Diarrhea Planet on the Best Steely Dan Record and Admiring Hendrix

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Widely considered one of the best live rock and roll bands going, thanks to its joyously exuberant shows, Diarrhea Planet does one better on the modern reinvention of classic rock without sounding like a specific band from the 1970s. Think Thin Lizzy, impossibly influenced by modern garage rock and punk. Except that unlike any of those bands there are four guitarists in Diarrhea Planet, a situation that could end in an unholy mess or clash of egos. But for this band, playing tonight at the Marquis Theatre, that just means a broader dynamic range.

“Having four guitar players gives us a wider palette to work with,” says singer and guitarist Emmett Miller. “It really showcases a writer's orchestration when we have more to work with like that. 'Hammer of the Gods' from I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, having four guitar players emphasizes our sense of harmony.”

Coming from Nashville, Tennessee, a place Miller calls a “songwriters' town,” Diarrhea Planet early on cultivated a more coherent songwriting style than its energetic performances, and even humorous name, might suggest.

“We write pop hooks,” comments Miller. “I think everybody is a sucker for a good hook so we incorporate that into our music. I think there being so many guitar players in Nashville we definitely want to be the best guitar rock band we can be. We try to hone our chops as much as we can.”

Perhaps partly because of that, on the road DP has been known to indulge in a great deal of listening to one of the most pre-meditated band with legendary sense of chops in the history of rock music, Steely Dan.

“It's a toss-up between The Royal Scam and Aja,” says Miller when asked about his favored period of Steely Dan. “I love how glossy Aja is. The Royal Scam is a little grittier and it grooves a little harder at times. Each Steely Dan album is heartfelt and the production between all the albums is pretty seamless.”

Closer to home, Diarrhea Planet was early taken under the wing of hometown heroes JEFF The Brotherhood. When Miller's father gave him a copy of Be Your Own Pet's self-titled album when he was in eigth grade, he played along on his drum kit. And when Miller's own band started making waves in Nashville, it was approached to sign with Infinity Cat, the label started by Jake and Jamin Orrall of JEFF The Brotherhood. Elsewhere Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus of Titus Andronicus heard DP's debut EP Aloha and invited DP on to an east coast tour with Titus and Screaming Females. And like all of those bands DP has managed to be inspired by classic rock in some sense without being beholden to it.

Yet, one guitarist from the early days of classic rock continues to serve as an inspiration to Miller.

“Jimi really shined live,” says Miller. “Especially at Woodstock, there are times where he seems to disappear as a man and it's pure conscious comes through the guitar. It's not just a man on stage playing guitar. It's really transcendent. His showmanship too. I've copped so many moves from Jimi too. If you were to document my stage moves, I'd say four out of five were stolen from Jimi.”

“My favorite is his Monterey performance,” adds Miller. “I think at the time he was kind of unknown, right? Suddenly he's headlining this huge festival playing right after the Who. The Who had just destroyed their instruments and he set his guitar on fire. Both knew they were going to end their respective sets with destroying their instruments and neither one of them wanted to close the show because they were going to look like they were ripping off whoever played before.”

“Jimi had been on acid for the whole day before,” continues Miller. “Pete Townsend asked him who was going to close the show. Jimi was incoherent, standing in a chair and staring at the ceiling and mumbling nonsense. They had a coin flip and The Who won and decided to play first. So Jimi plays his first big show in the United States and nobody knows who he is and he has to close it out. You can hear how nervous he is and he can barely string together a sentence as when he talks about 'Like a Rolling Stone.' He says [something like], 'Hey, man, this is that tune by Bob Dylan. Hey man, what's, hey man!' This was back before he was using any Univibe or wah pedal. He just had a Fuzz Face and it's just raw, unfiltered Jimi. It's so good. You can hear how gets confident and by the end of the set he's really on.”

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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