Sibling rock stars Jocelyn & Chris Arndt took their soulful, hook-laden blues/rock sound to this year’s SXSW. I caught up with them at Austin’s Handlebar and discussed Harvard, Ocean’s Eleven and life on the road.
So is this your first SXSW?
Jocelyn: Yes, yes it is.
How do you like it so far?
J: It’s crazy but awesome. Crazy awesome.
How many shows have you had?
J: We had one yesterday…
Chris: We had three yesterday, then one today and one tomorrow.
Damn, not too bad for your first time.
C: [laughter] No no, not at all
Well that’s just fantastic. Now, you guys are from New York, right?
J: Upstate New York. We’re from Fort Plain which is an hour west of Albany.
Okay, so right in the middle of nowhere.
J: [laughter] Yep, right there.
That’s awesome. And you just released an album about a month ago, right? Are you happy with it?
J: Yes, very much so. It’s called Edges, and it’s our first full length, which is a big deal. We’re freaking out.
Well of course. How many… “half lengths” have you had?
C: Just one.
J: We did an EP, but yeah this time we really got to sink our teeth in.
And you got some momentum going into SXSW. Are you on tour? Is this a stop on a tour?
C: Yeah, we came down from New York, we were in Cleveland, and then Chattanooga and Nashville, then Arkansas and then Houston. Actually Dallas, not Houston.
Somewhere in Texas. It all runs together.
C: …and then we’re gonna work our way back up next week.
Back up to… upstate?
What’s your favorite part of touring?
J: [thinks for a moment] I like knowing that every night we’re gonna be somewhere different, which is weird because I feel like some people would be like ‘oh my god another 8 hours in the car,’ but it’s kinda nice to be able to travel with the music and know that no matter where you are you get to play a set but then you get to go somewhere else.
So you get that time to explore, that’s cool. What do you do on the road? Who drives?
J: Our drummer, who’s also our producer…
C: And our manager…
J: Yeah he does most of–well, all of the driving.
Yeah I was gonna say, it’s not just you two. How does that work? Who writes the songs?
J: We both write together.
Which is good because you have that family bond, you work off each other. Who’s older? I can’t really tell.
C: [laughter] She is.
C: [shows x’s on hands] I’m not even 21.
Get the fuck outta here!
J: …and I just turned 21.
Oh wow, well welcome to adulthood–or something. Whatever that means. Do you have a favorite city that you’ve been to on tour?
J: I really really like Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Wow, that’s random but cool.
J: It’s random. We stopped there once, I think we had played in Nashville and then they were like ‘oh this seems like a good place to do another show.’ We stopped there and now every time we’re down south we make sure we go there because people come out and really really support us.
C: The music scene there is amazing.
And then they know you now kind of. Do you have a good following up in Albany?
C: Yeah we do well in Albany.
J: We play the city (NYC) a lot too
Of course, that makes sense. Where in the city?
J: We played the Bitter End, we played the Slipper Room…
C: We played Rockwood a lot.
Rockwood is where it’s at. They don’t fuck around–if you’re bad they don’t invite you back.
C: Yeah they’re awesome.
So you guys write together? How does that work?
J: I do the lyrics and melody, and then Chris does the chords the rhythm.
Who goes first? Do you start with the chords and then build off that, or…
C: Depends on the song, really. Sometimes she’ll come up with something and might be like ‘I need chords,’ other times I’ll go to her with a chord pattern I really like and she’ll have lyrics and we’ll sort of fit them together.
But it’s just you two, not the drummer/producer/manager.
J: Nope, just us.
And you have a bassist?
J: We have a bassist as well, Eric.
But he’s just a random dude.
J: Yeah I mean we met him in Albany.
C: He’s a student and an awesome dude.
How do you meet these people? School?
J: Through our manager, he’s the one with the contact.
How did you meet him? How’d you get started, you just started playing?
J: We had a high school band. We’ve been doing this for a long time. This was our high school job–a great job, better than most high school jobs. We had a band called The Dependents, and we’d play, like, fairs and stuff, and we were playing at the beer tent at the local fair and this guy came up and slipped us a card and said ‘Hey I like your sound.’
And you were like ‘thanks me too’?
J: [laughter] Yeah, and he turned out to be David. You never know who’s listening.
You never know! That’s why you just gotta play everywhere, see everyone, expand your audience and shit. That’s awesome. That was in high school, like five years ago?
J: Three or four.
Oh right you’re young as fuck, I forgot. Well okay. And you’ve been slowly building since then?
C: It was kind of slow for the first couple years.
J: Well first you gotta build a foundation.
C: We were working on a sound and stuff, and then this past like year and a half things have been ramping up super fast, so it’s pretty awesome.
What’s the best part of that so far?
C: Oh man.
J: I like the fact that we have a new CD, that’s a huge plus for me.
C: That’s pretty exciting. I honestly like just…
Just being a rock star?
C: Yeah it’s cool. When I was in high school it never even occurred to me that because of our music we would get to travel to California and Texas and Nashville and Michigan or wherever, and now we’re going all over the country and probably going to Canada and maybe the UK all with our music.
Whoa, whoa, slow down there!
J: It would be cool. You gotta have goals.
Well that’s fantastic. Do you guys have day jobs? Or is this it?
C: Just this.
You save up and then go on tour and stuff….
J: Well we also go to College.
Oh really? Where?
J: We both go to Harvard.
Fuck you guys! No way! [laughter] I’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of it.
J: But this is definitely our job, job.
Holy shit. Okay, so you’re both at Harvard. Currently.
J: [gestures to self] Junior, [gestures to Chris] sophomore.
What are you studying? Music?
C: I’m joint music and computer science.
J: I’m English but these days it’s mostly music, so…
Well that helps with lyrics too, right? Do you find you draw inspiration from your studies?
J: Yeah, a little bit definitely. And people. Everybody around us. You know, basically everything.
There are some smart people there. What do you think of Harvard?
J: It’s fun. I’ll tell you– SXSW is probably a little more fun. [laughter]
Yeah maybe a little. And the weather is nicer. What are you, on spring break right now?
Do you go on tour during the school year?
C: We do. We go weekends, we skip Monday and Friday–not every Monday and Friday but…
How do you…. I mean you go to Harvard, shouldn’t you be focused on Harvard?
C: That’s what some people say but, like, I kinda like music, you know? [laughter]
J: The other thing is, as long as we can do both we’re gonna do both. But if it comes down to Harvard or music, Harvard’s not going anywhere. Music is our thing, so…
How do you like the Cambridge/Boston area?
C: It’s a cool place to live. It’s pretty awesome.
J: Yeah it’s like New York’s friendlier, shorter cousin.
C: It feels less aggressive when you’re there. New York is a very “kill or be killed” vibe.
J: New York also literally never sleeps, as they say. Nothing ever turns off. Boston is like ‘midnight, better get on the last T or else you’re stuck.’
Do you play around Boston? Or around campus?
J: We haven’t a ton.
C: We honestly haven’t that much, we’re gonna start doing so more and more, but we’ve been really focused on New York, Nashville and LA for the past year.
How do you like LA?
C: LA is awesome, the music scene is so great. We played The Viper Room, which was insane. But yeah, we’re starting to do pretty well in those three cities so we’re gonna branch out. But this is our first time in Texas.
And you like it?
J: Yeah we like it. We’re gonna come back.
Do you have any plans for today or tonight?
J: We don’t have a show tonight, not ’til tomorrow. So we’re still weighing our options.
Do you run into trouble playing venues underage?
C: Most of the time they’re just like ‘you can’t hang out beforehand, you can’t hang out afterwards, wait by the door while I get a marker to mark your hands.’ So it’s a little annoying. Vegas is kind of… [laughter] It was fun playing Vegas but they were like ‘you’re allowed to be on the casino floor as long as you don’t stand still.’
J: You can’t look at anything, you obviously can’t drink anything. I felt bad for the little bro.
C: But they let us play music, which is the most important thing.
Where did you play in Vegas?
J: We played this place the Sand Dollar
C: And then a place called…
J: We did an open mic thing at the Beat Coffeehouse.
C: Yeah that was cool, it’s like a coffee house slash wine bar slash brewery slash record store.
J: Which is basically all the bases to cover.
Yeah that’s everything you need. Plus it’s Vegas, so…
J: Yeah we got to walk around, see the Bellagio, pretend we’re in Ocean’s Eleven.
C: Except, you know, we hadn’t just stolen a hundred and sixty four million dollars.
You can tell me if you have, I won’t tell anyone.
C: No, I mean I wish we had [laughter].
Anything else you would like to tell me/the world?
And you guys are continuing your tour?
J: Yeah this one wasn’t super long, we’re going… where are we going? Alabama on Saturday, then Cleveland…
C: Saturday morning we wake up early, Alabama, Cleveland and then we’re back.
J: We just pushed to radio, so the next couple weeks we’ll be doing that.
Playing at stations and shit?
C: We’re doing that, we’re playing a festival in Roanoke, and then the Florida Music Festival, and then between those it’s like every weekend we can we’re gonna be playing. And then a lot of radio stations.
Well that’s awesome, we’ll tune in to all those things. One last thing–can I get a selfie with you guys?
J: Yeah, sure!
C: Can we get one with you?