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Meet Fräulein, the duo that sounds like ‘PJ Harvey at a motorcar rally’

In 2024, Fräulein are crafting one hell of a beautiful noise.

By Nick Reilly


A quick disclaimer: we are fully aware of the bold claims we’re putting forward in the headline that sits in front of you. But give Fräulein one listen and you’ll understand exactly what we mean. The Northern Irish/Dutch duo – Joni Samuels and Karsten van der Tol – know exactly how to pull out moments of ear-bleeding rock revelry, but their lyrics show off the deeper introspection of one Polly Jean Harvey too.

Arms outstretched I hop all the cracks / Like a little kid, gotta stay in balance,” sings Samuels on ‘Feels Like Flying (Day)’ – while the accompanying musical rumble sounds like it could topple an entire venue to the ground.

Conversely, the ‘Night’ version of that very same song shows a softer, more subtle side – the two faces of Fräulein. It’s no wonder that the band are hugely versatile, they count everyone from classic rock icons Heart to Big Thief as an influence. The resulting kaleidoscope in their sounds, it transpires, is something very special indeed.

You can read our whole Q&A with Fräulein below.

We’re speaking just a week after you released ‘Feels Like Flying’, which is interestingly split into two versions: Night and Day.

Karsten: When Joni first brought this to me, [she] just said, ‘I don’t know if this is going to be a Fräulein song’, but I just really loved it. Then we worked with Cosmorat to put it together. It’s very different for us, but I think that’s what we want to try out and people seem to be enjoying it. It’s going down nicely.

That decision to make a song that is lyrically the same but sonically poles apart – where did that come from?

Joni: The original song, the Night version, is super short. It’s one minute 40 seconds. When I showed it to everybody they were just like, ‘This is amazing, but we wish it was longer’. I love songs like that, where you listen it and you’re wondering why it doesn’t go on for another four minutes. I really liked that idea of leave them wanting more, but when we recorded it in the studio, everyone kept saying we just wish this could come back in some sort of way. So we had the idea to have that as an opening track and then do a surprise.

I’ve been listening to a lot of the band Heart recently and their first record Dreamboat Annie has that title song three times but in different versions and arrangements. I thought it would be really cool if we did that, but just make it heavier! Karsten came up with the drum beat, which was inspired by Modest Mouse.

Karsten: Yeah, Jeremiah Green the drummer for Modest Mouse who sadly passed away not so long ago. Modest Mouse were one of the first bands that Joni and I bonded over and I listened to The Lonesome Crowded West which has become my favourite album of all time. I really love that album and the song ‘Truckers Atlas’. That kind of flowing beat and the consistency around it is something I wanted to do with Joni as well.

I love the amount of influences you’re saying here, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone talk about Heart and Modest Mouse in the same breath!

Joni: Me and Karst just love good music. I love pop music, I love Charli XCX and Lady Gaga, but I also love System Of A Down! I’m drawn to melodies and words, so as long as they’re there I’m happy.

What might a Fräulein and Charli XCX song sound like?

Joni: It would be incredible! She’s just an amazing pop songwriter. I was doing some guitar lessons and one of my tasks was to try and write a song that mimicked ‘Forever’ by Charli XCX. I haven’t done it yet, but I will, because I just love the structure of it.

This is our PlayNext series where our readers are introduced to you and your music. What’s the elevator pitch?

Joni: Well, me and Karst started at an open mic night about five years ago and we were kind of crap but one of the regulars there said we sounded like “PJ Harvey at a motorcar rally” so we’ve adopted that ever since. I feel like our music is really cathartic and freeing and it’s a really great way to describe us.

Karsten: Exactly that. It’s like the cars smashing into each other and the engines revving. You notice that tension building and that’s how it is with us. The more we get from the crowd, we more we play with it and there’s just a lot of things coming together in one big melting pot, which is what I think new music always strives to do.

Joni, you’ve also spoken of your love of bands like The Breeders too. How does that feed into your sound?

Yeah, as I said I like vocals and melody and I do gravitate towards a lot of female singers just because I can emulate and I can sing like that. People like Kim Deal and Adrianne Lenker really inspire me to get better at songwriting. I honestly think that Big Thief have probably been the best band to come out in the last 10 years.

And next up, then, is your mini-album Sink or Swim, which lands in June – what can you tell us about it?

Joni: I do feel it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. You want every single project to be the best thing you’ve ever done, but I think in the last 3-4 years of being in a band, we’ve tried every new way of working and it’s allowed us to realise what we like and what we don’t like. It’s the first time we’ve really fully reached the potential of where we are right now. I’m super proud of it.

Karsten: I think with every release we thought it was the best thing we’d put out, but the amount of work we put in, and the amount of care and attention to detail, that really shines through.

Anything else we need to know about Fräulein?

Karsten: Come to a live show if you want to see us at our best and at the most cathartic where you can soak in that energy. Bring your earplugs!