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.
EX MODELS in summer ’08 sees Shahiin and Zakk playing once again with Kid Millions and working on new material. The new album will be a mix of perverted noise, electronic dance music, and their own particular brand of rock and roll fans have come to love.