Jocelyn and Chris Arndt have a lot in common. They’re both musicians, they’re both Harvard undergrads—they even share some of the same DNA. Like Duane and Gregg Allman, Eddie and Alex Van Halen or Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson before them, their sibling bond extends beyond family game night and into their creative collaboration.
With a new record, Edges, slated for release in late February, Jocelyn and Chris are poised to accomplish big things in 2016. We caught up with the pair to talk about the good, the bad and the unexpected about writing songs with the person who’s known you longer than anyone else.
Scout Cambridge: Normally when I interview musicians I ask how they met, but I guess with you two that’s pretty self explanatory.
Jocelyn Arndt: Yeah, it was like, right around when Chris was born. [Laughs]
SC: Then I guess I’ll fast forward a bit: How did the two of you get into music, and when did you decide that you’d like to play together?
JA: The music thing started around fourth grade. For Chris, that would be third grade. When I was little, I took tap lessons, and I was terrible. I was like, “Mom, I want to play piano!” And she was like, “Um, cool, but not until you’re older so you’ll actually practice.” I started playing piano in fourth grade, and Chris wanted to play an instrument, too, so he started playing guitar.
Chris Arndt: Actually, I specifically wanted to play the piano, but our parents didn’t want us to be competing or anything. So my dad just bought me a guitar—he surprised me one day. And I’m very grateful that he did that.
JA: It really worked out! We started doing talent shows together, and in high school we formed a band. We played a lot of, like, family fun days, the local fair. That was how we cut our teeth on music.
SC: When did things start taking off beyond that?
CA: We were actually playing with our high school band at a fair, and the guy who’s our current manager, producer and drummer was there with another artist. He saw us, he called us up the next day and we just kind of started working with him. He said he’d like to sign us with his company for development, and we were like, “What? Can this actually be a career?” I thought I’d just end up playing bars when I was 40.
SC: So what is it like to be in a band with your sibling?
JA: I’d say around 99 percent of the time, it’s awesome. And then there’s that 1 percent, when Chris eats the last piece of pizza…
CA: Or Jocelyn doesn’t take out the trash…
JA: We have our sibling moments. Everybody’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re in a band together. That must be where all the emotion comes from.” And it’s not, really. It’s great though, we’ve known each other literally since infancy, so we know each other better than anybody else. I think that really helps when we go to L start writing songs.
CA: It’s really nice to know each other so well because we’re comfortable airing our full opinion without sugarcoating it. That’s what you need to do to make a good song.
SC: You also hear about bands whose members get to an impasse, or have a power struggle, and end up breaking up thanks to “irreconcilable differences.” That probably doesn’t happen with you two.
JA: Right, we still have to go home for Thanksgiving and cut the turkey together. That still has to happen.
CA: Unresolved conflict isn’t really an option, which is a great thing.
SC: So where does the emotion come from, if not your relationship?
JA: The emotion comes from… anything. You can write a song about anything. I’m your typical, garden variety, emotional artist girl, so I can get drama out of anything. We look all around for inspiration, and sometimes writing a song helps us understand things better.
SC: Was it a conscious decision for you to both attend Harvard? Did you know that you wanted to do that?
JA: It sort of just happened, and in the end, I’m really glad we chose to go to the same school. We’re constantly there for each other—to hang out or to write music or to play games. It makes everything easier.
CA: Other than the fact that we are actually best friends, it’s ridiculously helpful to both be at the same place. Any time I want to work on a song or practice I just go up to her door with my guitar like, “Hey! Stop what you’re doing!”
SC: “Pay attention to me now!”
JA: He’s like a cat.
SC: Do you have any other thoughts for aspiring sibling musicians about what this kind of collaboration is like?
JA: I would say it is the best thing in the world. It’s also, sometimes, the hardest thing in the world. It’s like… picture this: You’re five, and you’re on the playground, and you just made up a secret language that only you know. But there’s one other person that also knows the language. We still speak in our own secret code.
CA: Having been around each other—Jocelyn for the majority of her life, me for the entirety of my life—we just understand each other on a level that I don’t think could happen with anyone else. It’s an integral part of how we write songs.
JA: He just gets it.