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Be specific: Unnatural Helpers on short songs and short-lived lineups

By David Malitz

Unnatural Helpers get to the point and then get out. The Seattle band's new album, "Cracked Love and Other Drugs," is 15 songs and clocks in at well under half an hour, so don't expect a marathon set when the band hits the Black Cat Tuesday night. Do expect a pretty classic take on the classic Pacific Northwest sound - think less grunge and more speedy punk a la the Wipers and the Fastbacks. The band is fronted by drummer Dean Whitmore and he talked about short songs, his revolving door lineup and those young whippersnappers and their Green Day.

All of your songs are extremely short, most under two minutes. Is that a sort of mission statement?

It’s not so much of a mission statement or anything. It’s for my own entertainment level. Going back in and just repeating myself again seems kind of boring. I just don’t think it’s very challenging for anyone involved. Also, as far as the writing process goes, I do demos on a keyboard. So it’s not very interesting, you know, to listen to the two-minute keyboard bridge.

You've never been able to keep people in the band for too long.

It’s been consistently inconsistent. There’s no real good reason for that. I’ve had three or four guys move out of town. Kimberly, who played on the last record, just got too busy with Dutchess and the Duke. It’s just been a variety of different reasons. It’s not a planned thing. I’m not kicking people out. I always think I should make up a big story or act like a bigger [expletive] than I am. It would probably be more interesting in print that way. But unfortunately it’s much more mundane than that.

The way I’m looking at it right now is that it’s either really solid and should stick together for a while or maybe all three of them are apt to go at once. I just can’t worry about it anymore. None of the lineups have been, I didn’t have an eye on them breaking up or whatever. It’s just the way it’s worked. I’ve learned to live with it.

You have a Twitter account but never use it. Not big on the social media?

Our bassist is actually the Sub Pop systems guy there so he set that up. I’ve never actually posted anything there. Man, I think it’s enough to keep the dates on the MySpace page and I put out a thing or two on Facebook every now and again. I figure that’s enough on top of writing, recording and playing. I can’t add another layer of tech [expletive] to my duties. That stuff just takes up your mental bandwidth. There’s only so much space for incoming - and outgoing - stimulus.

When you're touring, is the van music selection all you or is it a democracy?

Everybody is taking turns DJing. It’s a democracy. Even if sometimes I wish it weren’t.

What’s the worst thing somebody has subjected you to?

Green Day has been my recent ... yikes. (Laughs.) I haven’t toured with Johnny yet but the other two guys are really into The Boss and they’re into Green Day. They’re younger guys. That’s what’s kind of brought them into cooler records. I have those, too. My new wave collection is really way bigger than it ought to be.

But you lived through “Dookie” once so that was enough.

Yeah. (Laughs.) I’m actually having to do it for the first time. Even when that came out I was in my 20s. I would say for myself I knew better but that might be insulting to the other guys.

By David Malitz  |  August 31, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: Unnatural Helpers  
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