In Advance of Next Month’s Grog Shop Show, Adult.’s Adam Lee Miller Talks Staying True to Detroit’s Rich Musical Legacy

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Indie rockers Adult. - Courtesy of GrandstandHQ
Courtesy of GrandstandHQ
Indie rockers Adult.
The electronic indie act Adult. first came together in Detroit way back in 1998. At that time, the city resembled what Miller calls “the wild west.”

“It was total freedom,” he says in a recent transtlantic phone call from a Berlin tour stop. Adult. performs with Kontravoid and Spike Hellis at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, at the Grog Shop. “The parties and raves and events were off the hook. It’s a city with such a rich historical music history from Motown to Iggy [Pop] to MC5 to early Detroit techno. We have a lot of idols here that we don’t want to let down. We feel a great responsibility to calling ourselves a Detroit band. When you play a show in Detroit, they’ve seen it all. It’s made us keep our game up.”

The band "keeps its game up" and then some on its latest LP, Becoming Undone, a rich collection of techno-ish tunes that feature some of the most sophisticated electronic beats and impassioned vocals the band has ever delivered. Singer Nicola Kuperus sounds alternately “indignant” and “possessed,” at it's aptly put in a press release, as she sings tunes about how what she calls “the compromises of culture.”

Becoming Undone follows 2020’s Perception is/as/of Deception, an album that came out in April of 2020, just after the March lockdown of 2020. The pandemic derailed the band's tour in support of that album.

“Our tour got cancelled, and everything fell apart,” says Miller. “I still kept trying to get our set ready for rehearsals. It felt futile, and our agents were constantly trying to figure out how to push the tour.”

Priorities shifted after Kuperus’s father, who lived in North Ridgeville, started battling cancer, and the duo became his hospice givers.

“We spent a lot of time caring for Nicole’s dad,” says Miller. “It was very difficult but meaningful. That didn’t exactly put us in the mood to start writing. I don’t know what happened after that, but we said, ‘It’s going to be so long until we tour.’ So we started on new music. We were hopeful about the [2020 presidential] election and wanted some wind under our sails. Still, it was hard to continue with the weight of the pandemic and all that shit. We got into writing in the New Year, and then, the insurrection [in Washington D.C.] was happening. As a result, it’s a darker album. Is an artist supposed to be a hammer or a mirror? In other words, do you fight or mirror what’s happening in the world. We mirrored all those hardships.”

Thanks in part to the album's meticulous mastering, the recording quality is superb.

“We worked really hard at that,” says Miller when asked about the recording process. “It’s bass-y, but it snaps. We record at our home studio. We have worked with the same mastering engineer on the last three albums, and with each album, we get to know him more and more, and he went deeper on this album.”

With its metallic sounding percussion and droning vocals, jittery album opener “Undoing/Undone” sets the tone for the decidedly dark release.

“I don’t want to say it’s something we do a lot, but we do enjoy smashing a strange middle part into a song,” says Miller when asked about the track. “We don’t know music theory. We didn’t go to school for music. It takes us a minute to know an A-sharp on the keyboard. We’re always trying to break formula. We don’t want every song to be verse-chorus. We smashed something unexpected in the middle, but it’s not a futilist record. To 'become undone,' you can become again. A friend of ours told us we have no fear of destroying something we once were because we will just create something new and rise out of it like a Phoenix. We don’t talk about love or being strong in our songs. We talk about our weaknesses more.”

Though the band mixes things up from album to album, one constant is Kuperus's voice. Her guttural vocals often recall Goth acts such as Bauhaus's Peter Murphy.

“I think because we tour so much, she’s become an incredibly strong vocalist,” says Miller. “We did a 2017 collaboration with [vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist] Shannon Funchess. She said she loves singing with Nicole because she’s like a rock in the stream. She is the same every time and consistent. Her talking voice sounds like a dog's squeaky broken toy, but the second the show starts, she’s right there. I don’t know how she does it.”

At the time of this interview, the band had just completed 12 shows in 13 days. The gigs were spread out across seven countries. After Berlin, Adult. was set to head to Poland, a country dangerously close to the war that’s raging in Ukraine.

“The whole tour has been pretty surreal so far,” says Miller. “We play Poland tomorrow. I know the promoter, and he’s excited for the sure. He said that people need this right now. That makes us feel good. We’ve been touring for 25 years, and we were on the first flight out of Detroit after 9/11. We were scared as hell, but when we played that show overseas, we were all so together that I was crying. I’ll always keep fighting for the underground.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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