He was the lunar-module pilot on Apollo 14, and his moon experience, while not as widely quoted as Neil Armstrong's, was just as life-changing. On the way back home, Mitchell took a good, long look at the Earth from a distance and experienced a philosophical transformation. He parted ways with NASA and founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences, which, according to their Web site, funds research on "the potentials and powers of consciousness."
Most recently, Mitchell has been in the news arguing that aliens have been visiting Earth for more than 60 years, and that the government has been actively covering up the evidence.
As Mostly Bears was finishing up their first album, they went in search of an album name and a way to bring the songs together--and came across the work of Ed Mitchell.
"We were looking for books, trying to find a source of inspiration," said guitarist and vocalist Brian Lopez, a 2008 TAMMIES finalist in the Male Vocalist category. "Nick (Wantland, the group's drummer) stumbled upon this book that we had in our house. It was called An Index of Possibilities: Energy and Power. It's pretty much about everything, and we found this article on Ed Mitchell."
The band found Mitchell's cosmic philosophy intriguing: "When (Mitchell) saw the Earth from so far away, he called it 'instant global awareness,' seeing the world as a whole community as opposed to small communities, and he experienced a kind of depression. He called it cosmic depression," said bassist and vocalist Geoffrey Hidalgo (the 2008 TAMMIES winner in the Bassist category).
It's cosmic depression, because, as Mitchell explained to The Monthly Aspectarian (in an interview Mostly Bears have reposted on their MySpace blog), one realizes that "our cosmology from science--our understanding of ourselves, who we are and how did we get here--(is) incomplete and possibly flawed. And that our cultural expression, maybe religion, our cultural cosmology, (is) archaic and certainly flawed."
The way to combat the depression is to change that understanding and try to see things from a different perspective--one that's more global, more universal, more conscious of the whole rather than the parts. Mitchell's ideas spoke to the band's desire to bring their songs together in a mysterious and meaningful way. They realized that this idea can be transferred to an album: Instead of looking at it as a collection of individual songs, one can look at it as a work of interconnected parts.
"Originally, the album was going to be called The Ed Mitchell Clinic for Cosmic Depression," said Lopez. "A lot of the songs have more to do with cosmic realities and universal dilemmas that everyone can relate to."
The idea, then, is that the album, with its space-rock minimalism and pace, invites the listener to experience instant global awareness on a metaphorical level. "Being able to take a few steps back and look at the big picture helps the listener interpret the songs for his or herself," said Lopez. "(We're) not exactly telling them what the songs are about. We don't write topical songs. It's open for interpretation, and I think that's part of the cosmic appeal."
Another part of the cosmic appeal is the sound of the music itself. "It's not like we play theremins or make space noises, but I feel like it's a little more psychedelic, or I guess you could call it spacey," said Wantland.
Said Lopez: "We have a lot of spaced-out rhythms. We don't record to a click track. We did that on purpose, so that things seem a little more chaotic, so you get more of a cosmic feel."
"The Digital Divide," which opens the album, combines fast-moving guitars and percussion with a more sustained bass line, creating a strange effect: Does the guitar sound faster because the bass is playing fewer notes, or does the bass sound slower because the guitars and drums are filling in so much space? The last song on the album, "Passeig de Gracia," evokes Radiohead with its blend of high vocals and slow, spaced-out guitars. In between, "Airports," "Melancholyism" and "The Pharmacist" hypnotize with hooks; "Eclipse the World (Oh My Brain)" and "Your Smile Decorates the Afternoon" are otherworldly and cosmic; and "Leda Atomica" and "Maslow's Hierarchy" are earthbound and quiet. The album as a whole is an impressive soundscape, full of fuzz and focus.
Contrasted with the Only Child EP, Mostly Bears' first release on Funzalo last year, The Ed Mitchell Clinic is even more fascinating; Only Child was disjointed, while The Ed Mitchell Clinic is seamless. Only Child felt tentative and young, while The Ed Mitchell Clinic is a developed album from a maturing band.
"The EP was recorded just in bedrooms and random places," said Wantland. "It was more of a mish-mash, you know, stuff so we could throw up some songs on the MySpace or whatever. We never really sat down and mapped it out like this new album. This new one had a lot more construction."
And it shows: The Ed Mitchell Clinic was recorded and produced at the Upstairs Studio with Nick Luca and Fred Huang, and with the support of Funzalo, the album has already garnered praise from respected national music Web sites PopMatters.com and Allmusic.com. Creative Loafing Tampa called The Ed Mitchell Clinic "one of the year's best albums thus far," and nearly every local news source has chimed in with praise. The band is currently touring the East Coast, where they're finding new fans and enthusiasm for the new record.
"We've been having van problems and sleeping in lobbies for like three days ... and we're still having a really great time," said Wantland.
Mostly Bears have already gained more national attention than any local band has in a long time--and the strength of The Ed Mitchell Clinic makes that attention very well-deserved.