From the opening verse on William Elliott Whitmore’s new release, Animals in the Dark, war is declared on those in power that would try to control people from behind closed doors. Set only to a martial drumbeat, “Mutiny” signals a departure for Whitmore from his inward examination of personal demons and instead unleashes his rage upon those that would abuse power and harm the state of the union.
“The impetus for me was this past administration that declared war all over the world without any compassion for human life, and raped the land and pillaged the people without any regard for anything,” said Whitmore.
Well it’s a goddamn shame what’s going down; How we got to this I do not know; There’s a sick sick wind that is blowing ‘round; And the captain’s got to go ~ William Elliott Whitmore, from Mutiny.
While Animals in the Dark, released on ANTI- Records, is in part a politically themed album, Whitmore also takes an expansive look at the human condition and its flawed nature. He’s not trying to change the way anyone thinks, but music affords him the outlet through which he may express his dissatisfaction with how things are going.
There’s a story arc that goes with the record, that has to do with a man that declares a call to arms, goes to jail, gets out, finds a new lease on life and decides he has lived a good life and the way that he can reconcile good versus evil is to create some beauty,” said Whitmore. “By the end of it he has to die, but he gets to die with his boots on.”
Whitmore, 30, lives a simple life in the fertile crescent of Lee County, Iowa, situated between the Des Moines River and Mississippi River, near Montrose. In this southeast corner of Iowa he resides in a cabin converted from an old corncrib his grandfather built in 1954, with a wood stove for heat and no running water or bathroom.
A little farm menagerie keeps him company. A horse named Jed and a mule named 13 are his pets. These are merely hay-burners according to Whitmore, too old for work, but amenable to listening to his new material.
“In my mind I like to think they enjoy hearing me play,” said Whitmore. “They get a little hitch in their step when I play something they like.”
Even with the distance his residence provides from the hectic realities of modern life, the wickedness of our current times found a way inside. Whitmore tells of a snake-like demon haunting his dreams during the time he wrote this new material.
“It represents all of these ill figures that I’ve been describing that would try to control your life from behind closed doors,” said Whitmore. This idea is distilled into the cover art on Animals in the Dark, and was painted by Whitmore’s friend, Lettie Jane Rennekamp.
The title is metaphorical in reference to nefarious powerbrokers, but also quite literal in regard to the creatures Whitmore encounters on his farm.
“At night I like to establish a rapport with the various animals in the woods where I reside, from the raccoons and the deer, to the coyotes and owls, and I like to have conversations with them at night and get them howling and screeching,” said Whitmore.
With a new album out and a world tour just beginning Whitmore is thankful for what he has accomplished. He’s suffered several losses in life, but perseveres by singing his sorrow away. With his whiskey-soaked howl at just the right timbre, Whitmore is packing up his banjo and heading out to deliver his tales of sin and redemption to the masses.
“I’m one of those people that was born old,” said Whitmore. “I’ve always wanted to be old, and now that I’m kind of getting older I feel like my music is finally expressing what I’ve always wanted to express,” said Whitmore.