You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s (feeling) like Monday. Instead, get funky!
TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Jocelyn & Chris Arndt, a sibling duo who specialize in the creation of powerful, unforgettable music. Whether it is in Jocelyn’s impressive vocals, Chris’ icon-comparative guitar play, or the front-to-back writing of the songs themselves, the upstate New York natives have quickly gone from blips on the musical radar to an artist you should have been aware of 10 minutes ago.
With their new album “Go” due out soon, we sat down with Jocelyn and Chris to discuss their songwriting process, their love for touring and the horror of all horrors… middle school!
TrunkSpace: You guys are currently attending Harvard University. How do you juggle and manage the demands of a continuously-growing musical career and your studies at the same time?
Chris: It definitely gets really busy sometimes. Music is definitely our dream, so I don’t think we’d give that up for anything. It’s also kind of our main focus right now, which sounds kind of crazy to say, but school is actually sort of the backseat plan, which is a little weird. I think we really love doing both, so as long as we can handle it… we wouldn’t really give one up if we could avoid it. So far, it’s been crazy, but doable.
TrunkSpace: Has it changed the way you write just by the nature of having a fixed schedule with school in the picture?
Jocelyn: I think having to balance both has definitely made us a little bit more conscientious of time management. We definitely have gotten better at… well, I guess another way of framing this is, sometimes we like trying to do creative things and sometimes you feel like you have to wait, like, a creative thought just kind of comes to you. You get the inspiration, but, we can’t really afford to do that because who knows when that’s going to be. It could be in the middle of class or something. (Laughter) So, I think we’ve definitely learned to kind of make time and kind of turn on the creative juice and be able to flip the switch and be able to work artistically.
TrunkSpace: Sometimes it’s just a matter of having to retrain the brain how to work in a different way.
Jocelyn: Yeah. Totally. We’ve been doing a lot of that. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Does it make it more difficult to also manage the business side of your music? For example, if you get a call to do a show somewhere outside of the city and it requires you to travel without much planning?
Chris: I think Harvard is pretty good at… I mean, they understand that a lot of their students kind of have things that they do that are extracurriculars but that are kind like a real deal career type thing. And so, there have been a lot of times when that has actually happened and all of a sudden it’s Wednesday but we’ve got to go to New York to play Dr. Oz’s charity event or whatever. They’re always very understanding. Nobody has ever given us a hard time about having to miss school to pursue some sort of musical endeavor or anything like that.
Jocelyn: Yeah. We also have a really good team that really helps us kind of, you know, make sense of things and chart out our calendar for the next few months and just kind of keep an even keel.
TrunkSpace: Strictly on the music side of things, have you had to change the way you approach things because of the way that your success has continued to grow?
Jocelyn: I think it’s definitely been a learning process for everybody involved. And honestly, the music industry nowadays, it’s kind of all up in the air. You can really carve out a place for yourself as long as you put in the work. It’s not the same as it was, you know, 30 years ago, so it’s been a curse but also a blessing because we kind of get to figure out for ourselves and figure out what works. We’re really trying an innovative, independent approach to everything… as a team, which has been really working.
TrunkSpace: “Edges” was released in August of last year and we’re curious if from a creative standpoint you feel far removed from the songwriting during that period of your lives to where you are currently?
Chris: I hesitate to speak for Jocelyn on this one, but I know for me, definitely my emotional state changes the way I approach it and as time progresses I get better at maybe voicing what I hear and making that a reality in the music, but I don’t know if my songwriting identity is something that really changes that much. It changes as I change as a person, I suppose, but I think I’m kind of the same person I was last August, more or less. Maybe a little bit different. I’m closer to 21 for sure. (Laughter)
Jocelyn: He’s been playing in bars since he was eight and he finally gets…
Chris: It will be amazing. (Laughter) But, I don’t think for me it has changed very much except for the fact that, obviously with every song I feel like I learn something new about songwriting and get better at it, but in terms of what I want to put down, I think my ideas are largely from the same place.
Jocelyn: Yeah. I say looking back to “Edges,” I still definitely stand by every one of those songs and I don’t think I would change anything.
Jocelyn: I’m really proud of that as an album and as each individual song is concerned, I’m proud of that.
TrunkSpace: So when it comes to the subjects and themes of your songwriting, what do you find yourselves turning to these days?
Jocelyn: Looking forward to the next album “Go,” which is all done and recorded and printed… we actually just saw pictures of the disc today for the first time, which is insane… I think we’ve gotten a little more mature as far as songwriting is concerned, but I don’t think our inspirational sources have changed too much. We still kind of draw from a hodgepodge of whatever is around us at the time, you know, like TV and just people watching and being on the road and jotting down little notes as things comes to us. We kind of try to throw in everything and honestly, I think a lot of songwriters write from very deeply personal experiences… we do a little bit of that, but honestly, I don’t think my life is quite as interesting on a personal level as maybe some other people’s are. (Laughter) So we definitely draw from a lot of different outside sources.
TrunkSpace: So do you view yourselves as storytellers? Do you see someone passing on the street and attempt to tap into who that person is and what they’re going through?
Jocelyn: Definitely. I think that’s one of the most enjoyable things about songwriting. You can kind of just take a little tiny idea and just spin a whole entire yarn about it. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: You had “Edges” out last year and “Go” due out soon. Has technology made artists more prolific or have prolific artists taken advantage of technology?
Chris: Jocelyn mentioned something earlier that’s sort of along the lines of what our manager always says. Basically, one of the things that he’s always said about the music industry is that there’s never been a better time to personally affect your career in music than there is right now because there are so many different resources available for artists, via social media or idea sharing services. Anyone can get some sort of software and set up a home studio. And maybe it’s not the most state-of-the-art thing in the world, but you can get down ideas and just sort of start getting into the world of music. I feel like if you took the greatest artists of any other time period and gave them those resources, they would take just as much advantage as the people today. I don’t think it’s a matter of people changing. I think it’s just people realizing how powerful that it is that we have all of these things at our fingertips. Now with digital recording and the internet to share ideas, Jocelyn and I can be doing a radio interview in Maine or whatever and our producer can lay down a B3 track on one of our songs and be like, “Hey, what do you guys think about this?” By the time we get back, it’s in the mix and then we’re off to the next thing. It just really speeds things up and I think it lets people do a lot more if you’re willing to put in the work and take advantage of it.
TrunkSpace: And that seems like a big part of it too when it comes to touring. It’s all about getting out on the road and putting yourselves in front of as many people as possible, which you guys seem to never shy away from.
Jocelyn: You can make all of the music in the world, but it doesn’t really mean anything as a performer if no one ever hears it. We both really enjoy performing and what we do it for is having that connection with an audience, and in order to find an audience, we go wherever we need to go. We visit radio stations. We play at venues. We play at bars. We play wherever they will let us play. (Laughter) We’re just really in it to perform and meet people through music, which is awesome. It has taken us crazy places. We’ve been to California and back and we’re looking ahead and starting to dream of trips to Europe to play. It’s pretty exciting to see where it’s going to end up.
TrunkSpace: We read that you first started writing music together in middle school. Has the process in which you two work from changed at all since those early days?
Chris: I really don’t think it has. It’s kind of interesting. I feel like you read the stories of how a lot of great songwriters write their songs and they talk about how they started out doing this one thing and then maybe they learned, like, “Oh, that doesn’t work,” so they stop and they do different things and keep editing their process until they come up with the thing that really works. I think Jocelyn and I have been pretty lucky because it seems like we kind of struck it right off the bat with our process. Not that the first songs we wrote were the greatest songs in the world or anything like that. We definitely have gotten better at coming up with ideas and communicating those ideas, but it’s basically always been me coming up with different musical ideas in terms of arrangement and harmonic structure and things like that and Jocelyn coming up with lyrics and melody and then us just sort of seeing if we could put something together and keep chipping away at it until it becomes something we would be satisfied to call a song. That’s what it started as and what it’s always been.
Jocelyn: I think it really helps that we grew up in the same house. (Laughter)
Chris: For sure.
Jocelyn: Seriously, I think it’s a really big advantage because we know each other better than anybody else, so there’s never been any of that kind of awkward getting to know you. None of that nonsense before you can get really down to the nitty-gritty and start writing. We’ve always known each other, which I think is more than half the battle. When you’re trying to do something creative with somebody, you have to get to know them first, otherwise it’s just way to cringy. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: That relationship must also play out really well on the road because you both know, regardless of the situation, someone has your back.
Jocelyn: Totally. We always hear horror stories about, you know, “Just when the music was starting to get amazing and the band was starting to get exposure, they broke up!” I don’t really think that we can break up because I’ll see you next Thanksgiving. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Going back to your early songwriting days… when you’re in middle school and coming into your own, you’re always trying to figure out who you are and what your voice is. Do you think songwriting helped you two sort of discover that faster than someone who wasn’t exploring that part of themselves through music?
Chris: At least if it didn’t help me discover myself, it kind of changed who I was a lot.
Chris: And it still does. Music and particularly writing music… it’s just such a huge part of our lives. In middle school we had no idea that it was going to go this far. We never even dreamed of having a career in music, but it’s become such a huge thing and I don’t even know who I would be or what I would be if I didn’t write songs anymore. It’s kind of a large part of how I classify myself as a human being. I mean, I don’t know if I know myself particularly well… I feel like I do, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who feel like they do who don’t. So, maybe I don’t, but I know writing music is a huge part of it regardless of what it is and I think it’s helped discover a lot of things about myself that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Jocelyn: It’s definitely really helped in other areas of our lives as well. Ever since we started performing, I’ve felt more comfortable on stage singing than I will ever feel, I think, off stage talking. (Laughter) It’s just one of those things where we found our thing and I think it was at a really good time to find your thing because middle school can be pretty cruddy if you don’t have a thing. (Laughter)
“Go” drops April 10, 2017.