The ukulele and acoustic guitar hummed throughout Mac’s Bar as the crowd anticipated feel-good tunes from the local musicians Less is More with the hope of being guided through musical bliss. However, for Jane Finkel and Brian Spencer, this was just the beginning of their adventure.
Jane Finkel, Mackinac Island senior, and Brian Spencer, ’13 alumnus, formed Less is More on Albion’s campus. Finkel and Spencer met while participating in the Albion College singing group, Euphonics. They began dating last September and soon after began writing music and collaborating together — finding inspiration within each other and those who have supported them along the way.
“Every song has a different story, both in the writing process and while performing. Each song has their own emotions and inside jokes,” Finkel said.
After gaining confidence from playing covers, the musical duo showcased their original tracks at Macs Bar on March 21, where people bought tickets to hear their music and jam along. The self-penned songs will be introduced on their first record along with an upcoming tour within the next year. Finkel and Spencer allowed me to tag along and get a behind-the-scenes look at their most recent performance.
Because this performance was an unveiling of Less is More’s originals, it marked a huge stride for Finkel and Spencer in making a name for themselves in the music industry.
“It was a major stepping-stone in our professional music career,” Spencer said.
Both Spencer and Finkel expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play their original tracks, which will be on their upcoming CD to be released this coming August. The band acted as an opener this night at Macs for the popular Central Michigan-based band, John Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers. This performance at Macs Bar reaffirmed Less is More’s belief that nothing is more rewarding than seeing positivity from the crowd during and after their set.
“Playing our originals in front of the crowd and having such a positive response was an unbelievable feeling,” Finkel said. “It doesn’t get much better than having a set go well and getting positive responses. I didn’t want it to end.”
Taking the stage six and a half hours later
Fortunately, Finkel and Spencer allowed me to follow them throughout their night and help out a little along the way.
At around 2:00 p.m., Finkel and Spencer left Albion for Lansing, which is Spencer’s hometown and the location of Mac’s bar. For three hours, the duo practiced their set, ate dinner and de-stressed themselves for the upcoming evening.
They arrived at Mac’s a hour and a half earlier than the doors opened, in order to unload, set up and do the routine sound check. Sound check involved testing the microphones and amplifiers for correct sound and resonance throughout the venue. Finkel plays the ukulele and Spencer the acoustic guitar, so it was vital to correct any sound issues beforehand.
As the doors opened at 7:30 and people began to roll in, Less is More wasn’t nervous but was full of anticipation for the night to begin. Finkel and Spencer said that they typically do not become anxious, but did not want to jinx themselves either.
“When I perform, I just try to have as much fun as possible, and that isn’t hard to do with Brian,” Finkel said.
The set was originally supposed to begin at 8:00 p.m., but as most concert-goers know, gigs almost never start on time. So, as the front began to fill in, the Less is More fans all anxiously awaited Finkel and Spencer to take the stage. It finally began a half hour later.
Less is More performed a set of 30 minutes consisting of six original songs and one cover, which was Breezeblocks originally by Alt-J. The six songs were a mixture of upbeat and slower jams, but all encompassed the folk spirit that Less is More strives for.
Usually it is the opener’s job to get the crowd excited, entertained and pumped up for the upcoming sets. Less is More killed it. Finkel even cracked a quirky joke about cats on stage. Looking through the crowd, not a sour face could be spotted. People were bobbing their heads and dancing. There was a lot of dancing – some good, some bad.
After the set concluded, I could barely get a word in with Finkel and Spencer. The listeners received Less is More with open arms, expressing delight with their music and most importantly, the show lived up to Finkel and Spencer’s expectations.
I captured the night on video, which you can check out here for exclusive interviews and footage of Less is More.
An album in the making
The set at Mac’s was a reflection upon the album that Less is More recently recorded over spring break at Darkhorse Productions in Franklin, Tenn.
Spencer and Finkel agreed that the recording of their first album was a beautiful experience, but were also hit with a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Waking up at 6:00 a.m. each morning, the duo expected an hour of traffic through Nashville in order to arrive at the studio at 8:00 a.m. and began to track their record until 10:00 p.m. with minimal breaks.
“When at the studio, depending on what the previous days accomplishments were, we would just start knocking tasks off the checklist,” Spencer said. “Later on in the week, we left enough room at the end for creative expansion on all of our tracks, which ended up benefiting us greatly. It was really inspiring seeing our songs mature and develop right before our eyes.”
Finkel and Spencer were also struck with variations of earaches, sinus infections, colds and sore throats, which they combated through the week, along with stressful scheduling issues within the studio. Despite a few mishaps, they believe that recording was an incredible and positive experience for their musical careers.
“We were all incredibly happy and tired and, out of that, I think a beautiful product was born,” Finkel said. “The album became a lot more electronic than we had anticipated and grew in a lot of unexpected ways. We definitely maintained the essential feel of all of ours songs, but the additions are really going to fill out our two-person band.”
What’s next for LiM?
Less is More is currently anticipating the album’s release and an upcoming tour after Finkel graduates so they can continue fulfilling their dreams, writing music and performing at more venues.
This summer, the band plans on playing on Mackinac Island, along with finalizing a Fall 2014 tour.
“It’s really incredible to be able to continue to do what you love to do, with the people that you love to do it with, while traveling around the country,” Spencer said.
Because Less is More has yet to be signed by a record label, the band will be completing all of the work in-house, meaning they will have to work even harder to actualize their ambition.
“The two of us are competitive, but are also dreamers. I think that is a very good combination for two young professionals,” Spencer said.
Less is More will continue to fulfill their passion for music and constantly find inspiration in many aspects of their lives. The two have much to look forward to, and it is clear that their happiness is fueled by the music they create.
“Music is a fantastic venue for creativity and personal expression, and I can’t wait to continue the ride,” Finkel said.
Photos and video by Jillian Putnam