Music News & Reviews

Books, dorms, and rock ’n’ roll: Jocelyn & Chris Arndt are ‘Finally 21’

Bandmates and siblings Jocelyn and Chris Arndt.
Bandmates and siblings Jocelyn and Chris Arndt. White Lake Music

Though their vision for the future is “all rock and roll all the time,” that didn’t stop bandmates and siblings Jocelyn and Chris Arndt from pursuing a couple of Ivy League degrees.

The pair spoke to The Sacramento Bee while en route to a concert in St. Louis and still recovering from performing the previous night in Cleveland. Chris was also working on a summer research project, preparing for his final year at Harvard University.

The Arndts will make their way to Harlow’s on Wednesday as part of their “Finally 21” national tour. In addition to vocalist Jocelyn and lead guitarist Chris, the band includes drummer David Bourgeois, bass guitarist Kate Sgroi and keyboard-organist Tyrone Hartzog. The band’s most recent album “Go” has been number two on the Jam Bands’ radio chart for three consecutive months.

“It was Chris’ [21st] birthday in June, so we’re celebrating all the way to California and back,” said Jocelyn, 22.

The brother and sister duo got their start in music when Jocelyn started playing piano in the fourth grade, and Chris began learning how to play the guitar. They formed a band in high school.

“We never really thought a career in music was possible,” Chris said. “When we were in high school, everyone was like, ‘You know, the music industry is a bunch of sharks and vipers,’ and we were like, ‘OK, we’ll stay away from that.’”

But when they played at a local fair in their hometown near Albany, New York, they met David Bourgeois, who would eventually become their drummer, manager and producer. Jocelyn had been accepted to Harvard, but music became a tangible career option, the siblings would play, record, and tour through college. Chris joined her at Harvard a year later, and while balancing Ivy League curricula and music was difficult, it was not completely impossible.

“The lucky thing about Harvard is that a lot of the kids there have things that they’re doing that they’ve been doing for almost their entire lives,” Jocelyn said. “Thankfully, people at school have been very understanding...of people who have dreams they want to chase.”

Jocelyn graduated from Harvard in May with a degree in English. Chris will complete a joint concentration in music engineering and computer science before graduating in 2018. (Harvard undergraduate fields of study are referred to as “concentrations” instead of “majors.”)

The pair believe their family dynamic will spare them from a dramatic breakup.

“The good thing about working with your brother or your sister is that there’s never that moment where everything can come crashing down and you can never speak to each other again, because you have to see them at the next Thanksgiving,” said Jocelyn.

Jocelyn describes her musical inspirations as “big voices,” Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and influences from Queen, Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Their influence is heard in “Go,” as Jocelyn’s voice escalates from bluesy whispers to her own “big voice,” and in Chris’ retro-rock guitar riffs.

But the siblings are also inspired by the rest of their creative team, who are far from the sharks and vipers they were warned against before entering the music industry.

In addition to their talent, they consider themselves lucky to have a nurturing production team and knowing that most musicians do not tour until they are much older, Chris considers being able to tour “a blessing.”

“It was the best possible way for me to grow up,” he said. “And I’m still growing.”

Karen Marks: 916-321-1136, @karenmarks_

Jocelyn & Chris Arndt

When: Aug. 16, 7PM

Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J Street

Tickets: $14