Showcase Interview: Jocelyn & Chris Arndt

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Thirteen years ago, Jocelyn and Chris had no clue they’d be where they are today. In their parent’s living room, taking turns practicing the instruments they’d just started to learn. Two kids, excited to pick up something new, covering “Stairway to Heaven” at local talent shows and playing anywhere we could find permission and a power outlet. As their passion grew stronger, the living room began to fill up with instruments. Their minds began to fill up with ideas for original songs.

BT: Where are you two from?

Chris and I grew up in a little town called Fort Plain in Upstate NY. Both our parents are teachers there, so that’s where we ended up settling in for elementary and high school. I always describe it to others as having more cows than people. But Fort Plain was good to us; it still is, actually. I think growing up in a small town helped us focus on our art and let us get to know the people around us on a level that maybe wouldn’t happen in a city.
BT: Is there any kind of big music scene there or pretty much all influenced by NYC?
Fort Plain definitely has its own music scene. We were lucky enough to fall into that scene and get to hang out with a bunch of established local musicians as we were growing up and finding our own sound. I’d say the local music scene in Fort Plain is largely based in country and classic rock, although there’s a little bit of everything mixed in there for sure. Plus, we’re less than an hour away from Albany, which has this great burgeoning alternative music scene right now. Lots of really cool artists doing lots of cool things!
BT: What is the age difference between you two?
I’m the older one at 22. Chris is 21. So we’re very close. Honestly I’ve always thought of us as basically the same age. It certainly felt that way growing up. This past summer we went on a national tour for part of July and then all of August, and we called it the “Finally 21 Tour” in honor of Chris’s June birthday. We’ve been playing in bars together since we were like 9, so it’s nice for him to finally be able to imbibe! Or at least not have to have X’s drawn on the back of his hands, or have to wait outside until it’s our time to play and then leave directly afterward. So he’s been enjoying his summer for sure.
BT: Growing up how was your relationship together?
Very close. We’ve always been very close. Like I said, it honestly feels like we’re pretty much the same age. And we’ve always basically done everything together. Music is of course the best representation of that relationship. We’ve each never written a song without the other. It’s always been something we do as a team.
BT: Which one of you was into music first, or was it just a shared interest?
I technically started music lessons before Chris, but only by about 3 months. I was in fourth grade when I started learning to play piano, and Chris picked up the guitar just a little while afterward. So it was pretty much a shared interest. We started playing together not very long after that, like in 5th or 6th grade, and then in middle school we transitioned to writing our own original music.
BT: A lot of siblings bicker and argue but how were you two able to come together and decide to be a group and when did it start?
Well, we were both taking turns practicing in our parents’ living room, so I guess by 5th or 6th grade starting to play together just seemed like the thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, either. We still bicker and argue sometimes like normal siblings. We’re human beings. But we’ve always been best friends, and music has been a big part of our relationship as siblings from the start. I guess I’d say that we were always a group, from the very beginning. We’ve never been solo artists.
BT: Did your parents have any kind of influence on you two coming together as a group?
I mean, they were definitely fans of the group dynamic. What parent wouldn’t want their kids to start playing music together in the living room? But it’s not like they forced us to do it. They just supported our decision. We have the best parents in the world, and they’ve always been very understanding and supportive of our decision to pursue music, even as it’s transitioned from middle-school extracurricular activity to full-blown career. I don’t think every musician can say that their parents have been that unconditionally supportive, so I count us pretty lucky.
BT: At what point did you two realize that you weren’t siblings playing music together and that it was something serious and special?
I know the exact moment that transition started to happen in our brains. We were playing the beer tent at the local county fair with our high school band when our now-producer David Bourgeois approached us and was basically like, “Hey, you know you could do this as a career, right?” Up until then, neither of us had even really considered that music could be something we did as a job for the rest of our lives. It seemed too fun to be a job. But once the door was open, we jumped at the opportunity. We signed a development deal with David and his wife Anna at Bridge Road Entertainment in Albany a few months later. Fast forward 4 years, and music has taken us across the country on tour and into the ears of thousands on over 200 radio stations nationwide. So I guess you could say now it’s pretty serious.
BT: What kind of music were you listening to growing up?
A little of everything. Although I’d say the majority of it was classic rock and blues. Our parents had quite the CD collection, so music was always playing in the house around us growing up. I think that kind of exposure gave us a really solid foundation for our own original songwriting.
BT: What artists would you say are your biggest influences?
I love really big expressive voices like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Mercury, and Pat Benatar… people like that who really just give it their all when they perform. Chris goes for the same type of spirit, but in guitarists. He’s really into Jimmi Page, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. When we’re writing songs together, we definitely try to draw from our different influences and meld them together into something we’re both proud of.
BT: Jocelyn, I have read multiple times that Grace Potter is one of your favorites, what is it about her that draws you in?
That voice! And of course the entire persona and energy she projects when she performs. We had the opportunity to play the Mountain Jam Music Festival in Woodstock the same year she performed a few summers ago, and man, does she lay it all out there on the stage when she goes to work. Plus, I just feel like her kind of soul and style are a real retro throwback to classic rock n’ roll, which is something we’re also trying to do with our music. She really just inspires me.
BT: Your music style is that of classic rock and blues, how did that come about?
Like I said earlier, we were lucky enough to have parents who exposed us to that kind of music pretty constantly as we were growing up. So I think we can pretty safely attribute it to Mom and Dad. Thanks, you guys! As we grew up, Chris and I both started to drift a little more toward our own personal preferences, but we’ve still always had that foundational love for classic rock in common as we’ve gone on to write our own tunes.
BT: I’ve seen comparisons of you guys to Led Zepplin, Fiona Apple, and Grace Potter. How does that feel and does that add a sense of pressure to live up to?
It feels pretty good. It’s flattering to be compared to artists we idolize. And yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure there too, because we don’t want to be seen only as a carbon copy of another artist, but also as our own artist, so it’s made us really double down when we’re writing to make sure that the music we put out feels personally fulfilling.
BT: You are both college students at Harvard University, what has that experience been like so far?
Well, I just graduated, so right now it feels pretty good! Chris still has another year to go. It’s always been a little tricky to strike the balance between school and music. They’re both very demanding. Case in point, Chris had to miss like 2 full weeks of school last month when we were out for a run of shows down to Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. But luckily, Harvard’s a place where a lot of people have pursuits they’re fully committed to, so our professors and peers have generally been very understanding of the fact that music is our career and we can’t compromise it in any way.
BT: Was it a big cultural shock moving from New York to Boston?
It was definitely a very different experience. Boston is a fully-fledged city, and living in the midst of that was for sure a little bit of a shift from our rural upbringings in Fort Plain. There’s just so much going on all the time! It was inspiring to be around that kind of diversity and that level of activity, artistic and otherwise. Having experienced both places now, I can safely say that they’ve each got their own charms, and they’re both very inspiring in their own ways. I don’t know which one I like being in more.
BT: Have you two ever been able to perform on campus or at any venues near it?
You know, it’s funny. I wish I could say we had, but because we’re trying to build a national audience and support our radio airplay all over the place, we’re usually away playing somewhere else, so it isn’t very often we get to play near or on campus. We’re just always gone. We did get to play for Harvard’s Arts First Festival, though, and we’ve played the Middle East, which is a legendary place right down the road from campus, so that was cool.
BT: Have you ever been recognized at school for your music careers, and if so, any crazy stories?
Haha. This has happened a few times. Nothing super crazy; it’s usually just been a thing where someone will be like, “Oh my god, it’s you! You’re the singer!” Or “Wait a sec, you play guitar, right?” At parties when people are maybe a little drunk, that’s usually followed by, “Sing something! Sing something!” Acoustic singing doesn’t really work at a loud party. I usually get out of it by queuing up “All The Small Things” through the party’s speakers. That’s always good for a distraction for large groups of millennials.
BT: Is it difficult balancing college life with the demanding nature of a musical career?
Yeah, for sure. But most rewarding things are also really challenging. We’ve never wanted to compromise either our music career or our education, and in that regard we’ve been able to have our cake and eat it, too. Music is definitely the number one priority for us, but as long as we can build our career and also go to college, we’re going to do whatever it takes to strike the balance. Even if that means not sleeping a whole lot and missing some weekend hangout time with our friends and family. They understand that this is something we just have to do.
BT: So far you guys have 2 full-length albums and one live album, what has been your favorite so far and why?
 
Oooh, that’s a tough one. That’s like what I’d imagine choosing a favorite child would be like. Hmm… I’m gonna say my favorite is “Go.” I just feel like of all our releases it’s the most cohesive work. Chris and I worked hard to write these songs and make them fit with each other, and then our producer and our team did an incredible job making the dream come to life. I think all that hard work really shows when you listen to it. We’ve also done an EP and a Holiday album.
BT: Your newest album released this year was titled “Go.” What was the meaning behind that?
The name “Go” comes from a couple different sources. First, there’s a song on the record called “Ready Steady Go,” and after we wrote that track we lifted the album title from it. Secondly, though, it’s also a representation of the kind of mentality we had as we were creating this album. We were all in, no-holds-barred, rearing to just “Go” and make something for people to rock out to.
BT: For this album what sound were you looking to go for sonically and what story were you looking to tell?
First and foremost, we really wanted “Go” to be a cohesive listening experience from start to finish. We wanted it to embody the retro-infused blues rock style we’ve settled into as artists to a “T,” and we wanted each song to have a comfortable place on the record while also complementing its neighbors. And as far as storytelling goes, we also wanted each song to be able to stand alone as a complete work. 
BT: What was the writing process like for this album and was it any different than previous album efforts?
With the kind of cohesiveness we wanted in mind, we really worked hard in the studio to make sure that as we were approaching each song we were also keeping our overall vision in sight. Beyond that, though, we wanted each song to be as good as it could possibly be. That rule has always remained the same for all of our recordings. We didn’t rush anything, we agonized over really tiny tweaks, we lost sleep, and we didn’t compromise our vision at all. I’m happy to present “Go” to the world as a record Chris and I are truly proud of.
BT: I’ve noticed that a lot of people have decided to just release EPs with about 5 or so songs, is there a reason that you opt to do full length reviews?
We’re still firm believers in full album experiences. Call it old-school, but there’s something magical about having a a full album of songs that you can listen to from start to finish and be taken on some kind of emotional journey alongside the music. I know that in the current music industry environment where most promotional campaigns are single-based, making a full album of songs might seem a little outdated to some, but I still believe that there are folks out there like Chris and me who still enjoy the album experience we’re committed to creating.
BT: So far in 2017 can you list some achievements and accomplishments that you have gained that you are most proud of?
Gladly! It’s been a really big year for us, bigger than we even thought possible. We’ve released a new album “Go,” which features insane special guests like Danny Louis of Gov’t Mule and Beau Sasser of Kung Fu and has received national airplay on more than 200 stations. Singles from the album have cracked the FMQB AAA Top 100 and have been Billboard’s Most Added to AAA Radio. The album itself was #2 on the Relix Jambands Top 30 Album Chart for 3 months in a row! And on top of radio success, we’ve gotten to travel the country playing our music from coast to coast, both as headliners and as direct support for artists like Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, Vertical Horizon, Delta Rae, and Marc Cohn. So yeah, I guess you could say it’s been a really big year for us. And there are still a few months left, even!
BT: What is in store for the next few months of 2017?
We’re going to keep forging ahead. Our new single “Red Stops Traffic” just went to radio two weeks ago, and it’s already picking up some good traction, so we’re excited to see where that leads. Thanks to our radio family for being so amazingly supportive to us. We’re also always booking new shows, with plans to go on another national tour this winter. So keep an eye out for us in a city near you! And on top of that, Chris and I have already started songwriting again, with plans to release another full-length album this Spring. We’re keeping busy.
BT: There are several other members that make up your band, can you list their names and what they play?
Sure! Besides Chris and me, we also tour with David Bourgeois, who is our drummer as well as our producer and manager. On bass, we’ve got Kate Sgroi. And sometimes we go out as a five-piece band, in which case we add Tyrone Hartzog on the Hammond Organ.
BT: How did you meet them?
We met them through our manager, David.
BT: Was it hard to integrate new members into what was already great chemistry?
I can honestly say we’ve been really lucky when it comes to the musicians we play with. They’re awesome, and they really care about bringing our music to life on stage in the best way possible, which has always been really important to us as we go out and perform for audiences. We want to make sure anybody coming to our show has an unforgettable experience. And luckily, the wonderful people we play with want that, too.
BT: In the next few years what does the perfect future look like for you two?
We’re not slowing down any time soon! As I mentioned earlier, we’ve got plans for another album coming your way this spring. More music, yay! Other than that, we’re going to keep playing as much as possible and continuing to chase this crazy music thing wherever it takes us. And if in the next few years it takes us onstage at the Grammys, well, I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

Last modified: November 19, 2017