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Just the two of us

Joni Samuels of London- based Northern Irish/Dutch two-piece Fräulein talks about the band’s new music and playing their first Dublin headline show.

Northern Irish/Dutch two-piece Fräulein have just released their new single Wait and See

The first release of the year for them, Wait and See is a creative step forward and comes on the heels of their first headline show at Whelans in Dublin.

The band also played Ulster Sports Club in Belfast close to Joni’s home place.

Joni Samuels from Antrim and Karsten Van Der Tol from Amsterdam met in Bath after Joni had completed her university there.

After going on to play on the Bristol scene, they relocated to London where they are still.

The band released their Pedestal EP in 2023, garnering enviable support from the likes of DIY Mag, The Line Of Best Fit, Clash, So Young, The Independent, Gigwise, Loud & Quiet and Radio 1 & 6 Music, who all shone a light on the fast-rising band.

Following a summer spent on the road with Be Your Own Pet and a European tour with Big Joanie, the band are now back with new music.

Tracks like  Pet and Brand New won them fans as they experimented with their sound and style.

Wait and See seems to indicate they have found both now.

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“It’s been going really well,” Joni says.

“We had our own headline show in Dublin, but Sprints were doing an album release show the night before, in the exact same venue, and they asked us if we wanted to join in on that as well.

“We did actually two shows in Whelans Upstairs back to back.

“It was great. The Sprints show was obviously completely rammed and then our show, I think we’re both really happy and super proud of the amount of people that showed up for us in Dublin because we’d never really done a headline there before.

“The crowd was great.

“The one in Belfast was really special because all my family were there and after the three nights my voice was going so I got my niece and my nephew on stage with me to help me sing one of the songs and it was really cute.

“I think we almost sold out Ulster Sports Club in Belfast, which was shocking.

“I really thought we were going to sell like 40 tickets.

“So we were just getting really shocked at how many people were actually coming in.

“They’ve got a lot of memorabilia from like the last 50 or so years in Belfast, there’s actually a picture of my dad on display downstairs.

“We don’t know how they got that picture but there’s a headshot with his manager’s number at the bottom from when he was doing his singing days.

“It’s really special playing that venue because all my family are there and we get to see that.”

How did Fräulein come together? Obviously you’re from the north and Karsten is from the Netherlands but you met here in Britain, isn’t that right?

“Yeah, I had just graduated from Bath and I was moving to Bristol.

“I just had always really wanted to be in a band.

“So I went to an open mic night in Bath, played guitar in front of people for the first time and I just mentioned, ‘I would love to meet some people who want to play music’.

“I ended up meeting one of Karsten’s friends who then invited me to a jam at his house.

“The whole night people were saying to me, ‘Oh, Karsten’s…’ because he was the only drummer in the whole group.

“They were all telling me about him the whole night and then he arrived.

“I just played one of my songs, he played on it and it just clicked from the start.

“And we started the band a couple weeks after that.”

There was really some serendipity in there then?

“For sure.

“Because I played with another drummer before but it wasn’t really working out. I was playing with a drummer and a bassist.

“Karsten actually saw us perform together and was just like, ‘No, that drummer doesn’t really get what you’re trying to do’.

“And I was like, ‘Okay, do you want to play in the band with me instead?’

“And he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go’.”

A lot of people comment on how you sound like more than two people, it’s such a big sound…

“I think that’s because we’ve always just played as a two piece from the start.

“We were going to get a bassist but it just never happened.

“We started playing songs together and we just kind of got used to playing as a two piece.

“I think we’ve just worked really hard over the last couple of years to fill out the sound ourselves.

“I play quite simple but rhythmic guitar parts, and then Karsten plays quite complicated drum beats that fill out everything.

“I think it’s been practice just being a two piece since the beginning.”

Tell us about the new song Wait and See..

“Wait and See started off as an idea that Karsten had.

“It was two riffs that were put together and he just didn’t really know what to do next with it.

“So I took it, I changed the time signature a little bit and I added a pre-chorus and a chorus and then used what he had as the verse and the bridge, and added lyrics.

“I thought it was a really cool idea but it actually was quite a struggle.

“I remember I was sitting on my sofa trying to write it and I just knew I wanted to do something with the song and it wasn’t really coming naturally, I had a melody that was natural but I didn’t really have anything to go after.

“I was stuck the same way he was.

“I remember texting him being like, ‘I really want to finish this song’.

“And he was like, ‘Just step away from it for a bit and then come back’.

“I went and had a shower, and I came back and then I wrote it in like 10 minutes after that.

“So the lyrics were kind of inspired by how annoying the song was to write at the start, ‘I am stuck in a rut’ is the first line because I was just really stuck with it.

“But then it kind of expanded to being about whenever you’re feeling anxious, and you have maybe unhealthy coping mechanisms or you recognise patterns in your own behaviour, and you’re trying to get out of them but you just kind of stay still and you just decide to just wait and see what happens.

“It’s kind of about that.”

Wait and See is very different from earlier stuff, isn’t it? Is this a new departure?

“Yeah, I think it feels really new for us because this is the first time we’ve co-produced on tracks.

“We’ve always been really fixated on trying to capture the live sound because we’ve always felt so strong and so powerful with the live music, and we really wanted the songs to sound like that as well.

“It’s quite hard to capture that in the same way so we’ve been trying to do that since we started the band.

“And I think we’ve finally found that, so we’re just really excited.

“I think we’re no longer constraining ourselves with what we think that the song should sound like.

“We’re not thinking about that anymore.

“We’re just writing songs and anything that we like we’re just playing and we’re putting out for people.

“It’s been quite freeing.

“I think we definitely are in a bit of a new era for the band at the moment with the last few singles.

“We’re really excited for people to see what’s coming next.

“I think it’ll be stuff that’s unexpected from us.

“I think we’re trying to walk the line because people think that we’re quite aggressive, but I think if you actually listen to the lyrics and the melody and stuff, I think it’s also quite soft at the same time.

“We really want to just walk the line between heavy and soft.

“Pet is super fun to play live.

“We play it really fast now actually which is funny.

“We play it so much faster. I think that’s definitely something that we have found is that we always record a song and then within two or three months, we’re playing it so much faster than we recorded it and we’re like, ‘Ah, we wish we had recorded it at this speed because we’re able to play it so much better now’.”

You say you studied in Bath. Were you studying music?

“No, neither me or Karsten studied music. we just have always played so I did mechanical engineering and Karsten did sociology.”

But music was always around in your childhood, wasn’t it?
“Yeah, my dad used to be a musician in and around Ireland.

“He was the singer of a cabaret band that used to travel around the country.

“This would have been in the 70s and 80s.

“He was just a very naturally talented person.

“I remember when I first wanted to play the guitar when I was 16.

“I remember begging him to teach me some chords and he was just like, ‘I don’t know how to teach you chords’.

“He was just a very natural musician.

“He just did it by ear. He didn’t know what anything was called so I had to learn myself when I was 21.

“But music has been a huge part of my life.

“I’ve always loved music.

“I’ve played instruments growing up and was always around music, but it wasn’t until I was like a bit older that I kind of like got the courage to start doing it myself.”

Was there something that held you back from making it Plan A though?

“I think that I revered and idolised musicians so much growing up that I just never thought that I could do that.

“It was only a couple of years ago that I felt comfortable calling myself a musician.

“I think I just always kind of put it on a pedestal, and never really thought I could do it.

“But I’m trying to work on that, because I realised that most of the musicians that I love were like me when they started out.”

Who have been big inspirations for you?

“I always say PJ Harvey just because I think that my guitar playing is very similar to hers.

“It’s mostly because when I started playing the guitar for the very first time, I taught myself by learning all of her songs because I was listening to a lot of PJ Harvey at the time and I really liked how simple they were.

“PJ Harvey is probably a big influence.

“But the first band that I was really obsessed with, and really, really into and kind of got me into all of the music I listen to now is probably The White Stripes.

“I loved The White Stripes growing up.

“I also loved Nirvana, had a big poster of Kurt Cobain on my wall.

“I loved a lot of 90s American rock.

“I don’t know why, I think it’s just so immediate and so passionate and fun.

“I don’t really know if there’s any other bands that are doing our kind of sound right now.

“I think it’s like a blessing and a curse.

“I think it’s a blessing because obviously it means we stand out but it’s a curse because it means we don’t really fit within any particular scene of bands at the moment.”

It hasn’t held you back playing great support shows and tours. You have a couple of London dates, a headline show and a support show at the venue, Scala. That’s going to be great, isn’t it?

“Yeah, we’ve played Scala before.

“We supported TV Priest there.

“We really liked that venue.

“It’s a bit of like a pinch me moment to play Scala.

“It’s such a great venue and we’re really excited to play with John because we rarely get to play with other two pieces, especially guitar and drums two pieces.

“We’re really excited, we play in London and Brighton with them on their tour.

“Because we’re such a new band, we’ve never headlined a venue that big but we’ve played Kentish Town Forum before as well.

“We played that with The Mysterines around the same time we played with TV Priest.

“So we’ve played big shows.

“It’s always really surreal, especially if they’re sold out.”

And you have played further afield as well, I was watching a video you playing live at a show in Nantes, France…

“Yeah, we were very lucky to go on a tour of France and Germany with Big Joanie in October, that was the very first time we’ve ever played any shows outside of the UK and Ireland.

“They were absolutely surreal, especially that show. The Nantes one.

“It was an amazing show.

“I keep posting videos on our YouTube of that, because it was just a really fun show for us.

“I think our music is definitely to be seen and experienced in a venue.”

But you haven’t made it to Karsten’s home place yet..

“Not yet and he’s not very happy about that either.

“Hopefully we get to soon because he’s really, really, really dying to play in the Netherlands because we’ve played my home town loads of times.

“It would be a fun show.”

Why did you decide to call yourselves Fräulein?

“I’m a bit of a musical theatre nerd. I love musical theatre.

“I love musicals and I was watching Cabaret with Liza Minnelli which is one of my favourite musicals of all time, probably my favourite movie of all time.

“I got asked this question a lot when we were in Germany and it’s a bit of a dumb answer.

“I was watching that movie and it’s set in the 1930s.

“And everyone was like, ‘Fräulein, Fräulein, Fräulein…’

“And then when I visited Germany when I was 21 for my birthday I was really confused as to why no one was calling me Fräulein.

“I thought that was what you call young women and then I looked into it.

“I found out that it’s not a very used word anymore.

“It’s seen as quite old fashioned and it seems quite patronising to some women actually in Germany and they’ve kind of fought for the last 20, 30 years to be not called Fräulein because of the origin of the word.

“It means little or small.

“So, obviously, calling a young woman Fräulein can be seen as patronising.

“I thought it would just be quite a cool thing to name this band.

“When Karsten asked what we can be called, I threw it out because I thought it would be a cool name for this band because it was a bit ironic, because of how driven it is by the vocals and the words and how powerful it is.

“I thought it would be quite funny to call it, ‘Little woman’.

“There was not much thought put into it other than that, other than it would be kind of ironic.”

Wait and See is out now.

Fräulein play Shacklewell Arms in London on 1 February and St Stephen’s Church in Ipswich on 3 February. They also play Concorde 2 on 23 February and Scala in London on 29 February supporting John.

For more information, click here.

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