She’s been compared to Janis Joplin, Fiona Apple and Amy Winehouse. He’s been mentioned in the same sentence as Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Together, siblings Jocelyn and Chris Arndt form a powerful musical duo whose new album, Edges, is a dazzling collection of dynamic blues-rock songs that debuted at #17 on Jambands.com’s Top 30 (and currently sits at #14 after five consecutive months on the chart) and has cracked the FMQB Top 200 Albums and Singles List, bolstered by airplay across the United States. Featuring guest appearances by G. Love and Gov’t Mule’s Danny Louis, the critically-acclaimed album is a raw, soulful throwback to the rock of the ’60s and ’70s.
Jocelyn and Chris have been featured in Paste Magazine, Relix, The 405 and Baeble Music, and the pair has performed across the country at venues and locales including the Sundance Film Festival, Mountain Jam Music Festival, SXSW, The Viper Room and Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, and Milwaukee Summerfest, where they were voted “Best Band” on the emerging artist stage.
Born and raised just outside of Albany, New York, Jocelyn and Chris currently reside in Boston, where they attend Harvard University.
How did you initially become interested in playing music and performing?
By accident! Well, sort of. We’ve always been big music fans. Our whole family loves listening to a ton of different kinds of tunes — rock, blues, pop, jazz, you name it. Chris and I each started taking music lessons in elementary school (he was in third, I was in fourth). But we got thrown into the whole performing thing sort of by accident.
We had signed up to do a local talent show, and we gathered a couple of classmates to make a band for it. I was on piano, Chris was on guitar, and we had a singer and a drummer in the mix with us, too. This was supposed to be an off-the-cuff, testing-the-waters-about-
Chris and I were both so nervous, but we could feel from the moment our first chords started ringing in that auditorium that this was something wild and special and totally electrifying. The song went by in a blur. And then I looked up from the mic and people were starting to stand up. For US. An audience is a powerful force. We haven’t looked back since.
Do you recall the first song you learned to play? If so, what was it?
If we’re going for the first song Chris or I could ever play on our instruments, I don’t really remember too well, although my money’s on “Mary Had A Little Lamb” or something like that. If we’re talking about the first song we ever performed together, though, I remember exactly what it was, because it was the one we played in the performance I just described. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. If the picture you had in your head of a bunch of elementary-schoolers playing in a band wasn’t ridiculous enough before, now add in the fact that we had decided to cover Zeppelin for our performing debut. We had guts, I won’t lie. And Chris did the whole guitar solo, note for note. I think he’s the one that clinched that standing ovation.
What are the pros and cons of writing, recording and performing songs with your sibling?
I’d say the whole shebang is pretty heavy on the pros. Chris is my best friend (as cheesy as that sounds), and neither of us have ever written a song without the other. We wouldn’t want to, and I don’t think the music would be nearly as good if we did. We’re a team. We’ve grown up together, so we know exactly how the other ticks. It’s funny; when we started writing our own original stuff in middle school, it didn’t even seem like an option not to write together. We’ve always split the songwriting right down the middle — I write the lyrics and melody, and Chris works on the chords, the structure, and the instrumentation. And we carry that teamwork through to our recording and live performance as well. We’re both really invested in making our music sound the best it can, and we’re proud of what we can accomplish together. That comes through when you listen to our CD, Edges. Most of all, though, this is all insanely fun, and the fact that we’re siblings and best friends makes it that much more awesome. I think the fact that we both love what we do is pretty evident when you see our live show.
Are there cons to working with my brother? Hmm… Maybe. He’s a pretty hungry dude, so sometimes he takes the last chicken wing. But I usually forgive him in time for the next show.
What was the recording process like for Edges?
It was SWEET. We’re incredibly lucky to have an amazing team behind us, which makes recording a really awesome experience. It can be daunting, walking into a studio and seeing all the flashing lights and buttons and knowing that somehow, what you’ve written is going to end up running through all of that on its way to polished completion. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Luckily, we’ve got an amazing producer who gets it. His name is David Bourgeois (he’s actually also our manager and drummer, so you can meet him if you come out to see a live show sometime). We’ve worked with David and his team for a few years now, so by this point we’ve really been able to come up with a smooth recording process that works for everyone. And we’re all really invested in the music, so it’s not just about getting it done; it’s about making it the best it can be. It’s true, studios can be overwhelming, but in the right hands, they can also open up a whole new world of musical possibilities. You can hear that when you listen to Edges. We’ve got horn players, vibraphonists, amazing background vocals… We even managed to convince Danny Louis from Gov’t Mule to play Hammond organ on a bunch of the tracks, and G. Love to sit in and add his signature blues harmonica to one song. Those guys both got involved via David. The whole process was just really, really rewarding — it was a ton of work for everybody involved, sure, but in the end we wound up with this awesome record that everyone is really proud of. Mission accomplished.
Are there any songs that you’ve written and recorded that you’re especially proud of? Or do they all hold a special place in your heart?
Yeah, they’re all pretty special to us. And they’re all so different… I think it would be impossible to pick a clear favorite. They each make us proud for different reasons. “Jagged” is super fun to play live, because it really grooves. “Where’s the Rain” is definitely our most personal song, and we’re proud that we’re able to express ourselves through our music that way. “Shame” has been an awesome success in radio, and it’s helped us crack the FMQB Top 200 for both Singles and Albums; it’s getting AirPlay on more than 200 radio stations across the country. We’re pretty proud of that. And we’re also proud that “Hot”, the song featuring G. Love on blues harp, has helped us reach #14 on the Relix Jamband Top 30 Album chart. We’ve been on that chart for six months straight! And I could keep going… Each of these songs is special to us, and the way they fit together to form Edges is something we’ve all worked really hard to accomplish. So you could definitely say that each track holds a special place in our hearts.
How do you know when a song is finished?
I’m not quite sure a “finished song” is really a thing for us. We’re always looking for things we can do to make our music better. We regularly change things about all our songs, even the ones we wrote in high school! I think it would really limit our musical creativity if we were ever to declare a song fully complete. That said, there definitely comes a point when it’s time to bring the song out and show it to the world — our career in music wouldn’t be going so well if we kept it contained to our parents’ living room. I’m not quite sure what defines that point, but it’s always completely unanimous. We’ll be working on a song, and all of the sudden it just feels right; that’s really the only way I can describe it. When that happens, we bring it in to David, and the recording process is off to the races!
What goes through your mind before you walk out on stage?
Honestly? I have no idea. I know, that’s literally the worst cop-out answer of all cop-out answers, but anything else would definitely be a lie. I start to get stomach butterflies about 30 minutes before set time. As my level of anxiety increases, I try to find some stuff to keep me busy. I usually end up drinking a bunch of water and checking my makeup a couple times. It hits the 15-minute mark… Chris lays down and starts yawning. When he gets nervous, he gets tired; I never really understood that reaction, but it’s like clockwork for him. We get to 5-of and life becomes a total blur. At that point, my memory goes out the window until after the show. It’s just a whirlwind of energy and flashy lights and loud noises and me trying not to lose my balance and fall over amid all the passion. You’d be surprised how hard it is not to fall over on stage. I think Chris and I both have a few times.
Are there any venues that you would particularly love to perform at some day?
I feel bad for giving you another cop-out answer, but can I just say “all of them?” Performing is like our life’s blood… We take every opportunity we can. That said, there are definitely some places we’d really like to check off our list. After performing at Mountain Jam and SXSW and CMJ and MondoNYC and a bunch of other music festivals, I think it’s safe to say that we would looooooooove to get even more involved in the festival circuit. There’s something infectious about music festivals. It’s such a high-energy, art-filled, amazing environment, it becomes impossible not to have the time of your life.
As far as specific rooms are concerned, there are so many great concert halls around the country! We’ve done Hotel Cafe and the Viper Room in L.A., so I think the next ones we’re looking for there are the Whiskey A-Go-Go and the Troubadour. That would be an absolute dream come true. In NYC, we always love to play Arlene’s Grocery and Rockwood, and we’re really looking forward to playing the Hall MP in a few weeks. We’d also love to hit up the Bowery Electric and Webster Hall and any one of the other hundreds upon hundreds of amazing venues there. I suppose, in a perfect world, we’d be able to go back in time and play CBGB, but that’s probably a little less plausible. Hopefully someday we’ll get to settle for MSG instead.
What’s the best meal you’ve had recently?
That’s honestly a really hard question, because another big plus of traveling around the country playing music is that you’re constantly able to try awesome new foods everywhere you go. So we eat pretty well on tour. I’m phoning-a-friend to Chris on this one, because between the two of us, he’s probably slightly more of a foodie than I am. He’s reminding me of a hole-in-the-wall barbecue place we stopped at a few weeks ago on our way to Burlington, WI, for a live radio performance at WBSD. We had just left another radio show at WFAV in Knoxville, TN, and we were starving. This place popped up on the map on our way up to Wisconsin, so we decided to try it. And boy am I glad we took the chance. AMAZING barbecue. Like, some of the best I’ve ever had, and I’m no stranger to a rack of ribs. I had a loaded baked potato stuffed with pulled pork, Chris had the ribs, and our producer David had the brisket. We also started off the meal with an order of candied bacon, which is, you guessed it, the perfect food. We’re definitely stopping back in the next time we’re driving that way through Tennessee. The place is called Coal Creek Smokehouse, and it’s in a town called Rocky Top, if any of you are in the area and hankering for some BBQ deliciousness.
What are you working on next?
Oh man. Literally so much stuff. We’ve got a TON in the works for the coming year, and beyond. Right now we’re working on a secret studio project, which I should be able to reveal in a few weeks. So stay tuned for that! It’s shaping up to be a pretty cool thing. And then looking ahead to next year, we’re already writing and recording the groundwork for our next full-length release. Chris and I are both super excited about the new songs we’ve been writing… We can’t wait to share them! And on top of writing and recording, we’ll also be out on the road touring a lot. Playing live is where our music really lets loose, and we want to share that with as many people as possible. We’re planning on making another coast-to-coast winter tour, and we’re booking new shows all the time.
If you’re interested in keeping up with us and finding out where you might be able to catch a performance, head on over to our website, jocelynandchrismusic.com, to check out what we’re up to. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Come say hey! Chris loves any excuse to use those silly Snapchat filters. But really, we’d love to meet you and talk about music, life, or anything else. And seriously, thanks to you guys at Ten Minute Interviews for having us! This has been super cool. See you soon! (: