Jane Finkel, Brian Spencer, Mike Sord and Matt Milowe have redefined their sound and will showcase that in opening for Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers on Saturday in Grand Rapids.
THE ARTIST: Less is More
THE MUSIC: Electronic soul with a dash of indie-pop
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: 8 p.m. Saturday at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids (opening for Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, The Legal Immigrants); April 21 at JR House in Grand Rapids (with Soul Low, Tom Hymn); April 22 at Stoopfest in Lansing
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What do you get when you electrify an acoustic duo, add a European synth sensation and a bass player rooted in folk music with a passionate love for nachos?
A group, according to pianist-turned-ukulele-specialist-turned-keyboardist Jane Finkel, that is “creating without limits” and having fun doing so.
The seeds of the Kalamazoo-based project, known as Less is More, first were sown by Finkel and guitarist/fellow vocalist Brian Spencer in 2010 when the then duo were students at Albion College. The two, who got their start playing for beer and pizza, are quickly finding out that the flip side of that moniker – with more musicians in this instance — may not necessarily equate to less.
After bringing on drummer Mike Sord in September 2015 and bassist Matt Milowe last February, the group is redefining not just its sound, but its approach to writing music as well. After starting off last year by reworking some of Finkel’s and Spencer’s older tunes and playing them live locally, the group decided to take some time away from the practice room and stage to write some new music.
“We were writing in a lot of different styles and trying to figure out what the best approach was,” said Finkel, who heralds from Mackinac Island originally. “We thought of this idea where we would each write a song in a week and then for the next two weeks work on each other’s songs with an anything goes approach.”
CONNECTIONS TO M. SORD, COLD MOUNTAIN CHILD AND THE KILLS
As opposed to bringing those tunes to the practice room, the band shared its writing through the computer program Logic Pro and began to tear into each other’s work with the idea that nothing was sacred. They have been in and out of the studio since day one working on that material, but an album release isn’t in sight at this time.
As far as the new players go, Sord is best known for his long-running M. Sord show, as well as his work in Europe with the London-based group The Kills. Milowe, who also plays with the Kalamazoo folk outfit Cold Mountain Child, added the beat needed to fuel the new electronic sound that was quickly developing for Finkel and Spencer — one that the band displayed for the first time at Bell’s Eccentric Café in February.
Finkel and Spencer tasted success as a duo somewhat by accident as they collaborated with their friends The Queen and King while touring through Nashville in 2014. It was there the two groups jumped into a recording studio and laid down a folky mash-up of Echosmith’s “Coolkids” and Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” a recording that has eclipsed more than 44 million Spotify listens and counting. It’s also available on YouTube, where it has approached a half-million views. (Watch the video below.)
While grateful for the notoriety the recording has given them, they are much more interested in carving out their own niche with melodic harmonies that float above the drum-fueled pop of Sord’s snare and the driving force of Milowe’s bass.
And while Finkel and Spencer may be the vocalists in the band, all four members, as well as Sord’s girlfriend, Anna Schmitt, lend a hand in writing lyrics, something that was done by intention and design.
“When we started playing together in February of last year we had a sit-down meeting and discussed what we all wanted to get out of it,” Spencer said. “We’ve really been focused on using the bass and drums as the foundation for writing and we’re enjoying all of us having a role in that writing.”
And with their collective roots entrenched in hip hop, math rock, folk, electronica and jazz, the sound coming out of the basement at Sord’s place is an eclectic and original one — one Finkel says feels like taking a dream to the streets, a dream they hope will resonate with others soon enough.
They open Saturday for Michigan’s Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seeker at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids, with Grannd Rapids’ The Legal Immigrants also on the bill. Get tickets and details online at 20monreolive.com.
VIDEO: “Coolkids/Riptide” Mashup
PHOTO GALLERY: Less is More at Bell’s Brewery
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC