Formed in 1997, Detroit duo Adult.—the period is so much a part of the name that their Web site’s URL is www.adultperiod.com—spent the late ’90s and 2000s crafting some of the sharpest-angled electro-punk this side of late-’70s Suicide or the Normal. Over five albums, Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus—a real-life couple as well as a musical one—put Kuperus’s severely compressed voice over machine music as full of the jitters as the funk. It’s been six years since the two of them made a new full-length, but “The Way Things Fall” (Ghostly International), released May 14, sees little sonic softening—even if, as they told CODE, it may be their most emotional music to date.
Download album track “Tonight, We Fall” exclusively below:
You’ve put out some EPs and some singles over the last few years, but no albums, and I’m curious if you see this all as part of the same line. Do you look at the smaller releases as part of the major discography, or do you think of albums as the main focus?
Miller: I would say we put the exact same amount of care into everything we do, although it takes a lot more care to put an album together. But no, I think we’re very, I suppose, old school in [regards to] what an album should be and could be. So a lot more work goes into an album, and I do believe an album has a certain…
Nicola Kuperus: Purpose, I suppose.
Miller: Purpose, and severity. I take that seriously.
How did you know that these songs would be an album?
Kuperus: It started just to be a 12-inch. That’s what we wanted. We actually didn’t want to do an album, and the [songs] just kept coming. It was an insane process: “Well, we should write one more.” “Well, we should write one MORE.” We were only supposed to write four, and we ended up writing 14.
Miller: I think that’s interesting, because I went to school for painting, and I really believe that—not on a transcendental level—but you can really listen to your painting and it’ll tell you when it’s done, that type of thing. I know that sounds a little hokey, but...it’s more just about stopping and listening, looking and listening, whatever you’re working on. But I do feel like these songs had their own little voices that were going “No, no, I’m an album song. No no no, keep going, there’s more in here.” It was kind of comical, in a way, how much it just seemed like it was meant to be that we were going to write an album.
How did you end up working with Ghostly International for the new album?
Kuperus: We did one track for them in 2002 [for] the Disco Nouveau compilation. Between that and running our own record label here in Detroit, Ersatz Audio, we met [Ghostly owner] Sam Valenti very early on and just developed a really long relationship with him. About three years ago, he kept saying, “What are you doing with “Resuscitation”? That’s such a great album. You should really re-release it.” It was out of print and it was unavailable on iTunes. Finally, after three years, it was a good time, mentally, for us to make that happen. And we don’t want to be one of those bands that just re-releases an old record and then don’t put anything new out. We figured that’s why we’d do the 12-inch with new material. That then turned into an album.
Miller: Added to that, in two-and-a-half years we hadn’t played a live show. We knew if we reissued Resuscitation on top of that—we just weren’t into it. We were still on our sabbatical, so to speak. Then we got asked to play this live show that was an art opening for this artist, Gary Panter, that we really like. He designed the logo for the Screamers. We really wanted to do this show, and to do a Screamers cover. Once we played the live show, we realized we really enjoyed it, and that maybe more music was in our future. Then Sam Valenti saw some of the video clips of the live show, and he got in contact with us again. Everything came together, these different roads.
What had kept you busy during your sabbatical as a band?
Miller: The six years between our last album [and this one], we did a soundtrack to a feature film called Open. Then we made our three horror films, which total about an hour and 45 minutes, and all of that has continuous original music, so that’s an hour and 45 minutes of music there. There was 55 minutes of music in the film we scored for this director Jake Hughes.
Kuperus: [to Miller] You started concentrating on your painting.
Miller: I did. I concentrated very hard on my painting.
Kuperus: One of the biggest problems we were having with it all is that we’re both visual artists, and the balance between visual art and not doing visual art became really bad. Especially with the MP3s taking over in the music industry. You know, album covers aren’t still, but used to be, this very important side to us. Everything started just becoming out of balance, so, by taking a break from music, Adam was able to concentrate on painting, I was able to concentrate on my photography. We were able to make these films, do video work, just a ton of things that we never were able to do.