GIMMIE SHELTER OR GIMMIE DEATH
DIW’s favorite electroclash survivors, Adult., give us the lurid backstory behind their new album and an exclusive tour of their gorgeous Detroit home.
The artwork for Gimmie Trouble, Adult.’s latest LP, features three pairs of antlers protruding like legs from blank mounds, not unlike the neutered crotch of a Ken doll. A pasty phantom hand holding a handkerchief reaches up to wipe a bronze plaque, which conveys the band name and album title. Inside are other images of cabin fever, all in dispassionate, monochromatic brown. The back cover lists the song titles on stationary from the desk of Helen Bach.
“She’s someone … we know,” says Adam Miller, one third of the Detroit electro-punk group, implying that he feels more comfortable keeping Bach’s identity under wraps.
“She lives in the thumb,” offers band member Nicola Kuperus—the “thumb” being the region of the Michigan mitten that looks like, well, a thumb.
“She’s sort of like Bloody Mary. Except she’s real,” adds Sam Consiglio, rounding out the trio.
An avid shutterbug (she’s a freelance fashion and music photographer for Planet E Communications, BPM, The Wire, and more), Kuperus created Gimmie Trouble’s sterile visual element, which is an extension of the skull-and-crow, still-death imagery found within the band’s Thrill Jockey Records debut, the D.U.M.E. EP.
Beyond Kuperus’ recognizable aesthetic blend of corpse-cold noir poses and painfully detached imagery are 12 new songs. At times, the analog synthesizers strike the ear with characteristically paranoid laser-light precision. At others, the sounds squiggle like sparklers, complete with smoke and tracers. Similarly, the beats either maintain the band’s typical rubbery bounce, or they drag—echoed and distorted—like they’re half underwater. Most of the tracks incorporate a bit of both in an attempt to make the songs more fun for the band to play live. Consiglio (of Tamion 12 Inch) is also a new addition to the mix. Adult. previously consisted of Kuperus and Miller as a husband-and-wife team. The two invited Consiglio and his guitar along for the ride when they realized their new songs needed an extra set of hands.
I used to have this joke that when we would go on tour, I would come off stage and there would be a group of people waiting by the side of the stage to beat me up,” says Consiglio. “They’d be like, ‘You ruined Adult. Adult. is Adam and Nicola, and that’s it.’”
Another major development on Gimmie Trouble is Kuperus’ voice, which has stretched way beyond its former electro-monotone to a full-on punk wail. Although it’s a bit jarring at first, her vox burrows into your brain, making itself comfortable after a few listens. The breathy conclusion to “Turn into Fever” even conjures comparison to PJ Harvey’s psychotic rant from “Rid of Me.” After viewing Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, a documentary chronicling the recording of Metallica’s St. Anger, Kuperus said she took notice of James Hetfield’s thorough vocal preparations and was inspired to scour eBay for vocal warm-up tapes.
The trio wrote and recorded Gimmie Trouble over three months inside the historic home Kuperus and Miller recently purchased in Detroit. The house was built for a family and then served as a photography studio and telemarketing center for 50-odd years. The couple is in the process of converting it back into a home and has finished the recording-studio portion of the project. The dining room, which was previously a darkroom, is in the process of renovation. The table is partially set for a dinner party—the “set” for Adult.’s first proper music video (“In My Nerves”), which will be shot the following day. Miller explains the plot as “a formal, awkward dinner that goes awry.”
The majority of DIW’s interview takes place inside a cement-block addition with 13-foot-high ceilings that used to be the photo studio. While recording the album, Adult. used the room as a racquetball court.
“It was funny because we’re all just totally un-athletic,” says Consiglio. “We’d play tag with the racquetballs. We would try to hit each other with the balls.”
Picturing the trio cooped up in this unfinished space for three months of a brutal Michigan winter to create an album as claustrophobic and energetic as Gimmie Trouble, one can imagine that a few rounds of racquetball might have prevented an actual case of cabin fever. As another possible antidote, the band is embarking on its biggest tour to date in support of the new record. The four-month tour will take them throughout North America and Europe. Although the three have a definite sense of home—their musing about Detroit alone could fill an entire magazine—touring is what they do best, and it’s often their inspiration.
“We played in Moscow, and a guy came up to me and hugged me, says Miller. “In broken English he said, ‘I never heard of you before tonight, and you changed something right here [touching his chest], and you will have changed it forever.’ I just teared up. … As hokey as it sounds, bands like PiL and Dead Kennedys changed my life when I was 14 or 15, and I’ve never gone back. I would only hope that I could corrupt someone else like that. I was inspired, and I hope to inspire.”