I always have had a knack for finding rare and precious live recordings, whether it be old schoold IRC, other late 90s peer-to-peer shares, ealy 00s vidz ripping blogs or the ever-growing depths and archives of YouTube. IDIOTEQ’s Twitter still shares many rare videos dug up from various sources, so it is my pleasure to unveil another nostalgia inducing live set from mid-00’s, both intense and insane performance from Brooklyn based experimental, noise post hardcore band EX MODELS. The video was filmed by San Diego resident Aaron Thornhill, who is now doing Fairly Loud Noises on YouTube. We caught up with with Aaron to give you a wider description of the show and his memories of that time, and our frequent guest, Three One G’s Justin Pearson (also of THE LOCUST, DEAD CROSS, RETOX, PLANET B), who agreed to share his thoughts on EX MODELS:
I randomly met Ex Models in Alabama at a show that The Locust played with them. Up till that point I had never heard of the band and wasn’t sure what to expect. Back then, they were a four piece and to me, they sounded a lot like a more abrasive and aggressive Devo. Therefor, I was instantly hooked. Plus, the people in the band were such cool humans. On tour, we tend to make strange connections that can fortunately last a life time. Some of The Locust had another project called Holy Molar, who toured with Ex Models and then eventually did a split EP with them. So by the time they came out for the show presented here in this footage, they downsized from a four piece to a two piece. I was a bit disappointed at first, given that I tend to fixate on drummers, and well, they didn’t have a set drummer. However they sure got weirder, which is great in my opinion. Plus, this line up was represented of one of my favorite tracks by the band, Buy American. It all clicked at this performance, just how jacked up you can get with two people who are willing to do whatever the fuck they want… and it was beautiful. – Justin Pearson
Ex Models jabbed in all directions: speed-metal drumming, hairpin tempo turns, skronky thrash guitar and Shahin Motia’s Devo-like yelped vocals.
And despite the tightest, loudest live set this side of Shellac, Ex Models couldn’t compete with budding scene personalities Karen O and Angus Andrew (Liars). Other Mathematics, the trio’s debut, featured 13 songs—most under two minutes—that sounded like a metallic blitzkrieg on the Talking Heads’ catalog. It was either a migraine or an adrenaline rush. / MagnetMagazine.com
So what do Ex Models sound like? Well, if you can imagine a horny chimp on amphetamines screeching into a microphone while The Boredoms play Fugazi as if performed by Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, while also on amphetamines, you’d be on the right track. / PopMatters.com
EX MODELS live at the Epicentre in San Diego, California, February 12th, 2005 – Aaron Thornhill’s commentary:
I was gonna be late to the show at the Epicentre in Mira Mesa, a spacious all-ages venue normally about a 20 minute drive from where I lived in Golden Hill, a neighborhood east of Downtown San Diego. My car had been totaled in a hit-and-run a few months before while parked in the College Area, so getting to this show was going to take over an hour on public transportation. As the bus eventually made its way from surface streets to the northbound freeway, I realized that the only people left that were in it for the long haul were two kids sitting a few feet away from me. One of them looked about 15, with Nirvana Unplugged-length greasy hair and the classic teenage sullen glare; the other about 13, with a new-looking leather jacket, some freckles and a demeanor that suggested he was having the time of his life and didn’t care if anyone knew.
With the bulk of the pilgrimage remaining, I decided to break my typical bus-ride oath of silence and inquire if they were also en route to the show.
“Yeah!” exclaimed the leather jacket kid, with all the sneering punk rock attitude of the Pillsbury Doughboy after a good tummy tickle.
“If it’s all sold out… I’m gonna fuckin’ kick out a window or whatever to get in, I don’t give a fuck” declared Unplugged, then spit into his hand and rubbed it into his stringy hair. I quickly assured him we would be able to get in and he eventually cracked a smile, declaring in a flawless Captain Kirk cadence “my goal tonight… is… to smoke weed… with The Locust”. Pillsbury Leather, ever exuberant, looked back and forth between us to gauge whether this normie with a camera bag could even handle the utter punk rock-ness of his older friend. I could indeed, but with each gob of spit casually hacked up and used as styling gel, I became increasingly aware of how long it had been since I had also been a teenager.
Upon getting into the very much crowded venue, I realized that the sax-punk antics of openers The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower were well underway. Having lived the first 24 years of my life in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I could immediately tell that between the singer’s Jagger-prancing about the stage and the band’s persistence in slathering any and every otherwise pleasing riff in a heavy, chrome glaze of atonal clatter, these folks had intentionally and effectively curated an aesthetic ready, willing and able to, offend middle American sensibilities. Their set was concluded by repeating the mantra “it’s your stage too”, as they pulled members of the crowd up for their last song until I wasn’t sure if I could even see them anymore.
I was able to work my way much closer to the stage for the next group, a New York duo called Ex Models. I knew nothing about them other than that they had a record on Three One G, which didn’t narrow it down for me sonically at all other than it would probably be weird. Out came the two Ex Models, who turned out to be pretty normal looking dudes. There was a drum kit on the stage and some guitars, which they strode right past in favor of kicking things off with some ear-splitting drones and rhythmic blurps from various guitar pedals on the floor. One thing that set them apart from the staunch introversion typical of noise artists was their obvious attitude.
Instead of staring coyly at their shoes or instruments, they gazed out at the crowd, challenging them as their pedals saturated the air with whirrs, clanks, and robotic wheezes.
After establishing the vibe, they brought in the drum kit, repetition-based guitar riffs, howled vocals, and pre-recorded drum grooves in different combinations. While the music was more helicopter/car alarm than Lennon/McCartney, the precision delivery of the songs could not be denied, and before I could even get a grip on what I was seeing, the barrage stopped and they departed the stage.
The Locust were up next and while they were setting up I noticed some very strange music and spoken word playing over the PA. Later I would find out that guitarist Bobby Bray had taken the cheese masterpiece Fabio album “After Dark” and edited out all the actual songs. What remained was an unsettling montage of spicy, pre-song monologues delivered over a sumptuous bed of adult contemporary synths, and a glimpse at the band’s sense of humor at work behind the stark white uniforms and masks. Before long they took the stage, and wasted no time setting about shredding everyone’s face off, debuting material from their soon to be released “Safety Second, Body Last” EP to the packed venue.
After they finished I ran into the kids from the bus again. They were ecstatic, and asked if I could get their ticket stubs signed by the Locust for them. I went in the back and was able to get them signed by bassist JP. I said my goodbyes and got about the business of mooching a proper ride home.
– Aaron Thornhill (Fairly Loud Noises)
More about EX MODELS, via ATP Festival:
The story of EX MODELS is the story of great passions—the search for knowledge and ecstasy, the questioning of a work of rock and its potential meanings, unbearable pity for the suffering of humankind— blowing them them like great winds, hither and thither, over great oceans of anguish and ecstasy, reaching to the verge of despair. It is also a discursive history of events attempted and conducted by various combinations of wasted stoners.
In one form or another, Shaah, his little brother Shahiin, Jayk, Miik, Zakk, had been playing in bands together since they were teenagers in New Jersey. While Zakk was at Oberlin College forming THE SECONDS with future Yeah Yeah Yeah’s drummer Brian Chase, Shahiin was at Brown University drawing songs in sequencing software and culling lyrical themes from the obtuse cultural critiques of 20th century continental philosophers, eventually unifying everything with Miik, Jayk, and Shah under the name EX MODELS.
Ex Models’ 2001 debut OTHER MATHEMATICS was the culmination of four years worth of long distance computer sequencing, bedroom rehearsing and home recording. Its thirteen academically deconstructed hyper-punk songs clocked in at 26 minutes, and sounded like a post-structuralist’s guided tour of 70’s post-punk and new wave, and critics and fans alike responded (mostly by calling them “Devo on crack!”, or, “Talking Heads on speed!”). Recorded by Shahiin at a small Manhattan commercial jingle house he co-owned, the album—and after some legal maneuvering, the band—were released by Ace Fu Records, but not before receiving enough critical acclaim to land the album a spot in the recent Magnet Magazine cover feature “75 Lost Classics”.
After completing their first ever U.S. tour, bassist Miik entered graduate school in New Jersey, though the rest of the band had settled into a loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for over a year. The Models realized the decision would disrupt their touring plans, and officially enlisted Zakk from THE SECONDS to be their new collaborator. After spending much of late 2001 and 2002 honing new material on the road with bands like FLYING LUTTENBACHERS, THE SECONDS, HELLA, and LES SAVY FAV, they entered the studio in Brooklyn with legendary underground New York producer MARTIN BISI (Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Foetus, Swans, John Zorn) and banged out 2003’s ZOO PSYCHOLOGY for Les Savy Fav’s Frenchkiss Records.
Less clinical and precise then the sequencer based, automatic writing of OTHER MATHEMATICS, ZOO PSYCHOLOGY is shot through with the all the crushing volume, noise and paroxsymal speed that characterized their live sets in the new ZAKK era. If OTHER MATHEMATICS was the sound of the band analyzing rock in the classroom, ZOO PSYCHOLOGY was EX MODELS at play. It generated a lot of buzz in the national and foreign media, and consequently the band spent all of 2003 touring the U.S., the UK, Europe, and Japan with YEAH YEAH YEAHS, ERASE ERRATA, XBXRX, HELLA, and HOLY MOLAR. The band seemed poised to join many of their New York peers in signing a big contract in a year of frenzied major label interest in the city’s young rock bands.
But after two years of touring and recording, and the international attention it generated, the band developed an introspectiveness they could no longer ignore—musically, and professionally. Some members were growing weary, and creative desires were diverging. Having approached a critical horizon in their career path, the band gazed out over the rim of their world, surveyed the diverse lands, and resolved to journey inward before resuming the journey onward.
After completing a supporting U.S. tour at the invitation of longtime patrons TORTOISE, Shahiin and Zakk parted ways with Shah and Jayk, and began their spiralling trip into the nature and reality of EX MODELS. Along the way they saw many travelers, but “only one mystical being who seemed to sojourn on the same plane, to have some secret knowledge of what it is we sought,” according to Shahiin. Thus were the wandering EX MODELS united for a time to KID MILLIONS (of Brooklyn rock-and-roll institution ONEIDA) and the irrepressible expressiveness of his drumming. In 2005 the band released the boiling psychedelic meta-mental lava of CHROME PANTHERS on legendary noisenik Mike Simonetti’s TROUBLEMAN UNLIMITED label.
It’s six songs were like to—but unlike—anything the band had done before. At twenty seven minutes, it was the longest LP they’d ever put forth, yet contained the fewest superficial parts. It featured neither the formal complexity of OTHER MATHEMATICS nor the wild no-wave spazz party of ZOO PSYCHOLOGY, though much of the raw musical material emerged from Zoo-era writing sessions. Instead, it is the sound of the volcanic guitar fire the gives EX MODELS life, and the burning spirit that animates it, or, as critics BYRON COLEY and THURSTON MOORE put it, “a lovely chalice of prog-raunch agression”.
The band spent the better part of 2005 touring the U.S., UK, and Europe. Live, the band took to performing the material to blasted, intentionally jittery pre-mangled drum tracks from an iPod, eschewing a live drummer. The “Fundustrial” performances of the CHROME PANTHERS songs revealed them as meditations on the sounds and desires that move them to make music, all against a backdrop of dense video collages projected onto them by Brooklyn video artists MIGHTY ROBOT. But soon 2005 gave way to new experiments, as EXM dropped the pre-recorded drum tracks for the Interstellar Overdrive summer of 2006, Shahiin and Zakk begand playing the Chrome Panthers material with two live drummers, Kid Millions of ONEIDA and Luke Fasano of Brooklyn’s YEASAYER. They premiered this two guitar / two drummer EX MODELS lineup at England’s ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES festival, the collaboration culminating with a fall tour of headlining dates and a stint supporting the YEAH YEAH YEAHS.
Zakk and Shahiin spent most of 2007 taking a break from the MODELS to collaborate with others, Zakk with PTERODACTYL, MARNIE STERN, and THE SECONDS, Shahiin with ONEIDA, AWESOME COLOR, and SOME GIRLS. The two also formed KNYFE HYTS (pronounced “Knife Hits”), a power trio dedicated to improvising heavy music of all kinds, featuring Shaah on lead guitar, Zakk on baritone guitar, and Shahiin on drums. The prolific group reunited Zakk and Shahiin with Shaah for the first time in two years, and has to date released two albums on Party Store tapes and their own Hyt Records, and have more to come.
The reunion proved inspiring; after three years, Zakk and Shahiin invited Shaah and Jayk to collaborate with EX MODELS once again. “It’s funny, in some ways we’ve grown apart,” Shahiin reflects, “but in most ways we’ve just grown up and that’s the reason we’re most excited to be playing together again. In the past I think I always wanted us to condense, to minimize, to be tighter and hotter than stars. Now we want to explode.. to blow apart, expand, interact, and make a universe that can hopefully stand on its own legs one day, light up a splif, look at itself and say “you Mu’s sure can party.”“
And so they exploded, playing high-profile shows to rave reviews in the summer and fall of 2007 with Deerhunter, Silver Apples, Telepathe, These Are Powers, Oneida, and the Deathset, in outdoor amphitheaters and museums, at the Bowery Ballroom and the PS1 museum. They went to China to play Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing. And they moved on.