There are plenty of brothers and sisters who can barely manage to be in the same room together without creating some sort of disturbance. Then, you have a pair of siblings like Jocelyn and Chris Arndt who can not only co-exist in the same surroundings, but also manage to create some outstanding musical magic that at times can be quite breathtaking. We stumbled across the duo on YouTube performing in some videos from another one of our favorite YouTube discoveries Jam in the Van. One clip led to another clip, which led to another clip and we were beyond invested at that point.
The duo’s sound is an interesting blend of classic album rock with a modern edge to it which allows it to sound familiar, yet completely fresh and original. Chris Arndt is no slouch when it comes to that ax with his smooth approach in which the quality of the notes played far outweigh the quantity of the notes played. His sister Jocelyn is pretty impressive as well and has a set of pipes on her seasoned far beyond her age. She’s an intriguing mix of rock and soul as if Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin had a musical lovechild. Their latest release Edges is a great showcase of infectious tunes that play on each of the siblings’ strengths. We had a chance to sit down with the duo recently who gave us a crash course on all things Jocelyn and Chris Arndt.
I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions for our magazine. Shall we begin?
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt: No problem; thanks for having us!
Do either of you remember what first got you interested in music?
Joycelyn: Yes! Well, sort of. It’s funny; both of us grew up listening to music all the time, so I don’t think either of us really remember a time when it wasn’t a big part of our lives. We didn’t get started playing, though, until I was in fourth grade and Chris was in third. When I was really little, I took those dance classes every little preschooler gets enrolled in – you know, with the little tutus and tap shoes and all that. And I HATED it. I am not a dancer now, and I wasn’t then, either. I remember begging my parents to let me take piano instead… It just seemed so much cooler. They made me wait until I was just a little bit older, until they knew there was a better chance of me self-managing my practice time. And then in 4th grade, I got my first electric keyboard. Not long after that, Chris started guitar lessons. And then it snowballed from there.
I read somewhere that your parents had a room called “The Library” full of books and music and you discovered a whole new world in there. Were your parents musicians or just lovers of music or maybe both?
Jocelyn: Both Mom and Dad are serious music lovers, but I don’t think either one of them would consider themselves particularly musical. I think they sell themselves short on that front, though. Mom was in choir when she was in middle and high school and Dad picked up harmonica in his sailing days. No offense to any other Moms and Dads, but we have the best parents in the world. They’ve both always told us we can do anything we want to as long as we try our hardest at it. And they absolutely love our music. One of the few bittersweet parts of touring nationally is that nowadays they don’t really get to go to a lot of our shows anymore. So we try to keep them connected as much as we can. We call, FaceTime, and try to stream shows on Facebook Live so they can watch them back in New York. And we also try to bring back souvenirs from the places we’ve visited, so we can share a little bit of the experience with them.
Chris, on this new album, I love how you prove less is more in your playing and I mean that in the best way possible. I’m not very tech savvy with the terminology, but some guitarists like to see how fast they can play and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure you can shred with the best of them, but your style is pretty smooth on this album and even (if I do say so myself) kind of sexy on some of the tracks. Who helped to shape and mold you into the guitarist that you are today?
Chris: Thanks! I’ve always been a big proponent of the idea that the number of notes you play matters a lot less than how you play them. I listen to as many different guitarists as I can, and I’m always trying to figure out why what they’re doing works so well. I love the big rock-guitar era of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when having a six-minute guitar solo was totally normal. David Gilmore, Brian May, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix… That list could go on for pages. When I’m writing up my own parts, I try to draw bits and pieces from all those different styles, all while throwing a little twist of my own into the mix. It’s always more about creating a beautiful piece of music than it is about showcasing my technical skill, so it means a lot that you recognize those efforts!
Your turn Jocelyn! Your vocals are freaking awesome and you have this rock quality to your voice, but I also sense a lot of soul in it as well. Who were some singers that helped to mold you as well?
Jocelyn: Oh man. Thank you, that’s really nice of you to say. When I’m singing, I just sort of let the music take over me. I go kind of nuts for a while. There are times when we’ll play a whole show and I’ll walk of the stage afterward like, “What just happened?” Two hours can seem like two minutes. As far as influences go, I’ve always been drawn to crazy big voices – those singers who can open their mouths for three seconds and you know exactly who they are. Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Fiona Apple, and Grace Potter are some of my personal idols. We actually got to play with Grace Potter at the Mountain Jam Music Festival in Woodstock, NY last summer… We got to watch her entire set from stage right! I was fangirling the whole time. Robert Plant was there, too, so Chris got in some fangirling time as well. It was insane.
Going to Harvard seems like a hard enough task to take on, but you’re also doing your music as well. When do you sleep? That has to be incredibly tough to balance both of those worlds.
Chris: I’m not going to lie, it does get pretty busy. But we love them both, so keeping the balance is completely worthwhile. And I always tell people that each world makes me appreciate the other. At least, when I’m doing homework on the bus after a late-night show in NYC, it definitely makes me appreciate how much I’d rather be up onstage doing my thing. And juggling both music and college has also made us a lot better at being efficient with our time. We manage to squeeze in reading in hotel rooms and go over lecture notes while we’re traveling to the next gig. We miss some school here and there, but luckily, our professors are really understanding about our passion and where it takes us.
How weird is it to be in college and be played on college radio? I’m sure that doesn’t happen too often!
Jocelyn: It’s crazy! Absolutely crazy, in the best, coolest, most awesome way. I have a really strong appreciation for all the wonderful people who work in radio, because I’ve seen first-hand just how many CDs they have to sift through. Piles and piles of CDs. It’s insane, and they’re angels for digging through all of that. And I know how much work college is, too, so I have a special place in my heart for those DJs that choose to work at their school radio stations in their free time. When we started pushing our album Edges to radio, we were super excited, but also really nervous; when you boil it down, what it really comes down to is mailing ton of CDs to stations across the US and Canada and crossing your fingers that somebody will like it enough to want to play it. And so far, the response has been amazing. Our album is currently getting airplay on over 150 stations! Like, wow. It’s just completely mind-blowing to me to think that someone in Butte, MT, or Burlington, WI, or some other crazy-awesome distant place, is hearing our music being played on the radio.
“Where’s the Rain” is a personal favorite and has so many cool aspects from both of you that make it such an amazing song. Care to share any in-sight on that track?
Jocelyn: That’s one of my personal faves too. I’m glad you like it! It’s sort of a more personal song for us. We don’t always write from our own experience, but this one comes straight out of our own feelings. It’s a pretty desperate-sounding tune; it’s about looking out the window and seeing blue skies, and thinking it should be storming instead, because you feel terrible inside but the weather just isn’t reflecting your sadness. And knowing that the outside world is seemingly unaffected by your own pain somehow just makes your personal loss even worse. That kind of searing loss is what I was really trying to go for when I wrote the lyrics, and Chris intensified and shaped those emotions with his chordal choices and guitar work. I think he really made the guitar cry on this one.
“Cut the Cord” is another fave and a powerful composition. I absolutely love the use of the strings on it as well as the back-up singers. I feel like we’re doing our version of VH1 Storytellers now; can you tell us a little about that track?
Jocelyn: I love this one as well! I mean, it’s tough to pick favorites, because all of our songs are our pride and joys, but I’m particularly proud of how this one came together in the studio. It’s another really desperate-sounding one…..I guess we like desperate music. Chris worked for hours and hours to make his guitar lead powerful and melodic at the same time. It’s got a really piercing, emotional sound. And that feeling gets boosted by the amazing background vocals you mentioned. The voice you’re hearing is Machan Taylor, and she’s a serious badass. She sang backup for FREAKING PINK FLOYD! And Sting. And Pat Benatar. Crazy, I know. Not to mention she’s married to Danny Louis, the Hammond organist for Gov’t Mule. He came in to play on a bunch of the tracks on Edges, which was both an honor and an absolute blast. What a cool dude! Machan and Danny are both insanely talented, and their contributions really helped us make our musical visions a reality. Edges wouldn’t be the same without them.
As much as I hate to say this, it seems that our time is coming to a close. Thanks again so much for taking the time to talk to us today. We highly encourage everyone to check out your new album Edges, which we think is pretty stellar!
Jocelyn and Chris: Hey, thanks so much again for talking to us! We both really appreciate your support, and we’re honored that you dig the album. See you soon!
Order your copy of Edges HERE