“I feel like there are two kinds of songwriters. One kind of songwriter writes from an entirely personal experience, and you can really tell when you hear a song because you’re like, ‘Wow, that sounds like something that happened in their life.” And then there’s the other kind of songwriter, the kind that sort of becomes an actor. They write stories about other stories that they’ve heard, or tell stories that they’ve watched, and maybe talk about some personal experiences too. I would say we’re the second kind because, I don’t know, our lives really aren’t that dramatic.”
Contrary to what the duo mentions about not leading a dramatic life, Jocelyn and Chris Arndt’s musical experiences have been far from ordinary. Taking advantage of every opportunity, they played as many shows as they could during their teenage years. Their dedication led Jocelyn and Chris to their producer and artist manager, David Bourgeois, after their performance at a local county festival in a beer tent. From that moment onward, their music careers were set in a straight path.
Their passion for music stems from their childhood years, when the two would spend their days listening to CDs. The chance to listen to a wide range of genres early on led them to their current alternative sound. “We had this room in our old house called ‘The Library.’ When I was a little kid, it was just filled with what seemed like millions of CDs… Looking back, it was probably maybe a thousand,” Chris describes. “But Jocelyn and I would take turns going in there and taking out random stuff, and it was literally everything from Beethoven to Coltrane to Nirvana… That room was so hugely inspirational to how our musical tastes developed and how we found our sound later in life,” he elaborates.
This attraction towards music only grew stronger as they grew older, and the siblings spent a lot of their youth writing music that eventually ended up on their first full-length record, Edges. Throughout the release, the music serves as a compilation of their experiences over a span of time. “It’s cool because it’s a mix; we say it’s like a snapshot of our songwriting careers from the release of the album and backwards, because it’s a mix of every age,” Jocelyn explains. “It was a grab-bag of personal stuff and also people watching. This was our first full length, but a lot of the songs were already finished because we had written them in middle school or high school. Still, there were also a few songs on there that were newer, that were fairly recent by the time we started recording Edges,” she details.
As full-time musicians, they continue to develop their skills as time goes on. With Jocelyn focusing on vocals and piano while Chris takes on backup vocals and guitar, their current sound resulted from experience and a few adjustments here and there. “No one ever really teaches you how to write a song, at least in our case,” Chris points out. “We’ve definitely refined our methods, and now we can communicate our musical ideas better. But the process as a whole is kinda the same. Nowadays, we’re just better at articulating exactly what it is that we want to be heard through whatever our medium is. The only thing that’s changed is our ability to capture the sound that goes on in our heads and make other people hear it too,” he notes. “It definitely is a separate language that you have to learn, and we’ve been pretty lucky to have a great team behind us,” Jocelyn adds on.
Because Jocelyn and Chris are both siblings and co-workers, the two understand how to balance one another out when writing and performing. By giving feedback and interpreting what the other is looking for in a song, they successfully help their musical ideas come together. “Chris does a really good job of translating my life scribbles and drama into something that’s actually listenable,” Jocelyn professes. “I come to him waving my hands around, and he just suggests going to the piano to figure it all out. He speaks my language, which is cool,” she laughs.
This understanding was crucial in the making of their upcoming full-length album, Go. The process called for their strong work dynamic, especially when it posed the challenge of finding new experiences to share. Initially, the siblings felt anxious about starting from a blank slate, as Edges included songs they had written way before the possibility of releasing a full album was even a thought. “It was definitely really intimidating. Over the past few months, we realized that we actually had to finish this album,” Chris recalls. “I remember sitting down at the time, and worrying that maybe I forgot how to write music. But then we wrote a song, and, suddenly, in the course of two weeks, we wrote around seven songs,” he mentions.
Pursuing music full time is a dream many people strive towards, and, for artists hoping to do so while also hustling to making ends meet, Jocelyn advises to play every show like it’s your last. “It’s funny getting asked for advice; I feel unqualified but then I look back and we’ve done crazy stuff,” she reasons with herself. “It sounds totally cheesy, but it’s true. You never know who is in the audience watching you. There is no such thing as a throwaway show. They’re all important, no matter if you’re playing for four people or if you’re playing for a thousand people. It’s always an important show,” she stresses.
“When it comes down to it, it’s something that we’re trying to turn into a career,” Chris follows up. “If you want to make music your life, I think, whatever you do, you should just strive to be the best you can be. It’s pretty scary, but, personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he expands.
Both Jocelyn and Chris plan on continuing to share their vision and connect with fans, new listeners, and music lovers alike as they head deeper into 2017. With festivals to play, school to attend, and new music to put out this month, they’re bound to have a busy year. “We’re both really excited about the new album,” Jocelyn says enthusiastically.
“With every release, we’re like, ‘Well, we’ve done our part as artists; this is our magnum opus and we can die happy.’ And then we start working on the next album, and we realize that we do have more stories and more things to share with the world. It’s cool to be on the brink of sharing more,” she concludes.
WORDS: ELIZABETH LOO