With an exciting new year underway we’ve discovered a band stemming from the ranks of Tucson, Arizona. Hopefully you people out there realize the same thing we realized – these guys are absolutely fantastic. Mostly Bears, as they call themselves, have a diverse and organic sound – and a collective age of 67! The Calcutta had the opportunity to talk with these young dudes, and here’s what they had to say:
How did you guys meet one another? When did you start playing music together? When did you “officially” form as Mostly Bears?
Brian Lopez(guitarist/lead vocals): Here’s my version of the story (extended). Geoff and I had been playing in various bands together when we were younger. We had both gone to Tucson High School in Tucson, AZ and were in the “Advanced Guitar Class” together—this basically meant that we went to various high schools and, during their lunch break, we’d put on a show for them. We’d play bullshit that was popular at the time like Incubus, Foo Fighters, Blink-182…really anything that the high school crowd was into. It was great excuse to leave campus. I think we played the whole Foo Fighters’ “The Color and the Shape” album at one time.
Flash forward a few years — I had just quit our current band at the time, Gorilla Behind Bars, to move to Barcelona, Spain in January of 2005. Geoff and I had planned on starting a new project once I returned. We’d email each other about musical ideas, direction, albums we had been listening to—we really had no idea what were going to do musically, but we knew we were going to do something.
I moved back in July of ’05 and we began looking for a drummer. We ended up going to a drumming competition put on at Guitar Center. We were actually scouting a drummer who made the finals named Rudy something or other…it didn’t really matter who Rudy was because when we walked into Guitar Center we ran into a young kid who Geoff and I both kind of knew named Nick Wantland. He wasn’t in the competition and was there as a spectator. We knew he was a drummer–Didn’t really know how good he was though. His hair covered his whole face and he kept swiping it behind his ears and it’d immediately fall back over his eyes. He was very personable and animated, flailing his long stick-figure arms everywhere as he talked to Geoff and I—He was obviously drunk…so it was a natural fit. Nick was the brother of Geoff’s brother’s ex-girlfriend, and the nephew of my mom’s ex-fiancée. It was an incestuous arrangement from the start but Geoff and I took an immediate liking to this kid, and I guess he liked us just fine as well. We exchanged numbers and soon we were jamming at his house every other day. In another year or so we’d all be living to together. I don’t know whatever happened to Rudy something or other…
We practiced at Nick’s parents’ house way out in the desert; cactus and animal wildlife right outside the garage where we rehearsed. One day we came up with a plethora of band names we liked—many of these names came directly out of the yellow pages. We narrowed the names down to 1)Sex Rash From Tokyo 2)Tiger Data 3) Mostly Bears. We put these names in a hat and drew them out—Mostly Bears was the winner, as well as a business in the yellow page directory.
After months of practice we decided we were ready to play shows. We began playing the underground scene in downtown Tucson: a hipster joint called 36 Chambers, a house-turned-venue called The Compound, another called The Gnarwall house. Eventually we got into the doors of some reputable places like Plush in Tucson. After our first show here, local industry people began paying attention– Word got out about us and soon we had a booking agency, management/publishing deal, and recording contract.
How soon after the release of your “Only Child” EP did you get recognition from fans outside of the local scene?
BL: First let me try and explain HOW “Only Child” came to be… I was a music-major at the University of Arizona, so I got free studio time for us. We recorded drum tracks to a few songs at the U of A and we did the rest of the overdubs at a friend’s house—in his bedroom. These songs were supposed to be mere demos but when Funzalo Records signed us they wanted to release the collection of songs as an album and send it to college radio to see how well it did–kind of as an experiment. The expectations were low—I remember the head of the label, Mike Lembo, saying that he’d be surprised if the record cracked the CMJ 100. Well it did…easily. I think all of us were surprised about that. A bit of national recognition followed—nothing too crazy.
Geoffrey Hidalgo(bass/vocals): It was a slow process, but we got more recognition typically from playing shows in other cities than from people finding the EP.
BL: Ya, our live show has always been the attention getter.
You released your debut full-length album, “The Ed Mitchell Clinic” in April of 2008. Have you gone on tour since its release?
BL: In 2008 we did a few short regional tours early in the year. We did SXSW in March. We did all of July and August (east coast and west coast) to support the album and went back east in October for a few weeks to play the CMJ music Marathon in NYC. For 3 dudes who still definitely need to keep their day jobs, we have done a shit ton of work on the road.
What is the Ed Mitchell Clinic?
GH: It’s a concept we developed for the album to tie the whole thing together, the
concept being based loosely from the work of Dr. Edgar Mitchell. But the album isn’t based off of the concept, it’s more the other way around.
BL: We originally wanted to call the album “ the Ed Mitchell Clinic for Cosmic Depression” but thought the title might be too long.
What is the digital divide?
BL: A “digital divide” is basically the gap between people who are capable of using modern technology (computers, primarily) and people who are not. The song “Digital Divide” is indirectly linked to this concept…but its set to a medieval hierarchy system for analogical purposes.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
BL: I wanted to play in the NBA. My dad was a college basketball coach–I grew up in that setting; with those aspirations. I played basketball all the time—was real good too. Just not big enough. I’ll still go down to the park and mess some fools up on the court.
Nick Wantland(Drums): A weapons inventor.
GH: Many things, but it’s been musician for a while.
If you had to choose, what else could you see yourself doing aside from music?
BL: Donating plasma.
NW: Stockpiling soap and toilet paper for zombie day. Gold won’t be worth anything.
GH: Teaching, or nothing.
How do you guys go about writing your songs?
BL: We record practices and jam sessions and take fragments out that we can work with. Sometimes I’ll have a song written and present it to the group as well. Right now we are in the process of turning our rehearsal space into a virtual recording studio—this way we can take more control of the writing and recording process. Cut out the middlemen. The more you can do on your own, the better.
NW: Brian is great at melody. He’s the type of guy that will come up with an idea in the car, and be able to replicate it at home hours later when he gets home to his guitar. We’re lucky to have someone with that capability. Geoff is savant of sorts. Generally he’s got a blank stare, and he’s the only guy I know who quit school to play video games. But he’s hands-down the best bass player I’ve ever met.
Except for the occasional seed idea/melody that Brian brings to practice, we rely heavily on jamming together for song writing. Just last night I asked Brian if he would like to jam with a CD full of live drum loops I am creating, and I got a simple “no.” We just need that live thing.
BL: Nick, record those drum loops, and I’ll deliver you the goods.
Brian, when did you discover you could sing and when did you start writing
BL: I can sing? Hmmm…well, in music theory, as part of our training, we had to do a lot of Sight Singing —where you are given “X” amount of bars of music and just a starting pitch—then you are expected to sing the rest on your own using “solfeggio” (do re me fa so la ti do). You have to have amazing pitch accuracy to do this—not any technical singing skills, just pitch accuracy. I always did surprisingly well in sight singing class. It
was a very difficult thing to conquer—so that was encouraging. I took opera lessons fora good while too. Just to get my breathing down, really. I also swim a lot which helps build lung capacity. I’ve really started to take singing seriously over the past couple of years—used to just think of myself as a guitarist who got stuck doing the singing in thegroup. Now it’s more the other way around.
As far as lyrics go, I started writing lyrical passages in college. During lectures I’d easily be distracted and would start writing lyrics in a journal. I still have all my old college notebooks—so I can flip through and find old lyrical ideas and give them new life. Now I always keep a journal with me and will write down ideas daily. Some are shit, some aren’t. The point is to write. You can always go back and expand on an idea later.
In the music video, Peoples Distinctive Travels, what exactly is covering the mouth of actor Jesse Martinez’s mouth? Where was it shot? Did you guys play any part in the directing of the video?
BL: We had no part in this video. We don’t really know Jesse at all. He contacted us through myspace and said that he was a director living in LA and was basically “bored”and wanted to shoot a video. So he somehow got turned on to our music and made amusic video for “People’s Distinctive Travels”. He told me that he wanted to do a video for a band that nobody had heard of. We were that band, I guess. He showed it to us and we were blown away by the quality of it. I was expecting some animated stick figures and shit…People usually don’t do things like that for free, ya know? But Jesse did. What a nice guy, right?
GH: Ya, We had no part in that video and it was done solely by Jesse Martinez and whoever helped him. We did enjoy it though.
BL: The thing covering the mouth is our Mostly Bears logo, (ef why eye).
Part two of the interview will be up tomorrow. By reading part two, you will become more attractive to the opposite sex. Don’t believe us? Come back tomorrow and you’ll find out yourself.