Jocelyn and Chris Arndt reached the Top 40 in Billboard’s Adult Alternative Album chart last December, and will hit the main stage at Monster Jam in June. What’s next? (Bridge Road Entertainment)
In the Arndt family collection of movies is a video of Jocelyn and Chris playing upon the consecrated stage of Caffe Lena. Their father still watches it, though Chris says it’s from a “long time ago.”
It was six years ago.
Consider that six years is nearly a quarter of a lifetime to a 21-year-old, and just yesterday to his father. Still, let’s also factor in the sister-brother duo’s professional career; contracts, albums and countrywide road trips. There’s The Whisky a Go Go, Mountain Jam and, yeah, Billboard’s Top 40 that have since followed. From that perspective, it has been a long time.
“Touring is the best job, ever,” said Chris. “Playing music, making music in general, it is the single greatest job you can have, hands down. I’m not biased or anything. Except for driving through Nebraska.” On cue, David Bourgeois holds up a thick set of tire chains.
It’s February and the band has returned after several months of touring across the country. There’s still little rest. Chris, Joceyln and Bourgeois sit at White Lake Studios to rehearse for a radio gig in Boston. Bourgeois takes a moment to slump into a comfortable chair. He’s a man of many hats. Visually, he’s the band’s drummer. Behind the scenes, he’s its music director. He owns the Albany studios along with his wife, Anna. Within the bigger picture, he’s president of Bridge Road Entertainment. About five years ago, he discovered the two while they played together at a local festival. He’s been their manager ever since.
Playing gigs and hitting radio stations like the one in Boston is all in the effort to earn more air time. It’s called chasing radio play. It involves a lot of networking, sending tapes, exchanging phone calls and logging in the miles on the road. Where U2 and Interscope have years of established success and reputation, Jocelyn and Chris need to hustle. On top of being musicians, they also have to act as their own marketers. There are about 120 radio stations across the nation that play under the adult album alternative format, and grabbing a program director’s attention can be “extremely challenging,” according to one.
“To put it simply — there is so much great music out there, and very few slots they can fit in, and that goes for every format,” said Kim Neaton, former music director for WEQX. She was among three directors responsible for deciding what songs played on the radio. Unknown bands have to win out against trusted record labels, often times against management and promotional companies, for just a few open slots. For a band chasing radio play, “Even if you have one of the best songs in the room,” said Neaton, “you have the smallest voice in the room. But if you find a station that will take a chance, and you do well there, that’s ammo you can take to the next station when you reach out. Maybe things go well there, too. A story can build and so can a song’s success.”
One of the first stations the band won over was Albany’s WEXT. Its programming has helped local artists earn air time and, “they’ve helped us out so much,” said Jocelyn. There’s also WDST in Woodstock, a good station to have behind you. It originated Mountain Jam in 2004, a three-day music festival that has featured Robert Plant and Tom Petty in recent years. Jocelyn and Chris played there three years ago and will return to play its main stage in June.
Last December, Jocelyn and Chris broke into the Top 40 on Billboard’s Adult Album Alternative chart. “Red Stops Traffic,” the band’s third single off its 2017 studio release “Go,” debuted at No. 37. Jocelyn and Chris were listed along with the names of The Killers, Big Head Todd and U2. The band topped at No. 35 before slipping back down in January.
“The next goal is Top 10,” said Jocelyn, with a smile. The volume of her statement tapers off to a near whisper, as if in fear of sounding arrogant. There is no arrogance in the room, as the two siblings are still laughing in amazement over having charted above Bono. Their story has caught the attention of television producers. Four television shows, including NBC’s “The Voice” approached Jocelyn to perform. She turned it down. “That’s not how it works,” said Jocelyn. “We’re a team. Any time it starts to tilt towards one or the other, we’re just weary of and we don’t do it.”
Jocelyn and Chris resigned a three-year contract with Bridge Road Entertainment, and head back into the studio in April to record a new album. Before retreating to the studio, the band is set to perform at Caffe Lena on Sunday, March 4, at 7 p.m. Edge TV will be following as it films a documentary. The documentary should contrast with the video their father is still fond of playing from years ago. As “Red Stops Traffic” continues to resonate with radio listeners, people can expect to hear a maturity behind their play.
“It’s definitely a more mature sound,” said Jocelyn. “We’re not kids anymore.” she laughs.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.