NYRMS Archive: Interview: Jocelyn and Chris Arndt on ‘Edges,’ balancing music and school

(Originally published on Examiner.com on January 15, 2016)

Sister-brother blues-rock duo Jocelyn and Chris Arndt have a lot going for them right now. Earning the number 12 spot on Planet Stereo’s “100 Artists You Must Hear in 2015,” the duo has been taking over the music world with Chris’ masterful guitar playing and Jocelyn’s perfectly raw vocal quality and control. In the last year, they have toured nationwide and played high-profile festivals such as Mountain Jam, Sundance and CMJ. On top of that, both of them are still attending college at Harvard.

Playing together since they were young, Jocelyn and Chris found their passion for performing in high school. Inspired by their mutual love of 1970s and 1980s rock classics, the siblings formed their own band, covering the likes of Led Zeppelin and others. The sound still influences the bluesy-ness of their original works. Their debut album, “Strangers in Fairyland,” released in October 2014, is a mixture of slow and creeping melodies (such as the sultry “Gaslight” and sadly sweet “Nevermind”) and gritty, hard rockers (such as the brutally realistic album opener “Cinderella”) with deep, thoughtful lyrics.

Jocelyn and Chris are currently putting the finishing touches on their sophomore album, “Edges,” set to be released on February 26. The album’s first single, “Shame,” was released in December through Paste Magazine and can be downloaded for free now on PureVolume. “Shame” hits hard lyrically and musically, using driving guitars on top of a pounding, boot stomping beat to perfectly convey the anger and bile of the lyrics and melody. Jocelyn said of the song to Paste, ““Shame” is all about sweet, sweet musical revenge. We tried to make “Shame” memorable and singable, while retaining Chris’ trademark retro guitar style. Lyrically, this is definitely me at my sassiest. While the guy I’m singing about may have gotten the last laugh, I definitely got the last chorus.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Jocelyn and Chris after their CMJ 2015 performance at Arlene’s Grocery on October 17 to discuss the new album, songwriting, working together as siblings and balancing music with school.

Elise Yablon (New York Rock Music Scene): What is it like for you working on music as brother and sister?

Jocelyn Arndt: It’s fun about 99 percent of the time. It’s great.

Chris Arndt: You know, there’s the easy access. Like, if I come up with an idea at 11:30 at night, she’s usually around. And, you know, we know each other so well and have lived with each other so long, there’s never any hesitation to be like, “No. Jocelyn, you’re being ridiculous.” She does the inverse of that as well. It works really well.

JA: We don’t take each other too seriously.

EY: What is your writing process like?

JA: It’s pretty split down the middle between the two of us. I focus on the words, the lyrics, and the melody, and Chris does all the chords and the structure, that kind of thing. We come to each other with ideas. Each of us will start a different song. And it varies song to song, but really it’s down the middle, sort of fit everything together.

EY: How did you guys decide you wanted to get into music professionally?

CA: Sort of by accident. So, in high school, we had a band and, it was just us and some of our friends and we wrote originals and stuff. We won some battles of the bands, cut an album, it was fun. But we were like, you know, we were going to go to college and the music industry sounds hard… And then we played a local fair with another artist who was managed at the time by our current manager. So he was there and he saw it and was like…

JA: … “Hey, you know you can do this, right?”

CA: Yeah, “You guys could do this,” and we were like, “Really?,” and he was like, “Yeah.” So he kind of just picked us up and we’ve been working with him for a couple of years and he put together this awesome band and we recorded an album and we’re working on a second one…

JA: We’re going for broke on this one. We’re really going for it, so…

CA: Yeah, it’s just awesome.

EY: Is there anything you can tell me about the new album yet?

JA: Yeah. So it’s called “Edges,” and it will be out this February. And it’s like… Our first EP, “Strangers in Fairyland,” came out last October and it was sort of like our first, real-deal recording experience, so all these ideas that we had in one CD. So our producer, David, calls it a “collection of songs” as opposed to a CD, you know. Whereas this one, “Edges,” is gonna be…

CA: …An album…

JA: We sort of zeroed in on this blues-rock sound and it’s all gonna be in that vain. There’s still gonna be influences pulled from everywhere, but it’s gonna be more of an album, like an album, cohesive.

EY: You mentioned the blues-rock direction. Is that a big influence on you guys?

CA: Definitely.

JA: For sure. Chris really digs that 70s/80s guitar…

CA: I don’t know if you saw my shirt, but it’s so Ted Nugent.

JA: Yeah, he lives in the 70s, which is perfect. And I really like those big voices, so…

EY: You guys are still in college at Harvard. How do you balance your studies with playing live/recording?

JA: Music is definitely our focus. So, I think school sort of makes us appreciate music more because when we’re doing homework we’re like, “I wish I was rocking out.” So, it’s like they balance each other out, but music is definitely our life and school is something we see as another small part of us, I guess.

EY: Jocelyn, you have a lot of control with your voice. How did you learn that you could sing like that?

JA: Yeah, so, it was an accident. I started piano lessons in fourth grade, Chris started in third, a couple months after me. We started playing in the living room and then we were gonna do this talent show. We were gonna play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” for our first big talent show and our singer dropped out and I drew the short straw and they were like, “Okay Jocelyn, time to sing.” And I was like, “I don’t think I can do that.” And they were like “Alright, how ‘bout you try.” And I realized I liked it.

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