We get sent a lot of new music every day here at Joyzine and every day we sift through it all, sifting through the jumbled mass of sounds for that special moment when the music hits you just in the right place. It’s the proverbial needle in the haystack, and one of the sharpest to prick our ears recently was London-based grunge duo Fräulein, whose trio of singles this year – the dark, slow building menace of “By The Water”, the raw, rumbling “Belly” and the scuzzy and scathing “Pretty People” – should be troubling the “best songs of 2021” lists of any discerning publication in the coming weeks.
We caught up with Joni Samuels (guitar/vocals) and Karsten van der Tol (drums) to find out more about what inspires them, about playing live and the importance of aesthetics.
1: What inspires you to write/make music?
Karsten: At a base level, I think making music acts as an outlet for human feeling. To make music forces you to be present at that very moment, connecting with the instrument and with what’s around you. I love chasing that sensation. When I make music with Joni, that happens very easily and I feel like we both settle into a comfortable groove.
Joni: For me, it’s other musicians. I really get inspired when I listen to an amazing melody, or a riff that I love. If I can capture even just a small percentage of that when I write, then I’m happy.
2: What is the best description of your music that you’ve read/heard in a review?
There was a local at the open mic night where we first started playing and he described us as “a motorcar rally mixed with Polly Jean Harvey”, which felt like a pretty spot-on description to us. We still use that as part of our bio for our socials!
3: How important is the visual/aesthetic side of the band and why?
J: I watched a lot of MTV growing up, so have always really connected visuals to music. I love seeing the personality of the bands shine through as well, so every time we do something new, we always try to be ourselves in the visuals. Hopefully we’re getting better at it, too!
K: The visuals of a band is another great way to understand who they are. This is why we love working with Victoria Pullen who has done all our artwork for our singles so far – we feel like she understands our influences and references and makes amazing art out of it for us. On top of that, we both do a lot of visual art in our spare time. I love to doodle and make collages, some of which feature in our lyric video for ‘Belly’.
4: What do you enjoy most and least about playing live?
K: My favourite thing would have to be feeding off the energy that a crowd gives us and vice versa. That connection between artists and crowd is very unique, because without one the other wouldn’t be there. I don’t think I actually have a bad thing to say about playing live; every mistake, every gear mishap, every spilled pint is just a part of it.
J: I enjoy the rush of it. Playing live can be like an extreme sport, so much adrenaline! I would agree with Karsten, in that there isn’t much of a downside. Although, if I had to pick one thing… I have a lot of old gear and I’m starting to get annoyed at my pedals for not working when I stamp on them!
5: Is there a venue or city that you’d especially love to play, and why?
K: I would love to play Paradiso or Melkweg in Amsterdam. My brother would always go to shows there when I still lived in The Netherlands, but I was too young to go. I think it would be funny for my first gig at either venue to be my own.
J: I’m from Northern Ireland, so I would love to play in Belfast at some point. The Limelight or the Ulster Hall – places I used to frequent growing up! That would mean a lot to me.
6: What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?
K: We played a gig where I had to play behind one of those see-through sound screens, because a TV crew was recording some of the sets that were on that evening. It was strange to play from there and to be tucked around the corner where I couldn’t really see Joni. It made me feel really disconnected from the crowd and from Joni, despite bashing away at the drums.
J: Our headline at the Windmill Brixton was one of the best shows we’ve ever done, but I had an eye infection so I couldn’t wear contact lenses. I was on stage, not able to see much in front of me, but I could make out so many people jumping and laughing in what seemed to be the friendliest mosh-pit ever. And I also saw shapes, standing on the tables at the back so they could see the stage. That was quite a strange experience for me!
7: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be and why?
K: I think I would change what the music industry values. Ironically, a lot of the time it isn’t the music and more so the online presence of an artist.
J: I would love to increase the visibility of minorities in the music industry, especially in rock music. Both behind the scenes as well as the artists themselves. But also agreed with Karsten – I find that social media takes up a lot of our time, because we kind of have to be on there. But really, I just want to be making the music.
8: If you could collaborate with any artist, past or present, who would it be and what would you work on together?
K: I think I would have loved to work with Fela Kuti. From what I’ve seen, he had such an electric presence and energy on stage and feel like I could have learned a lot from him. It would have been cool to work on an album or even just a track together, in an ideal world!
J: I will say this forever, but Kim Deal! She’s a genius, and just keeps getting better. I’d love to sing with her, on anything she’s written.
9: Who is your favourite new band/artist that we should be checking out and what do you like about them?
K: I’ve been listening to a lot of King Krule recently and through that I’ve gotten into more electronic-based music. I think a band who are really nicely blending live instrumentation with electronic elements are PVA. Their music is really infectious, catchy and vibey. Their latest EP ‘Toner’ is super cool, check em out!
J: Black Bordello! Best rhythm section I’ve ever seen, and their songs are so interesting.
10: If you could give any aspiring musicians one piece of advice, what would it be?
K: Perseverance and determination are key. Sometimes, the responsibilities around playing music can be tedious, but so is any job. Keep going!
J: Most of the time I still see myself as an aspiring musician, so maybe my advice should be: believe in yourself and be confident in what you create! I have to remind myself to take that advice multiple times a day.
Catch Fräulein live at the following dates:
15th December – The Lexington (Supporting Beach Riot & King Nun)
22nd January – YES Basement, Manchester (Supporting Manlishi)
Find out more on their official website
Interview by Paul Maps
Photograph by Emma Swann