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Siblings thrive balancing Harvard, music career

Siblings thrive balancing Harvard, music career

Being a full-time musician touring the country can be a hectic and exhausting career — late to bed a
Siblings thrive balancing Harvard, music career
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt with drummer David Bourgeois perform at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam to kick off the Summer Concert Series Saturday, July 9, 2016.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Being a full-time musician touring the country can be a hectic and exhausting career — late to bed after gigs, and early to rise for press junkets and promotional radio and TV appearances. But Fort Plain siblings Jocelyn and Chris Arndt seem to make it work with ease — all while balancing their duties as undergrad students at Harvard University.

While the double life can be a challenge, the Arndts say they manage to make it work without letting their grades slip while reaching new heights in their music career.

“It gets a little crazy,” said Jocelyn, a senior English major. “What happens is we end up playing shows most weekends, some weekdays; some days we have to cut class a little bit early to fly somewhere.”

Chris, just a year behind his sister in school and studying computer science and music, added that a quick midday snooze always helps get through the longer days.

“I’ve mastered the art of the catnap,” he said, adding, “I really love doing both, so for as long as it’s possible, we’re gonna give it our best shot.”

Branded as “the new generation of authentic rock,” the band’s sound takes plenty of influence from ’70s classic rockers and powerful female vocalists like Aretha Franklin.

The siblings started playing small gigs around their hometown with their band The Dependents. By the end of high school, they had signed on with Albany label Bridge Road Entertainment with the intention of pursuing music as they attended school in Cambridge, Mass.

In 2015, Jocelyn & Chris Arndt played over 100 shows across the country, including the Sundance Film Festival, Mountain Jam, CMJ, the famed Viper Room in Hollywood and various other stops in Nashville, New York, Boston and West Coast states.

This year, the duo released their first full-length album, “Edges,” which features collaboration with Gov’t Mule’s Danny Louis.

“It’s pretty cool to see all that time and effort boiled down into this tiny plastic jewel case,” said Jocelyn. Her brother said he’s equally proud of the result of their time spent in the studio

“This album, it’s got like a lot of songs we wrote first in our writing career, like songs we wrote in high school,” as well as songs that are entirely new, said Chris. “It’s a pretty good snapshot of our songwriting career up to this point.”

The Arndts expressed how grateful they are for all of the recent success, both saying they’re still blown away by each new opportunity to perform and share their live music with the rest of the country.

One standout moment happened while the brother and sister were touring cross-country on their way to Los Angeles, passing through Ohio. They’d recently sent hundreds of copies of their new album to radio stations, hoping to get it played on the air.

“We crossed our fingers and hoped they really liked it, but it was kind of our first time doing that, so we didn’t know how it would go down,” Jocelyn said.

“All of a sudden we hear our song ‘Shame’ on the radio. And Chris was tweeting at the radio station like, ‘You guys are great!’ ”

On Saturday evening, the band performed a show much closer to home, at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park.

Despite overcast skies and a light drizzle left over from afternoon thunderstorms, a crowd of about 45 gathered under a tent to enjoy the music. The size of the crowd didn’t stop Jocelyn and Chris from giving it their all — Jocelyn’s deep, sultry voice rang out across the park and into the outskirts of the city as she banged out notes on the keyboard, while Chris bobbed his head with each careful strum of the guitar.

With the numerous gigs and frequent traveling, the Arndts are quickly developing their own fan base. That includes Howard Olshanky, a 66-year-old Amsterdam resident who considers finding new artists one of his hobbies.

Olshansky said he often bores of bands quickly, but he can’t get enough of the passion and tone of Jocelyn’s voice.

“She’s soulful,” said Olshansky, who first heard the band at a show last summer. “She has aspects of Joss Stone and Janis Joplin.”

The siblings’ mother, Libby Arndt, stood toward the back of the tent, happy to enjoy a live show close to home.

“We couldn’t be more proud,” said Libby. “It’s very exciting. Sometimes I worry about their ability to balance it all, but so far they are handling it well.”

The mom said she and her husband, both teachers, always played music in the house while Jocelyn and Chris were kids. But neither parent plays an instrument or sings, she said, joking that the source of the kids’ musical talent is a bit of a mystery.

“We really don’t know where they got it from,” she said with a laugh.

The siblings said there isn’t a set plan after college graduation, but they’re eager to finally put all of their energy into music — sans the late nights spent studying and doing homework.

“It’ll be nice to focus on music 100 percent,” said Chris.

“We’re still figuring things out, but the one thing I know is that it’s not gonna slow down, music-wise,” agreed his sister. “I can focus even more on the music.”

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