By Duke Shin
For all the dystopian retro-cacophony and ironi-gloom lyrics offered up in their music, the husband-wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus seem extraordinarily affable and good-humored when discussing their upcoming mini-tour and recording sessions for their follow-up to 2005’s “Gimme Trouble.”
“We’ve just finished writing the new album and we really wanted to be able to play the songs out live just to get a feeling for them before we do the final recording,” explains Kuperus, her voice still scratchy from tour stops in LA and San Diego.
“We usually do a few shows so we’re warmed up,” adds Miller, “especially Nicola’s voice!”
They both laugh, as Kuperus’ distinctive robot-to-banshee vocals seem to be an ongoing inside joke. “So I can talklikethis,” she growls.
Perhaps ADULT.’s good spirits have a bit to do with recent changes to their lineup. After seven years together as a duo, ADULT. added Tamion 12 Inch guitarist Sam Consiglio to the touring lineup following the release of the D.U.M.E. EP, before adding him on as the third member of the band. After a year and a half together as a trio (including the release and tour for “Gimmie Trouble”), ADULT. has returned to its original incarnation as a duo. Although the band claims that the split was amicable and mutual, there was a definite desire to get back to the original formula.
“For us it’s returning to what we’re most comfortable with,” Miller states quite matter-of-factly. And so electronica’s strangest stepchildren retain their status as Detroit’s second most famous married (or formerly married) rock duo.
ADULT. CHECKS ELECTRONIC BAGGAGE
So for the uninitiated, what can be expected from a live ADULT. show?
“It’s very energetic,” explains Miller. “That’s the biggest misconception if someone didn’t know us at all.”
“It makes us sweat, at least!” Kuperus chips in.
It becomes quite apparent that ADULT. doesn’t enjoy being pigeonholed as electronic artists. With the early success of “Resuscitation” (its debut LP comprising of its earlier singles), ADULT.’s Moroder and Kraftwerk-harkening melodies were unfairly corralled into the electro-clash flash-in-the-pan movement, with Kuperus’ disaffected vocals suddenly becoming the short-lived phenomenon’s calling card. High-profile collaborations for Swayzak and Death in Vegas would follow.
“Richard Fearless [of Death in Vegas] called and said ‘I want some vocals from Nicola,’ and then the record came out and it was, like, Mazzy Star and Paul Weller and Iggy Pop and all these people!” recalls Miller.
But ADULT.’s reactionary attitude towards its brand of sonic art soon moved away from the vogue. Angular guitars and agit-punk wails replaced their previous robotic tendencies, most notably on their last album, as well as onstage.
“You know, its funny, we use a lot of electronics, and I like electronic music, but I hate being called an electronic musician and I don’t think we are… but I also think it brings up so much preconceived baggage. We don’t sit there, behind our laptop doing nothing for an hour. It’s very energetic.”
“It’s also very annoying,” deadpans Kuperus. “It’s not for the meek… it’s for the permanently weird.”
ADULT. ON BEING ADULTS
Miller and Kuperus talk further about their band’s evolution in sound and theory. Growing pains dominate, as they recall their gradual maturation from art concept electro-rockers putting out singles to essentially becoming their own genre of music.
“We’ve been talking about putting out a book, ‘D.I.Y.W. (Do It Yourself Wrong)’ which is like every mistake we’ve made… not that we’ve made a lot of mistakes, we do make a meek living at this…a meager existence?” ponders Miller.
“We still live in Detroit, and we still only have a van,” sums up Kuperus.
“And it breaks down a lot, so we have to make up shows!” laughs Miller.
Eventually the discussion falls back on Detroit’s leading (former) couple in rock, the White Stripes (“They got really famous right after they got divorced, so maybe we should get divorced!”) and other famous couples in rock ‘n’ roll. (“What about Chris & Cosey? Oh, and Siouxsie and Budgie!”)
But a comparison to X’s Exene Cervenka and John Doe brings the biggest response, perhaps unsurprising considering ADULT.’s DIY sensibilities.
“We’re huge fans of theirs,” exudes Miller.
“I’d probably pee myself [if they contacted us],” bubbles up Kuperus, before sardonically deflating “They’d probably think we’re just an electronic band. ‘Ooh, that terrible electronic music!’”
Yet a discussion on underground married (or formerly married) heroes soon gives way to discussions on the current state of the world, with ADULT. taking dead aim at political indifference and a perceived blandness in current music. Existing somewhere between cool-kid exuberance and grumpy old-couple disgust, ADULT. proves that you don’t need to mellow with age. Ever the reactionaries, ADULT. concludes the interview with a hint of its new direction.
“Long-based vocal stuff inside the dance-world got popular, so we went more aggressive with guitars and stuff on the last record, and now it seems like rock is getting popular again with the whole Franz Ferdinand, Radio 4, Art Brut, that sort of crap…so now I think our new stuff is going to be a lot more stripped down,” concludes Miller.
“But I think our new stuff is more bipolar. Like you really need to take a Xanax after, and then some caffeine.”
ADULT. Performs with Viki and Indian Jewelry at the Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, on October 19 at 9:30pm. $12.