The first time I heard Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” was the summer of 2014, and I was driving a dust-coated 1988 Chevy pickup, left arm hanging out the driver’s side window. It was sluggishly and oppressively hot, and I remember my bare skin sticking to the cloth seats as I drove to the beach. “Riptide” came on the tinny-sounding speakers of my radio, and I was hoping that Lake Michigan was as riveting in its allure and mystery as Vance Joy’s “Riptide” sounded like.
Fast forward five months and I’m hearing Echosmith’s “Cool Kids” for the first time, rejoicing in the poppy simplicity of its lyrics that beg to be belted out at full volume in the car with friends. I added their tune to a playlist of mine devoted to my occasional need for a good dose of easy-listening pop, songs to be listened to solely for pleasure’s (who says it has to be guilty?) sake.
And then, these two songs merged.
Less Is More, composed of Albion College’s Jane Finkel (‘14) and Brian Spencer (‘13), smashed these two tunes together and created an acoustic cover that has garnered over 54 million listens on Spotify, as well as being featured on the music streaming service’s “Acoustic Covers” playlist. I hadn’t heard of Less Is More before I came to Albion College, but after I went to a concert of theirs at the Bohm Theatre in September of 2015, I could hardly forget them.
On one of the those warm, early fall nights that has just a suggestion of the frost to come, I have a distinct memory of hearing Less Is More perform “Cool Kids/Riptide” (a song they originally recorded with folk group The Queen and the King). I was smitten with the way this artsy duo had merged these two seemingly disparate jams into one turbo tune that had the catchy indulgence of pop, the wanderlust of indie-folk and the signature flare imbued by the two members who had tied those songs together so effortlessly.
In the time since I last had the pleasure of hearing Less Is More perform, it has been a busy time for the band. For one thing, Spencer and Finkel became married last September, and then they packed up their instruments and made the trek out to Los Angeles where they now live.
It will be with a similar passion and creative spirit that the members of Less Is More embark on a new artistic journey, one titled FINKEL. Spencer and Finkel have been working hard on this new project, but I was lucky enough to chat via email with Spencer about their transition from Less Is More to FINKEL.
Evan Rieth: Less Is More developed a pretty substantial following on Spotify. What prompted you to start something new?
Brian Spencer: We feel super grateful that so many dug the music we put out as Less Is More. We definitely don’t take that for granted. Our reason for starting the new project is two-fold.
First: Our success as Less Is More pigeonholed us in a cover music/folk genre that we didn’t want to sit in indefinitely. Our creative spirits needed more.
Second: We grew up listening to hip-hop, R&B, soul, pop and funk. Our acoustic instruments were keeping us in a place that sonically wasn’t jiving with our own musical tastes anymore. We had to pivot for our health.
E.R.: The musical approach that FINKEL takes is not the same as Less Is More. What prompted that change? How would you classify the style of music you’re now performing?
B.S.: Life introduced us to a number of producers and collaborators. All of them had great ideas as well as ideas that we didn’t want to incorporate in our approach. I suppose the simple answer is we just keep making stuff up, and people THANKFULLY keep listening.
FINKEL dives sonically into an electric soul/pop genre, and we try and curate each show as if it’s an art installation.
E.R.: How is your creative process different on this new project from what you did with Less Is More?
B.S.: We borrow from multiple artistic platforms to help create our sound. We’re currently investigating how our eyesight and color affect our everyday life. We don’t want to give away much more on that subject for now. Beyond that, we put ourselves through writing workshops weekly to help create new music. We probably have three to four albums worth of song start in the wings from these workshops.
E.R.: How has Los Angeles treated you so far?
B.S.: Super well. Palm trees are amazing. Super prehistoric.
It’s been inspiring to be around so many like-minded artists and tastemakers. There’s always something poppin’!
E.R.: How has your Albion College experience (education, friends, connections, etc.) shaped your music, and your music’s production?
B.S.: Albion is one of our biggest fan bases, which again, we don’t take for granted. The Albion community grows larger every year and to be able to sit down and talk with Britons from all different walks of life and get their stories, it helps our creativity incredibly.
As far as our education is concerned, Albion allowed us the opportunity to expand our minds and expound upon our skill sets in ways that are still coming to light. There truly isn’t an end to the gifts that the purple and gold continue to give. This is certainly a topic we could talk about for an entire article.
E.R.: Any plans for touring?
B.S.: Hell yes. We’re hoping to be in full swing this summer and continue into the fall and 2019. Hoping for full-time touring come 2019. We still have a lot to accomplish before then.
E.R.: Has the transition from Less Is More to FINKEL been challenging? If so, how? Personally? Generating a fan base?
B.S.: For sure. The challenges are the same as they were before. Starting over definitely is daunting, but we have a head start from our time as Less Is More. Our creative spirits are much happier now. Less Is More was an incredible project to teach us how to do this full time. Now we have music that we want to play full time. As long as people will continue to seek out more music from us, we will abide!
I had the privilege of listening to a few of their tracks before they have been released, and they certainly did not disappoint. The music on their new record reflects how the distinctive sound of FINKEL’s “dives sonically into an electric soul/pop genre” — the songs are deeply layered with upper-octave synthesizer and lower octave bass, all balanced out by the voices of Finkel and Spencer. The release for FINKEL is set to be May 11, with a second music video (sponsored by Albion College) planned to pop onto the scene in late July.
Photo by Ellyn Jameson