Call it adult-only entertainment. The talented -- and married -- couple behind Detroit electro-rock outfit Adult. and arty label Ersatz Audio are almost as well known for their creepy high-art visual aesthetic as for their unique sound.
Fine art grads Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller pride themselves on the look of their work. Miller sets the design tone for the label with his Sol-LeWitt-meets-James-Rosenquist minimalist/hard-edge paintings, while the album covers feature photographs by Kuperus, a respected photographer for the likes of Vogue magazine.
The photos, eerily clinical Helmut Newton-inspired vignettes, evoke unfinished narratives; one limited-edition Adult. 7-inch depicts a zoned-out chick in a pretty dress sprawled over the hood of a car as though she's been beaten. It freaked out their friends.
So what's up with the weirdness?
"We like to scare away the normal people," explains Miller via speakerphone from the Motor City. "It's good that our stuff is a bit creepy -- I don't want some, like, Creed fan at our show."
Not that a Creed fan would be interested in Adult.'s music. Their sound is as challenging as their aesthetic, falling somewhere between indie rock and techno. Stripped-down analog synths and chugging drum machine beats are offset by strange, disembodied voices droning barely perceptible lyrics. Think Richie Hawtin meets Devo.
It's very 2001: A Space Odyssey, an old-school conception of what the future might sound like, with elements of raw punk thrown in to tone down the measured mathematics of Detroit techno.
It's also very much in vogue right now, considering the current much-hyped renaissance in electroclash exemplified by buzz bands like A.R.E. Weapons and Fischerspooner. The couple admit they're of two minds about the trend. On the one hand, they're selling a lot more records now than when they started out in 1997. But there are drawbacks.
"Now that electroclash is trendy, there's an element of cheese that follows along," complains Kuperus.
Adds Miller, "When we played the electroclash festival, there were all these lip-synched bands that were like something you would've seen in an elementary school!"
Their disdain for the music motivated Adult. to turn down an invite to play an electroclash fest. They opted instead to tour with post-rockers Trans Am, hoping it'd help keep people from pigeonholing them.
Being reactive is a common theme with the duo, whose manifesto from the outset was to make work people would either love or hate.
"A friend of ours called us the "uncordial two,'" Miller laughs. "We don't hide any opinions. We believe art is a forum for debate. If we don't like a song, we'll say so straight out. We love it when we get horrible reviews -- we'll write to critics and thank them for their negative views."
Adult. dissed another band who offered them an opening slot. Even their upcoming record is planned as a reaction against reviews of last year's Resuscitation album.
"It'll be a little dirtier, not so synthetic, not so monotonous," asserts Kuperus, who adds that after going "100 miles an hour" since Resuscitation dropped 13 months ago, Adult. are holing up in the studio from July to December for a temporary hiatus and hardcore writing sessions. No offers can change their mind. Period.
Hey, what's up with the period in the name, anyway?
"It's a combination of things," Miller explains. "I think it's nice-looking, and it makes for a good logo. But it also describes our approach with music -- what you see and hear is what you get. Period."email@example.com
ADULT. opening for Trans Am at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (June 14). $13. 416-598-4753.