Ex-Display Model is a new project from Fujiya & Miyagi’s David Best with AK/DK’s Ed Chivers. The pair began working together in Brighton earlier this year, taking their inspiration from the DIY home recordings of Robert Rental and Thomas Leer, writing much of their debut self-titled, self-released album in David’s bedroom and the small studio space in Ed’s apartment.
“Initially the group began as a solo outlet for me to revisit the sort of records that made me fall in love with music in the first place,” says David. “Things like the first Modern Lovers record, The Velvet Underground, Harmonia, and an adolescence soundtracked by religiously listening to the John Peel show.”
The album displays David Best’s nous for creating leftfield pop songs with heavily introspective lyrics whose meaning is known only to their creator; pitched perfectly with music covering everything from shimmering electronics to the awkward funk gestures of classic Talking Heads. Like some of the best musical moments, the whole thing formed itself from a bunch of serendipitous moments.
“Once the songs were roughly formed, instruments would be layered on top of one another with no prior knowledge of what would be played,” Best continues. “The lyrics were constructed in a similar fashion, formulated and shaped while recording took place. Once Ed began contributing to the songs it was as if they went from being monochrome to technicolour.”
David gave Cold War Night Life an exclusive walk-through of the songs on what is assuredly one of 2018’s best and most understated electronically-infused crossover albums.
The electronic noise you hear on the intro and during the chorus is a guitar pedal malfunctioning. Luckily, I managed to record it. Unfortunately, it works fine now. This is perhaps the song that sounds most like my other group. It’s something I attempted to avoid, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. “Immaculate Rip” is more abrasive, perhaps.
I don’t like samples of voices from TV or radio on songs. It always reminds me of when Ned’s Atomic Dustbin sampled Die Hard.
The voice you hear at the beginning is a train announcement at Shanghai station that I recorded when I was out there. I think if you source it yourself it’s okay to use it.
This song is an amalgam of ideas from Neu! and Harmonia mixed with George Murray-esque basslines and Roxy Music fuzz. I was aiming for a cold, motorik funk.
When I was young, my dad used to drive me and my sister to every Arsenal home game. He had about three tapes in his Fiat Panda, one of which was a Gene Vincent album. I always liked it and always associate him with my dad. I tried to replicate a 50s rock ‘n’ roll guitar solo on this song, because I thought he might like it.
I was also trying to see how many times I could repeat the same sentence in a song without it getting boring. I’ve always liked that idea of getting the most from as little as possible.
Ed’s synths bring the song into today, and that creates a nice tension between the old and the new.
This is perhaps my favourite song on the album. It’s Ed’s favourite too. It started life aspiring to be a “Private Plane” or “Double Heart” or Smog’s “Bathysphere.” I don’t think it ended up like that.
I suspect that the lyrics are addressed to myself, like a self-help guide; or perhaps it’s better to think of this and the other songs as internal monologues let loose externally.
We asked Annie Hart from Au Revoir Simone to sing and play some keys on this. Ed built an Arp 2600, and it makes an appearance towards the end and also all over the album.
Pouring Cold Water On To Hot Glass
At the core of this song is the idea that there are numerous reasons and obstacles why you shouldn’t do something, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. If you want to release a record “properly,” with radio and press and manufacturing, it costs thousands. This record, due to goodwill and lots of favours, cost £250 to record the vocals nicely plus another £48 to sort the cover out.
Other than the vocals, it was recorded in my bedroom and Ed’s little studio room in his flat. So the “cold water” is saying, “You can’t do it,” and the “hot glass” is saying, “Oh yes we can!” It’s also aspiring to be something. I can’t dance like James Brown and I can’t make a film as good as “Stalker,” but by striving to be that good you hopefully get a bit better than if you didn’t try.
Ed does this really lovely synth pattern on this song, which reminds me of Italo Disco at its most melancholy – something like “On & On” by Decadence or “Life With You” by Expansives.
As with “Immaculate Rip” and “Pouring Cold Water…,” Ben Faresvedt plays bass on this. It also has a post-punk dubby feel to it, due to the delay on the guitar. Most of the guitar was recorded without knowing what I was going to play beforehand. I like to think it gives it a feeling of imminent collapse, which I like.
Swing Of Things
As with the last song on the record, I was trying to sing like Bryan Ferry on this and failing. Ed sings on a lot of the album, which i think takes it away from my other group and sweetens it too.
I’m excited about our next record, which will be completely collaborative from the beginning. It feels like this is a good platform to build something exciting upon.
As with all the songs this uses drum machines rather than acoustic drums. The song is about getting older. There’s a really nice repeated pattern at the end which reminds me of Terry Riley, which is something we’ll explore further on our next album I reckon. I think sometimes my other group’s records sound too nice, and so this was an opportunity to leave the creases unironed.
Ex-Display Model by Ex-Display Model is out now. Listen to the full album on Bandcamp or Spotify.