FOREWORD: As you’ll see by the following 2001 interview, Brooklyn-based Ex Models have a wildly sordid sense of humor. And they were, at the time, my favorite band coming out of the thrilling ‘no wave’ Williamsburg scene. ‘03s Zoo Psychology perfected their riveting perplexities. But ‘05s Chrome Panthers was minimalist to the extreme, as only guitarist Shahin Motia and bassist Zach Lehrhoff were left from the former quartet. It’s likely the band will see some more action post-’09. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.
Across from Manhattan’s skyline lies remote Williamsburg club North 6, where Bridgewater, New Jersey natives the Ex-Models get ready to storm the wooden platform stage for another revelatory high tension set this cold Halloween’s eve. The catastrophic assault begins when lone bassist Zach Lehrhoff (who splits time in local denizens the Seconds) stares off into the crowd hitting the same cautionary note ad nauseum until the Motia’s (Shahin and Shahyar) step up and deliver a demonic frenzy of axe wielding ferocity. Anchored by headphone-wearing drummer Jake Fiedler’s savage attack, the Iranian-American brothers’ leap through the air hitting nearly impossible notes as Lehrhoff continually stabs at his 4-string while scarily leering at no specific victim. During one fierce break, Shahyar ruffles together some speedy notes while bending backwards humping his instrument.
Placed alongside fellow Brooklyn no wavers the Liars, Black Dice, and the Rapture, jittery quartet the Ex Models take contrapuntal deconstruction to explosive heights by condensing ideas and cramming in as much interesting information into as little time as possible. On their masterful debut, Other Mathematics, they display instrumental complexity without getting lost in complicated time signatures, tossing off tersely truncated 2-minute bursts of fury while mocking the overused ‘math rock’ designation in its smug titular reference.
Comparisons to admirable post-punk minimalists DNA, the Contortions, and ESG aside, these savvy nonconformists continually step out of the boundaries of conventional pop structure, broadening their horizons at every turn. Shahin’s yelped quips reach contralto hysteria unmatched since art-punk mastermind David Byrne fronted the Talking Heads during nearby CBGB’s historic ‘70s punk craze.
Sitting in Brooklyn’s North 6 basement lounge following their dazzlingly acrobatic 40-minute jaunt, these zealous, wry-humored experimentalists unexpectedly reveal they can’t sit through “an entire Captain Beefheart album,” then shrug off Frank Zappa’s experimental excursions and deny comparisons to abstruse ‘80s Minneapolis trio the Minutemen. Nevertheless, husky red-head Fiedler gives respect to free Jazz pioneer Miles Davis and conceptualist John Zorn while the others offer support to local faves Les Savy Fav, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and the Liars.
AW: What formative influences developed your childhood interest in music?
JAKE: I was into Twisted Sister and drummers who played well in bands instead of virtuosos. I like Gang of Four’s Tito Burnam, Phil Rudd (AC/DC), and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) just for the sheer brutality and violence.
SHAHYAR: We have bands we admire, but we’ve been goofing around so long together we play our instruments in a certain way. We wrote songs by arriving in a room and recording what came out and sequenced them later. Shahin and I got involved playing guitar at a young age. As a kid, you go through a lot of phases. You cut your teeth on Iron Maiden. You learn to study Metalli-riffs.
JAKE: I learned to play air drums to Master Of Puppets before I even had a drum kit.
SHAHYAR: When we began, we’d play as many notes as possible to keep ourselves entertained. Now we try to play as few notes as possible to make it interesting.
Did the Minutemen’s keen chops, 90-second half-songs, and abrupt endings influence the Ex Models? How ‘bout the minimalist approach of late-‘70s no-wavers DNA?
ZACH: I don’t think any of us own Minutemen records. I’m not saying they’re not great. And DNA sucks! We’re basically better than all of them. (everyone laughs) I don’t figure out songs listening to music. Our influences are more chemical. I think I’m going deaf.
SHAHYAR: (jokingly mocking Zach) You heard him play tonight!
Other Mathematics’ final song, “The Mechanic,” is an aberration since it’s 5-minutes long and easily approachable.
SHAHYAR: That’s actually the oldest song on the album.
SHAHIN: I don’t think we’ve played that live in two years.
“Girlfriend Is Worse” provides accessible guitar lattice to entice its full frontal rhythm assault.
SHAHIN: What happened is once we figured that out we had to ditch that too. (laughter)
Are you guys friendly with fellow Brooklyn avant-rockers the Liars and Black Dice.
SHAHIN: We now reside in the same borough and I like them a lot.
ZACH: It’s cool. We just wanna see more shitting and puking on-stage.
JAKE: It’s great to see a band you personally enjoy on a certain level do well.
ZACH: (kidding) And you could totally rip off their songs!
Getting ideas from respectable sources isn’t necessarily bad. Dylan’s folk guitar style profoundly influenced the Beatles Rubber Soul.
ZACH: We challenge Dylan to a cocaine sniffing dual and boy will he lose.
Well. He has a bad heart. (laughter) The Ex Models new 4-song split-single with the Seconds penetrates the skull like a chaotic mess of orgiastic flotsam.
SHAHYAR: Truth be told, Shahin played bass on the Seconds tracks and nobody knows I played bass on the Ex Models tracks. It was a transition.
JAKE: So we’re basically playing with ourselves. (laughter)
SHAHIN: Who’s the guitarist who only had two fingers?
SHAHYAR: Django Reinhardt had only two.
JAKE: No. Robert Johnson did.
ZACH: No. He had two dicks!
JAKE: Didn’t he have six fingers.
ZACH: No. That’s Steve Vai in Crossroads.
JAKE: Didn’t the guy from 6 Finger Satellite have six fingers?
ZACH: I saw this Discovery channel special that had a girl with two heads.
They were wearing helmets playing softball. I’ve wondered about their sexuality. Are they lesbian just ‘cause they jerk off? How about the Chinese Siamese twins who were both married?
ZACH: Their fucking wives had two heads apiece.
What are your future aspirations?
SHAHYAR: To get someone whose responsibility is to blow coke up my asshole.