Few musicians can say that they have had a year quite like Jocelyn & Chris Arndt. While their blues-rock style brought them to over 100 performances across the country including the Sundance Music Festival and Mountain Jam Music Festival, the two managed to attend Harvard University.
With their debut full-length album Edges set to be released February 26, the duo have their sights set on bigger and better things.
Despite a hectic Ivy League schedule and flourishing music career, guitarist Chris was able to take some time to answer a few questions.
Everyone seems to mention the timeless quality of the guitar playing, but the thing that strikes me on your songs are the powerful vocals that seem reminiscent of the glory days of rock. What influences led to the timeless quality of both the guitar riffs and the commanding vocals?
We’ve been listening to music for our entire lives. When we were little, we had a library in our house, and we would take turns going in and picking random CDs to listen to throughout the day—silence was pretty rare, but we loved it.
As we started getting older and growing into our roles as musicians, we gravitated towards blues and rock because of the powerful drive behind the vocals and guitar. Some of our biggest musical influences are Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Grace Potter, Dire Straits, Jefferson Airplane, and Train.
I was in a band in college and we found it difficult to practice and play a handful of shows while studying. Then I found out that you guys performed over 100 times this last year while also attending Harvard. First, I just want to thank you for making me feel like a slacker. Secondly, how in the world do you balance all of that?
It definitely gets pretty busy, but we absolutely love both, so it’s really a lot of fun. Most of our weekends and breaks go to music, and there are times when we need to miss school to perform. Our primary focus is music, and we’re super psyched to push Edges this spring!
What’s the best moment in all of those performances that you can think of?
There are so many! It’s really hard to choose… Mountain Jam was incredible because we got to share the bill with people like Grace Potter, Government Mule, the Black Keys, and Robert Plant. That whole experience was pretty surreal.
Another really good one was a show we had in Pittsburgh where we opened for the Gin Blossoms. Their ‘Best Of’ album has been one of our favorite picks from the library for as long as we can remember, so sharing the stage with them was insane. This past year has been pretty amazing and going into 2016 I think it’s just going to get more so!
Do you ever to find it difficult to write and perform as siblings?
As my sister always says, “Working with Chris is great… 99% of the time.” I think that about sums it up.
She’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember. Throughout high school and now, we’ve always done everything together, so it seemed only natural that when we started writing songs we would do that together too. There are definitely moments when we have our sibling arguments, but I don’t think either one of us would be capable of doing music at this level without the other—we‘re a team, and that’s all there is to it.
You’ve said the theme of your newest song “Shame” is a sort of revenge after a less than pleasant ending to a relationship. Do you think the guy knows about this song and what would his response be?
Knowing him, he’s probably living in denial right now. If he does know about the song, he’d probably say something like “At least I was worth that!”, to which Jocelyn would reply, “I once wrote a song about dry cereal. Don’t let that ego inflate too much.”
Edges, your upcoming full-length, is scheduled for release February 26th. Is the material similar to “Shame” for the most part or did you explore different sounds throughout?
“Shame” is definitely the song on the album that would fit pop radio the best, but I think that you can expect a similar rock and blues-rock vibe on the rest of the tracks. There will be a ballad or two, but we mostly stuck with high-energy songs with a bit of an alternative edge (pun not intended), while always maintaining some serious retro influence.
Solely based off of “Shame”, it seems that we can expect to hear a lot of growth between your 2014 EP Strangers In Fairyland and Edges. Was this just a natural progression or was there something specific that led to that move forward?
It sounds cheesy, but I think Strangers in Fairyland was really us trying to find our musical identity. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do or be yet, and it really reflects that. We love it, but it’s definitely a collection of songs that aren’t really that connected to one another. Edges is going to be a cohesive album, and that’s something we’re really looking forward to. We’ve got some great players on the album with us, like Danny Louis from Government Mule and G. Love, so I think listeners can expect a pretty rootsy blues-rock sound!
What was the biggest inspiration for the album?
Again, it sounds pretty cheesy, but we’re really inspired by everything. Music is our outlet. Whenever we’ve had a stressful day, or are feeling happy about something, or just want to get emotions out in general, we always turn to music. So I guess you could say the inspiration for the album is just life in general.
How did the collaboration with G. Love on Edges come into play?
That came through our producer, David Bourgeois.
When we began discussing harmonica players for the album, G was our number one pick the whole time—he’s such a great blues player. Well, it turns out David’s wife Anna went to college with G’s tour manager. So they took us to one of G’s shows and he decided to record with us! A couple months later, just a few days before Christmas, we went to Boston for a day to track him. He was not only a super nice guy, but he really liked the song. He wanted to go for even more time than we had booked. We’re stoked for everyone to hear what he did. It sounds badass. I don’t think there’s another word for it.
What’s next after the release of Edges? Are there plans for a supporting tour?
Definitely! This spring is the push to radio, so my sister and I will be flying all over the country to support that. That will take up most of our time. Then, this summer, we’re going to be back out with the band doing shows across the country. And on top of it all, people can expect another album within a year. We’ve got no plans to slow down any time soon.
You can hear Chris’ guitar on their debut EP Strangers in Fairyland and on the duo’s upcoming full-length, Edges, available February 26.