How Isolation Led ADULT. to Becoming Undone

Photo courtesy of ADULT.

Since the late 1990s, ADULT. has gained a cult following of devotees drawn to the Detroit duo’s genre-blurring, dark electronic music and knack for tapping into complicated, relatable emotions and situations. Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller hadn’t planned to begin work on a new album so soon after the April 2020 release of Perception is/as/of Deception. Yet, by the fall of the first pandemic year, the pair had commenced writing what would become their ninth full-length album, Becoming Undone; both releases draw from very different types of isolation. 

“Once we realized that there was no light at the end of the tunnel, we were like, okay, let’s make a new record,” says Kuperus by phone from Detroit. But unleashing that creativity was harder than anticipated. 

When making Perception is/as/of Deception, Kuperus and Miller opted to work  in a room they had painted black. It was an experiment in sensory deprivation that left sound as their primary form of stimulus. When the album was released, in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, record stores were largely closed and tour plans were canceled. “It was made in a void and it just went into a fucking void,” says Kuperus with a laugh. 

Where Perception is/as/of Deception was the result of isolation-by-design, Becoming Undone manifested out of an unexpected, but necessary, period of quarantine. “We had to be so careful because we had cared for my dad through hospice at home,” she explains; her father passed July of 2020. Additionally, her mom underwent cancer treatment and they were visiting her frequently. “We were literally not seeing anybody. We felt like we had to protect her,” says Kuperus. “It was a very isolated time.”

“You would think that would maybe help the creativity, but it didn’t help,” she adds. “The whole timeline of COVID seems so crazy to me. It feels like one big blob. Even though it’s two years, it feels like the same thing.”

However nebulous, Kuperus surmises that this period of isolation had a big impact on the writing process for Becoming Undone. “There’s no pressure for the songs to be anything other than they want to be,” she says. “It’s not like this has to be a dance song or a crowd-pleaser, because we were just working in such a strange moment.”

“Teeth Out Pt. II,” the final track on Becoming Undone, was actually the first written for the album. “I got this looper pedal and was experimenting with doing various vocal recordings of just noises I was making. Through my voice and the pedal, I made a structure, almost like a melody or a beat, but it’s far from there,” says Kuperus. “I had been writing down various things after my dad passed and that really came out of that.”

The song, written in November of 2020, would go on to set the tone for the rest of the new material. “In a way, we are making this record for ourselves,” she says. “Not that we ever make records for anybody else, but, let’s face it, there is a pressure and I think that this set the tone for what’s next. Where do we go from this point?”

The pressure, Kuperus later clarifies, isn’t about listener expectations. “I think I’m at a weird point in my life where I’ve been doing this much longer than I expected and we’ve had successes, but we’ve never been a big band,” she says. “It’s more your own legacy. You just want to be credible; you want people to respect and understand your work and, to have that, you hope to inspire other people by making important work.”

“I don’t feel pressure, like, will people like this?” she adds. “I just want it to be important in the realm of weirdo music that we do, that it has some kind of significance and that it’s long-lasting. So, there’s that pressure of making a good piece of work.”

All this led to some really intriguing moments on Becoming Undone. Kuperus brought out the same looper pedal used on “Teeth Out Pt. II” for “She’s Nice Looking.” Vocals build to the repetition of variations of the song’s title, and as it swells, it might make you feel like you’re trapped in an endless Instagram scroll of people commenting on a woman’s looks. The song itself reflects shallow popularity based on appearance. “You find these people saying, she’s nice looking,” says Kuperus. “You get really tired of that.” 

With Becoming Undone now out via Dais Records, ADULT. is planning to hit the road, first for a European tour through March and into early April. Their U.S. jaunt is set for April and May. The tour comes with a mix of emotions for Kurperus. ADULT. has only played a few shows since live music resumed in 2021. 

“You’ve gotta be safe and respectable, but, also, the show must go on and life must go on,” says Kuperus. “Whether it’s the artists or the people going out to the shows, we all need music desperately.”

Follow ADULT. on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Riki Turns Introspective on Sophomore Album Gold

Photo Crredit: Dustin Edward Arnold

Riki knew that she wanted to include a cover song on Gold, released on November 26 via Dais Records, and had been working with a couple different song possibilities when she settled on “Porque Te Vas,” the 1974 melancholy pop song from Spanish singer Jeanette. “When I was demoing it, it just felt right,” she says on a video call from her home in Los Angeles, adding that it was a song where she could inject something new into it while also conveying “the message of the song is in an honest way.”

“Porque Te Vas” is a song that’s been in Riki’s life for so long that she can’t recall when she first heard it. “It’s in my mom’s vernacular of songs that she would play, so I’ve known that song since I was a little kid,” she says. “My mom, when she would drive us— my brothers and sisters and I— around, we would listen to a lot of music in the car. Both of my parents were really into music, but that was a different vibe. It’s like everyone is having their introspective time, kind of quiet time, even as a kid, just listening.”

In her version of “Porque Te Vas,” with vocals that sound as if they are transmitting from the past, Riki captures that special connection people can have to songs first heard as children. “Songs like that, they become part of you in such a profound way, like DNA-level almost,” she says. 

The cover also reflects the very slight shift in sound— and a big shift circumstances— between the release of Riki’s debut album and her sophomore effort. Her self-titled debut was released on Valentine’s Day of 2020, a few weeks before Los Angeles clubs, and nightlife throughout much of the world, shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had no idea what was in store, of course,” she says. Ultimately, the pandemic would impact the sound of her follow-up; the songs on Gold, from upbeat tunes like “Lo” and “Marigold” to slower numbers like “It’s No Secret” and “Florence and Selena,” are reflective of the period in which the album was made. Riki describes it as a “stay at home with your headphones and your stereo system” sort of record. 

Running counter to that, Riki’s first album was steeped in pre-pandemic life. With nods to classic synthpop and Italo disco, it was music to make you move. “The first album was a bit of a dance, a club thing,” says Riki. “I think that’s where it would be best served, a club, and the second album is not at all that way.”

“When I was demoing these songs, there was an altered state of everything, everyone was in either solitude or a little pod of people that they were shut in with,” she says. “That was interesting for demos because there’s a lot of introspective energy there.”

When it came time to record the songs, Riki worked with producer Josh Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv). “We have a huge overlap in our musical tastes,” she says, adding that this allowed them space for creative exploration. “It was really fun in that way. I’ve never had that experience before, so it was very exciting.”

Riki grew up in Portland, Oregon and began making music there, but pursued it more seriously after moving to Oakland. There, she played in a few bands, including Crimson Scarlet. “It was very fun and theatrical,” she says of the punk outfit. 

After moving to Los Angeles seven years ago, Riki shifted her attention to her solo work. She says that the city has influenced her music in a few ways. “I have a little bit more of a routine here. I’m a little bit more secure and living a more adult kind of life. It’s less chaos, parties, let’s go wild,” she says. “I don’t go to as many shows as I used to before moving here, just because it’s a city that’s a little more expensive. I have to work, do all that, so a lot of my music listening has come more from getting recommendations from friends, not necessarily L.A.-based music.”  

Since last summer, Riki has been able to perform again as well. “They’ve been, certainly, some of the best shows that I’ve ever played,” she says. “The energy of people coming out right now is all-in. It’s awesome.”

These gigs included her first solo show in New York, where she opened for Cold Cave at Webster Hall. “They have really wonderful people that listen to their music and are super supportive,” she says of Cold Cave. She also played her first ever shows in Florida, at Absolution Fest, and in Chicago, as part of Cold Waves Festival. “Those shows are three of my favorite shows that I’ve ever done,” she says. 

Riki has also been gigging around L.A., with a stint opening for Cold Cave at The Wiltern, and sets at Los Angeles’ Cold Waves Festival in September. In 2022, she’ll be hitting the road for a U.S. tour with Choir Boy. 

Follow Riki on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Tempers Celebrate Debut Reissue with Track from Acoustic Vault

Photo Credit: Elle Muliarchyk

Back in 2015, when New York-based duo Tempers (Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper) originally released their debut album, Services, the vinyl was limited to 500 copies and released through the German label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe. For the fan base that they were building in the U.S., vinyl copies were difficult, if not impossible, to find. 

“I get emails every day from people wanting to buy the album,” says Golestaneh by phone. “It seemed like people really wanted to have it on vinyl.”

On December 11, Dais Records will reissue Services – and, yes, that includes a vinyl release for the Stateside crowd – alongside an acoustic version of album track “Bright Over Me.” At the time that they recorded Services, Golestaneh explains, the duo was working experimentally and recorded acoustic versions of some songs that would go onto appear on the debut. 

Bringing together threads of musical styles like cold wave, minimal synth and techno, Tempers has forged a sound that is raw and emotional. Over the years, their process to making that music has evolved considerably. “In the beginning, there was this idea that if you labor or suffer over a song, it’s going to be better. If you haven’t suffered over it, somehow, it’s not good enough,” she says. “Over time, we discovered that the songs that take less time, the songs that, really, are the most intuitive and simple to write, are the ones that are the most powerful and immediate and effective.” 

Tempers’ most recent single, “The Use of My Belonging,” came together fairly easily, Golestaneh says. She and Cooper worked on the song remotely while staying at home. The bandmates have developed a songwriting partnership that Golestaneh describes as “telepathic.” 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two were in the midst of a European tour. They had to fly back from Paris and reschedule the rest of the dates. Back in New York, Golestaneh’s apartment had been infested by water bugs, so she moved into the apartment of a friend who was out of town. 

“She had a very interesting and unusual bathroom – it looks like the set of a Fassbinder movie. I recorded all the vocals in this very surreal bathroom,” Golestaneh recalls. “I feel like there’s something about being displaced during the pandemic and then finding myself in this very beautiful apartment and that really added to the vulnerability of the song.”

Golestaneh, who is also a collage artist, spent a lot of the stay-at-home period watching movies, going through the works of directors like Eric Rohmer and Wim Wenders. Certainly, she says, that’s influenced her current work. “There’s always a strange mix when you’re creating something,” she says. “It’s always this unlikely alchemy of elements that suddenly turn into something that feels meaningful and it’s pulled from so many different sources.”

She had been particularly moved by a re-watch of Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire. “There was something about the enchanted and melancholic spirit of the movie… I wanted to do a song that feels like this movie,” she says. That night, Cooper sent her the music for what would become “The Use of My Belonging” and it was precisely what Golestaneh had in mind. She was able to get the lyrics and vocals together quickly. The result is a delicately pensive song that captures the mood of a time where so little seems certain. 

“Lyrically, it was very much about the feeling of being in a pandemic, but also the mass manipulation and power dynamics, really destructive power dynamics and police brutality and the rise of protests and feeling really overwhelmed and really scared,” she says, “but also really hoping that the loving aspect of our human nature will prevail through all of this.”

Learning how to make music without forcing the song to manifest is something that Golestaneh says took time to learn. “It’s trust. Trusting and letting it happen,” she says. “There’s something really powerful about just letting go in that way.” 

But, getting to that point of trust meant moving beyond the common belief that creativity should be hard. “I think that it’s probably that way with a lot of artists, where you think that you should be suffering for some reason. There’s a nobility to suffering,” she says. “Life is already so hard – this is something that is really just quite freeing and quite a relief.” 

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