Jocelyn & Chris Bring Brains, Heart and Soul Back to Rock and Roll
Harvard-educated siblings Jocelyn & Chris bring brains, heart and soul back to rock and roll. Inspired by the analog sounds of the 1960s, the brother-sister duo lead a cracking band of top-tier musicians intent on reviving rock.
Balancing their studies with touring, Jocelyn & Chris have performed nationally and recorded with Cory Wong (Vulfpeck), G. Love, Byron Isaacs (Lumineers), and Danny Louis of Gov’t Mule. The band has achieved four consecutive radio singles in the Billboard AAA Top 40, hit the #1 slot on the Relix Jambands Top 30 Album Chart, and appeared on NBC’s Today Show.
“Sugar and Spice” is their latest single released in July 2021, receiving high praise from American Songwriter as “pure American rock goodness” and debuted on Billboard AAA Top 40. “Sugar and Spice” was also added to rotation on MTV.
Inside + Out Upstate NY is excited to speak with these New York natives about their musical journey in anticipation of their show this Friday, April 22 at Radio Woodstock’s Steeple Sessions. Psst! You can still get tickets HERE! or get Livestream Passes HERE
Inside+Out Upstate NY: Where were you born and where do you call home?
Jocelyn: Chris and I both grew up in Upstate NY, in a small town on the Mohawk called Fort Plain. Like, very small – we both graduated from high school with around 50 other kids. While we also both moved to Boston for college, we’ve both since migrated back home to Upstate in the Capital Region when we’re not out on the road. That’s where we call home.
Do you have a history in the Hudson Valley?
Jocelyn: Yes! Growing up Upstate, Chris and I played lots of shows in the area when we were in middle and high school. We actually had a band when we were younger called “The Dependents” (our parents thought that was hilarious), and we played pretty much anywhere anybody would let us play. So yeah, we’ve got lots of history here.
Did you grow up in a musical household? What do you remember listening to as kids?
Chris: Our parents probably wouldn’t call themselves musicians if you asked them, but they’ve both dabbled in music, and they’re huge, active listeners of music. Growing up, there was always music playing in the Arndt household. Classic rock, blues, jazz, pop, classical – you name it, it was in Mom and Dad’s massive CD collection. Since before I can remember, we’ve also had a steadfast family rule that whenever we sit down to eat dinner together, there always has to be music playing. This is partly because our dad hates the sound of chewing… but it’s also always been a great way to ensure that music is always a central part of our lives.
How did you get your start in music?
Chris: Both of us decided when we were really little that we wanted to take music lessons of some kind. When Jocelyn was in fourth grade, she started piano lessons. I wanted to take piano too – I mean, it’s super cool – but Mom and Dad suggested that maybe I should pick a different instrument just to mix it up, so I settled on guitar. As it turns out, that was a pretty good call. Since Jocelyn and I were both taking turns practicing in the same living room, it didn’t take long before we figured out that if we learned the same songs and practiced together, we could get it over with faster – and then before we knew it, we’d lined up our first performance at a local talent show. We decided to play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” I spent weeks and weeks learning every single note of Jimmy’s solo. And when we’d done our thing and people started standing up in the theatre for a group of elementary schoolers rocking out to Zeppelin – well, safe to say, we were hooked.
Who are your influences and who do you continue to be inspired by?
Jocelyn: We grew up listening to pretty much all kinds of music: rock, blues, jazz, pop. From the start, I’ve always been drawn to big voices, the kind of performers who can tell you exactly who they are with just a few notes. Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Pat Benatar, Amy Winehouse, Grace Slick. Freddie Mercury of course. Chris is sort of the same way with guitarists – he loves listening to people who’ve got their own individualized style. I know he loves Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mark Knopfler, and David Gilmour, to name just a few.
How do you describe your sound?
Chris: The elevator pitch version? Original, modern rock with a blues edge and a little pop twist.
What’s it like working together as siblings? Does that give you a sonic closeness?
Jocelyn: It definitely does. We’ve known each other literally for ever, and that counts for a lot when it comes to songwriting. When you’re creating a song, you have to leave space to be emotionally open, to be yourself, to be vulnerable. That can be pretty scary, but it works with Chris because he’s seen me at my best and at my worst, since before I can remember.
How do you write songs: together, apart, both?
Jocelyn: Each song is a bit different, but overall, all of our songwriting works out to be 50/50 between the two of us. I’m generally focused on the lyrics and melody, while Chris is usually working on the song’s chord structure and layout – but again, our individual contributions can shift a bit depending on the song. Each tune starts about the same way, though: one of us will come up with a little piece of something we like, whether it’s a line of lyrics, or a fragment of a melody, or a chord progression that really feels good, and then we’ll take it to the other and collaborate from there. We’ll keep building on that initial idea, working it, twisting it around on itself, until it’s something we’re proud of.
What inspires you now?
Chris: Everything. That might sound a bit cheesy or weird, but honestly, it’s true. I feel like inspiration always hits me when I least expect it, like when I’m at the grocery store or on a walk outside on a nice spring day or watching the latest episode of one of my favorite tv shows. It also definitely happens when I’m just jamming out on my guitar. Jocelyn and I also write from personal experience, from emotions we’ve felt or situations we’ve been in. My rule of thumb is generally to just be open to inspiration, not try to force it too much, and then take it as it comes.
How did you manage the pandemic?
Jocelyn: It was definitely difficult. Going into 2020, we had so many plans lined up, and so much momentum. We’d just been on NBC’s Today Show, and we had a full summer of tour dates across the country booked with our band, and we were wrapping up our new album – and then all of the sudden, the bottom just kind of fell out of everything. So we did what a lot of other musicians did: we went online. The two of us started livestreaming every single night at 7pm Eastern Standard Time. We dubbed them “Couch Concerts,” because that’s exactly what they were… the two of us hanging on our couch, performing to my little phone lens, hoping that somewhere out there on the interwebs someone was listening. As it turns out, people were listening. We had an amazing thing happen: a fan group sprang up online. They called themselves the “Arndtvarks” (our last name is “Arndt”), and they’re amazing. They definitely got us through this whole craziness. As touring has opened back up and we’ve started playing again, it’s been awesome finally getting to meet them in person across the country.
Tell me about your latest project?
Chris: With pleasure! We’re coming out with a new full-length album in May. It’s called “Favorite Ghosts,” and it’s our eighth studio record. And we’re both just so, so, SO proud of it. Like Jocelyn mentioned before, we waited much longer than we’d anticipated to put these songs out into the world – we have 2020 to blame for that. But another way of looking at that is that we have 2020 to thank for it, because it gave us extra time to really dig into these songs. We had a new chance to reevaluate them, rethink them, really live with them and make sure they were exactly what we wanted them to be. We came out the other side of lockdown with what I think is the best work we’ve ever done, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.
We LOVE “Run Away” – where did you record and who produced it?
Chris: We recorded the majority of the record at White Lake Studios in Schenectady. The album was produced by our longtime friend and collaborator David Bourgeois, who we’ve been working with for nearly ten years now, alongside Joel Moss, who’s a great guy and amazing talent with seven Grammys under his belt. We recorded the lead vocals for the album at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck.
Tell me about your band.
Jocelyn: I might be a little biased, but we have the best band in the world. That’s David Bourgeois on the drums – in addition to drumming with us, he’s also our producer. We met him back when I was a senior in high school, and we’ve been a music family ever since. Our bassist is Dan Zavadil, who we had the pleasure of adding to the family about four years ago. He’s da bomb. And then for some shows, we also play as a five-piece band, with Tyrone Hartzog on the Hammond organ. He’s insanely talented. We’re lucky enough to be able to take these guys on the road with us this summer for dates from Maine to California and back again – man, am I glad live music is back. I can’t wait to hit the road.
Is the live act different from the studio recordings?
Jocelyn: For sure. When we’re putting together our live show, our goal is always to take the heart of our studio recordings and make sure it really shines through in the live experience – with the added energy that comes with live performance. We’re still playing the same songs, but you get to hear different sides of them when you’re listening to the recorded album versus when you’re hearing it live. I think that’s one of the coolest things about music: the same song can have several different lives depending on how it’s presented.
Tell me about your tour, in particular your show at Woodstock Radio.
Jocelyn: We love Radio Woodstock. They’ve been a huge supporter of ours from very early on, and it’s always awesome to hang with those peeps. For our Steeple Session, we’ll be playing with our full band in a semi-acoustic format. The majority of our set will actually be material from our new album “Favorite Ghosts.” Yay for new music! This will be a very cool show because it’ll be different from most of our other tour dates this summer – when we go out on the road, we usually play as a full-force electric outfit (full drum kit, electric guitar, lots of jumping around on my end). So it’s cool to get to do these stripped-down sets occasionally where we can hear a different side of the songs. Regardless of what the format is, though, I’m very excited to have a full schedule of coast-to-coast dates this summer, because I’ve really been looking forward to playing the material off the new record for living, breathing human beings again.
Tell me about the live show and the streamed show.
Chris: Live shows are all about energy and audience connection! We rock out and leave it all on the stage. Our streamed shows tend to feature more storytelling—still energetic and upbeat, but that kind of buzz-in-the-room you get when you’re playing for a live audience doesn’t translate to the online stage, so we’ve found that connecting personally through chatting and being really responsive to our audience works the best. They’re different vibes, but we love them both dearly!
How does it feel to be performing shows in person again?
Chris: Unbelievably good! There’s a special magic in live music. It’s basically what we live for, so not being able to do it for so long was tough. We’ll never be taking our ability to perform for granted again, that’s for sure.
What does it take to put on a great show and how do you connect with live audiences, especially during this challenging pandemic?
Chris: You definitely need some good music and a lot of rehearsal to get your performance chops up to snuff, but there’s another layer to things. Live music is all about the connection shared between the performer and the audience. It takes passion and energy and emotion, both from the performer and the audience.
What level of success do you hope to achieve?
Jocelyn: A few Grammys and a star each on Hollywood Blvd should do it.
Actually, though, we are looking to take this career as far as we can. It seems like every year we spend playing music, we look back and see career growth and new achievements and artistic development, and all of those things. We were on NBC’s Today Show in 2019; we had a song in the Billboard AAA Top 40 for 14 weeks in 2021; this summer, we’ve got our biggest tour ever, and are planning our biggest music campaign yet! We want to keep that upward trajectory going for as long as we can.
How do you use social media and what do you find to be most effective in connecting with your audience?
Chris: Social media is a great way to connect with fans all over the world. We can’t exactly get in our car and drive to Europe or Australia, but we can go live on Facebook and play a show for our fans in those places without leaving our apartment. It’s been a blessing, and I don’t think we would have gotten through the pandemic with our brains intact without that forum.
What about the Hudson Valley inspires you?
Jocelyn: We love the Hudson Valley. It’s got so much rich music history, and so much of our own personal history, too.
What’s one question you’re constantly asked?
Jocelyn: There are a few common ones, but the biggest one is probably the “What’s it like to work with your sibling?” question. Still, we’re never sick of it. It’s always an honor to have people want to learn more about us and our music. The day we get annoyed at an interview is the day we should probably retire, which ain’t gonna happen any time soon.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a musician?
Chris: I think that a lot of the movies and stories we’ve seen and heard over the past century have really cemented in place this kind of musical origin mythology wherein you play some rough-and-tumble clubs until you catch your “big break,” at which point everything takes care of itself and your career is made. The reality is that it’s a lot of grinding and hard work and that those “big breaks” don’t really happen to the vast majority of people. And even if they do, you need to be able to capitalize on them—your 15 seconds of fame can just as easily crumble away as it can turn into a long-term career. Starting a music career is basically opening a business, which is something a lot of people don’t realize. That’s something our management team said to us a long time ago, and it really stuck.
Can you tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn?
Chris: Here’s one: we’re huge closet nerds. We actually both went to Harvard—Jocelyn studied English, and I studied Computer Science. We also play DnD and love baking bread, so our nerd rating is really off the charts. On an unrelated note, we’re also both big into winter gravity sports! Jocelyn is a skier and I’m a snowboarder. We don’t have as much time to ride as we used to, but we spent our high school winters working as instructors at Gore Mtn in the Adirondacks.
Anything else you want to discuss or for the public to know?
Jocelyn: Just that we really appreciate taking the time to get to know us. If you want to know more, check out our website or our social media channels—you can just Google ‘Jocelyn & Chris’ and we’ll pop right up. We’d love to see you at a show sometime, so be sure to check our tour calendar. And finally, thanks to INSIDE+OUT for having us!
Thank you both! We look forward to seeing the show at Radio Woodstock!
You can still get TICKETS HERE!
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Inside+Out Upstate NY: And let us tell you about Radio Woodstock and Steeple Sessions!
For over 40 years, Radio Woodstock (100.1 WDST) has provided the Hudson Valley with specialized, curated music programming. Their DJs are recognized as experts in their field, presenting the newest emerging artists while paying tribute to nationally established and homegrown favorites from the Hudson Valley throughout the world. Radio Woodstock also produces concerts and festivals including the Mountain Jam Festival, one of the largest rock and camping music festivals in the Northeast.
The Steeple Sessions music series are live performances broadcast from Radio Woodstock’s newest high-profile home, a former Methodist church, originally built in the 18th century, rebuilt in 1913 and redesigned in 2021 with state-of-the-art studios and performance stage.
Shows can be attended in person with limited seating for a truly intimate experience and are also live-streamed so that they can be experienced virtually around the world in real time. The live performances at Steeple Sessions are produced in association with Fly Machine, a global live music distribution platform.