In early 2011, Eksi Ekso singer/multi-instrumentalist Tom Korkidis came to drummer Alex Mihm with the idea of creating a collection of song narratives from two perspectives: the victim and the inflictor. Conversations were had, and serial killers and victims throughout recorded history were researched. Serendipitously, Erik Larson’s book “The Devil and the White City” was recommended by a friend with no idea about the band’s newest thematic intrigue. H.H. Holmes (born Herman Edward Mudgett) was a demon of a man who was not only a murderer - but a doctor, husband, father, entrepreneur, alchemist, architect, and philanderer. From life insurance fraud to bedding heiress sisters to drafting numerous conflicting confessions - Larson’s book explores the life, death and folklore of Holmes, and those of his victims and assailants.
Archfiend(05.07.13), the third release from Eksi Ekso, its second as a trio, and the first with producer Scott Solter (John Vanderslice, The Mountain Goats, St. Vincent) at the helm - in no way glorifies Holmes - it simply uses the absurdity of his life to paint a bit of unlikely cinema into songs about one of the most storied killers in American history.
With Archfiend, the Boston based “Art Pop” group crafted an up-tempo and hyper-sexualized album that sits on the opposite side of the spectrum from where the sometimes lofty, somber and ambitiously orchestrated sophomore album Brown Shark, Red Lion exists. Where Brown Shark, Red Lion required a cast of guest musicians and a small chamber orchestra to fulfill the band’s vision, Archfiend showcases the three multi-instrumentalists alone at their leanest, most raw and honest.
When the band entered Solter’s North Carolina Studio, the word “economy” was a prevalent theme throughout the sessions. The mantra was “if we can’t play it, it’s not on the song.” The three members felt they had succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do with their previous record, but wanted to take one step closer to a more refined vision of themselves; their more aggressive and anthemic live sound. Solter’s pushing of the band to slim down arrangements and get to the core of the songs, along with his signature sonic template gives Archfiend an almost pop-laiden bent.
Although not a dance record in the typical sense, the trio touches on elements within R&B, Doo Wop and classic 70s and 80s pop. Vocals are prevalent, guitars are used sparingly, piano, keys and synths color the songs, bass hooks are by committee (bari sax, synth bass, baritone guitar), and the backbone is fittingly anchored by an immediate percussive element. Everything from Tom Korkidis’ self-harmonizing, to Sean Will and Korkidis looping their own trumpet and baritone sax lines, to Alex Mihm’s layered percussion parts in lieu of typical drum kits - makes Archfiend a totally unique statement within alternative pop music.