flip over it,” Miller laughs. “Four guitars have such a momentum to it, that it’s like a locomotive. It makes for a very visceral experience.”