The rap on JEFF the Brotherhood’s indie rock wunderkinds Jake and Jamin Orrall is that they inherited a lot of their good fortune via connections from their father, famous country songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall. For anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the brothers shred live, those accusations are proved baseless nightly. But even if there was a grain of truth to them, the brothers could be forgiven, as they’ve chosen to pay their own status forward and sign bands to their Infinity Cat Recordings. The label has previously handled releases by JEFF the Brotherhood and the Orralls’ previous band, Be Your Own Pet, but the addition of Diarrhea Planet is the first time the brothers have landed an act with half of their own buzz. As the music press performs a collective head scratch over his band’s name, Diarrhea Planet guitarist and singer Jordan Smith discussed the band’s Nashville roots, “dumb” rock, and the inspiration he draws from Billy Corgan.
It all starts with the name. How does a band come up with such an audacious name?
Basically Diarrhea Planet started as a two-piece noise band with me and one of my best friends. His name is Evan Donahue. He still plays in Nashville but he’s not in the band anymore. He and I met our freshman year at Belmont University. The thing about Belmont, and Nashville in general, is that it’s full of really talented musicians. There are a lot of crappy bands that come out of Belmont, though. So it’s really hard to get a show in Nashville, and the city treats Belmont students a little weird some times. I had come from a hardcore punk background, and I didn’t fit in at Belmont at all, and Evan felt the same way. We didn’t fit at Belmont because we were punks and we didn’t fit in in Nashville because we were Belmont students. One day in his room we were joking about making a really ridiculous noise band that would just be super irritating to every single person, and we tried to think of the most irritating band name that we could think of. I knew it had to have the word diarrhea in it, because it can’t have any real cuss words in it. That’s too obvious. We were trying to be annoying, so we came up with something immature. It was Diarrhea Planet, and we thought it was really funny.
Do you remember any of the other names that were in the mix?
Actually the summer before I did a whole list. You can actually read it on MySpace. It was just a band with me playing all the instruments called the Don Knotts Bowel Movement. We had talked about using that for our name, but other than that I can’t really remember. We’ll come up with tons of cheesy band names and stuff like that. There’s Devil Brothers, and a ton of other ones, but we sort of settled on Diarrhea Planet because we thought it was so stupid and funny. We at one time were going to make a super group called How Cool Is Dad with all of our friends from all of our different bands.
Are any of your six members a holdout about being in a band called Diarrhea Planet?
When we first started, Evan and I were totally sold on the name and really fine with it. The only person who said anything about it was our drummer Casey. He was the third person we added to the band, and for a minute he said that we should probably have a more realistic name. All of us have had our parents ask us at one time or another if we were serious. They were like “That’s terrible.” And you tell your grandparents, and they’re like “What did you say?” And then most people think you say Diary of a Planet when you tell them the name, because they can’t believe that’s what it really is. For the most part, people have been kind of cool with it, though.
It’s definitely super rock and roll, but do you worry that your name will limit your exposure?
It definitely has its moments where it does, but it’s not that discouraging. The hardest part sometimes is from a professional standpoint. What booking agent wants to touch a band called Diarrhea Planet? But at the same time I never really worried about it, because I’ve always been into a lot of different bands, and with a lot of them I’ve been shocked because a band with a dumb name turns out to be really amazing. I’ve never been in a band that picked a very serious name.
If someone can somehow make it past the name, what kind of music can he or she expect?
It’s always changing. With four guitars you can do so much. We all have very different musical backgrounds, but we find our common ground in that we all love hooks. We come together first on friendship, but then we mesh musically. It’s almost pop music, but filtered through four guitars. It’s big guitar rock. We don’t want to do anything but play guitar really loud.
There’s a chance that you’ll get stereotyped as “bro” rock. How do you avoid that?
I don’t know. We’ve been called garage rock for forever, and I’ve never felt that we were a garage rock band. I’m assuming that a lot of the bro rock stuff comes from being positive. A lot of the songs talk about beer and partying, and so the next step is to dub it “bro.” I’m not really sure that we are; we’re just upbeat and enjoy playing music. It’s fast and it’s loud. I guess the best way to avoid the stereotype would just be to stop talking about drinking beer, and write some sad songs or something.
What is the line between smart rock and dumb rock?
Dumb rock is music that clearly has not had any thought put into it. There’s a distinct difference between an artist who is running on natural creative energy and one who is just trying to fit into a scene or be something that they’re not. Dumb rock would be somebody trying to sound like Pavement when they’re not like that at all.
What is the eventual goal for Diarrhea Planet?
It might sound trite, but I and everybody else in the band just want to write some quality music and develop our skills on our instruments. I grew up listening to Smashing Pumpkins, and while I’m not a huge fan of his later work, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is the only album I’ve listened to where I think I might not be able to do that. I would love to be able to put out an album that full. There’s no filler at all and so much guitar. That’s really our goal for Diarrhea Planet.
Diarrhea Planet: “Warm Ridin”