Q&A: Dean Whitmore, Seattle's Answer to Don Henley

His answer to “Hotel California” can be found on Unnatural Helpers' new Hardly Art record.

When Dean Whitmore was singing a very rough demo of what would eventually become the song "Sunshine/Pretty Girls" on Unnatural Helpers' new album, Cracked Love & Other Drugs (on Sub Pop's Hardly Art Records), he swore he heard an echo in the room. Turned out it was his precocious 7-year-old daughter, who'd snuck up behind him and sung the chorus.

Perhaps Whitmore, the brains behind this whip-smart pop-punk act—pop as in Roy Orbison, punk as in the Ramones—has finally found a permanent member for a band with a perennially rotating cast. "I try not to push her too hard with that stuff," he says over a veggie burger at Belltown's Two Bells. "I want her to, like, pursue it because she's interested." Here he chats about the Eagles, mouth-guitaring, and shameless self-promotion. (For more of our conversation, visit Reverb.)

SW: Does your daughter appear on the record?

Whitmore: No. I wanted her to do it, but then I thought: It's kind of like bad-dad territory, with talking about smoking and drinking. I just didn't want, you know, her friends' parents going, "What is this guy, a maniac or something? He's got his kid talking about not liking sunshine?" I'll never get on the PTA that way.

What do you do for Sub Pop?

I'm a sales guy. I'm a salesman for mom-and-pop shops, indie record shops, the Sonic Booms. I solicit and take orders [from them].

Have you had this conversation yet: "Hey, how about this new album from Unnatural Helpers?"

That's a little uncomfortable. I tried to be gone, actually, for the time frame when the single and the record came out. It felt a little goofy soliciting my own record.

You're in an elite group of singing drummers: Phil Collins, Don Henley...

Yeah, the comparisons are rarely delivered with anything other than mockery.

Are you kidding? Are you telling me you don't wish you'd written "Hotel California"?

You know what I found out yesterday or the day before? I didn't know the Eagles had two drummers.

Be honest: Did you find that out reading the liner notes of the Eagles records you were throwing out?

The Eagles records went out a long time ago.

When you write, do you start on the drum set?

Usually it's just a riff.

Do you have any guitar knowledge by now?

No. None.

You don't just sing the guitar part—"da na na na na"—into a recorder when you're writing songs?

Yeah. My system sucks. I have to dictate it into my iPod, mouth-guitaring. I tried to do mouth-guitar on the demos, but then I couldn't play 'em for the band. It was just way too embarrassing. But I did play a couple of them, but productivity went [down] because everyone was just laughing, making fun of me.

Do you bury those tapes after the fact?

Um, yeah. It's nothing you'd want to share with anybody.


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