By Mary Sucaet
Imagine being snared in that most quotidian and infuriating of modern urban traps: the traffic jam. Resigning yourself to your fate, your attention drifts to the construction crew causing this asphyxiating bottleneck. There amongst the gravel, concrete and clouds of dust the two members of electro band ADULT. are toiling away. Fantastic escapist fantasy, you say? Not so, during the band’s formative years, “It was really exhausting, backbreaking work,” explains vocalist Nicola Kuperus. “[We] would get home and just want to listen to Pet Shop Boys because the work was so draining.”
Save as extras in perhaps a Devo video, Nicola and partner Adam Lee Miller most likely won’t conform to your idea of a construction worker. ADULT., their jackhammers and cement mixers now hung up, have been delivering grinding, revelatory performances for the last decade and a half, both at home in Detroit, Michigan and around the world. When asked about their recent European tour, Adam reflects in a grateful tone, “This tour was nice because we made sure we had time to see museums and other shows. We had buffers because our shows, [especially] for Nicola are very demanding. It’s nice,” he adds, “because we aren’t coming home from different jobs aggravated. We are right next to each other, going through the stress and exhaustion together.”
Shows in cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City and at home in Detroit are especially receptive to the chaotic nature of an ADULT. performance, according to the duo. On the other hand, there are cities like London, whose attendees have been known to throw adjectives like “intense” at the band, as if they missed the whole idea.
Still, no matter the city you call home, ADULT. is not for the faint of heart. With titles like Anxiety Always, "Let’s Feel Bad Together" and "Why Bother", strains of a dark and uneasy melancholy run throughout the group’s oeuvre. Complimenting and balancing this sense of desperate foreboding is a strong current of subversively dark humor, lest ADULT.’s affectations get too heavy, oppressive or "serious".
This becomes especially clear while ingesting their discography’s artwork and other assorted visual elements, the majority of which comes directly from Nicola and Adam. Having met in art school, the extension of the band’s carefully crafted and succinct milieu into the visual dimension is only too natural and perhaps even an obvious outgrowth of the couple’s artistic evolution. It’s not out of the ordinary for the couple to assemble shows whose emphasis is turned more towards visuals than music. Comprised primarily of videos and photography that tends to focus on common themes and elements like impeccably dressed, yet faceless, women juxtaposed against machines like classic cars and airplanes and assorted masked figures, the work tends towards a haunting-with-a-wink Dario Argento-esque sort of atmosphere. Nicola’s photography has even graced a series of greeting cards, perfect for an ominous and unsettling love note.
Back to the band’s music, ADULT.’s latest album is a decidedly danceable affair, with a heavier emphasis on melody than previous efforts. Make no mistake, though: this is still an ADULT. party. The Way Things Fall is less grinding than previous incarnations, retaining the beauty and sparse spookiness of past works. Whereas Nicola once intoned about a “kick in the shin”, here the focus is more “down into your throat and straight into your heart”, all atop supple and warm rhythms and sharp synth layers with a directness perfect for any grimy dance floor. ADULT.’s past evolves on The Way Things Fall and takes new form, their rawness translated with deft fluidity into potent and precise capsules of four-minute electro bliss.
Construction, arresting works of art, domestic and international tours, a rich and ever-evolving discography: what can possibly come next? Does the couple stop here, rest and reflect? Certainly not: pouring every cent and waking hour into their work is the only way they know how to live. In fact, with help from the Knight Arts Challenge grant, they intend to incorporate their everyday lives into their next project, which they’re calling “Detroit House Guest”. The band plans to play host to a series of musical collaborators who will live with them in Detroit while writing and recording a new set of songs to be compiled onto a new album.
Be on the look out for the industrious ADULT. It’s hard to predict their next move.
Photo credit: Nicola Kuperus