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INTERVIEW: Fraulein on their new single, Belly

Hot on the heels of their impactful debut, London-based grunge duo Fräulein return with their second single, Belly, the first release from an upcoming double a-side.

Fräulein by Emma Swann

Fräulein first caught our attention back in April with their debut Pretty People, which features eerie-yet powerful-melodies and catchy riffs. Follow-up Belly certainly doesn't disappoint, teeming with a brooding sense of frustration that might just become the pair's trademark sound. Catching you off-guard with its unique rhythms as well as a quiet rage that slowly builds into blazing fury throughout the track, Joni's perfectly unaffected vocals take centre stage, transforming Belly into a blaring siren of angsty alt-rock indulgence.

"Belly is a song that is written around its lyrics," Joni explains. "I’m talking about how creativity can be bloody and exhausting for some people but really organic and energising for others.”

Fräulein are Joni Samuels (vocals, guitar) and Karsten van der Tol (drums). Hailing from Northern Ireland and the Netherlands respectively, the London-based duo formed in Bristol in 2018 at a friend’s jam night. The band build their lo-fi garage rock sound from percussion outwards; combining sharply observational lyrics with surrealist imagery, they're inspired by a range of unexpected genres - including trip-hop, grunge, and latin.

Belly is a love letter to a bygone era, created using analogue recording techniques. "We listen to a lot of material from the 70s and 90s which is all recorded to tape," explains Karsten, "but we also paid a lot of attention to Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, both of whom released solo albums last year that were recorded using analogue methods. We love those albums and the warmth that tape provided to the sound, which is something we wanted to create our own version of."

The duo chose to record the new tracks with Pretty People producer and analogue wizard Ben Auld at Canyon Sound studios in Bristol. "Tape seemed like the most natural way to get the raw, rough round the edges sound we were after, which is why we paired up with Ben and his TASCAM machine." We're obsessed with Fräulein's commitment to capturing an authentic, warm, and vintage sound - especially in a time (and genre) where everything is increasingly distorted and synthesised - the pair have clearly proven they need nothing but their two instruments to cause a riot.

We just had to find out more about this release, so we had a lil chat with the band to get all the deets!

Hello Fräulein! Thanks so much for chatting with us. We've been keeping a keen eye on you since Pretty People, how have you both been doing since the debut single release? Since Pretty People was released, we’ve been hitting gigging hard! Pre-pandemic when we lived in Bristol, our aim was to get as many gigs as we could because it’s really what we love doing the most. We’ve played about 10 shows in the few months since, and it’s been amazing to meet other bands and really showcase our music with people. Thanks to all the promoters and venues who have held on over the last 18 months and are back putting on shows for all of us to enjoy!

Congrats on your brand new track, Belly! Almost everyone can relate to the idea of creative frustration - was there anything in particular that inspired you to write around this theme, and how do you normally approach your songwriting?

Joni: Belly was an idea for a song I’d had for ages. I really worked those lyrics over and over, trying them with loads of different riffs until I finally found the verse and pre-chorus riff for Belly. I also decided to write the music around the lyrics, so there’s kind of a fluctuating time signature, depending on the words I’m singing.

I’m somebody who sometimes finds it hard to create music. It’ll sometimes take me months to finish a song, constantly chipping away and reworking parts. Belly is really about me being jealous of watching other musicians so easily and organically come up with amazing ideas, because for me it’s like I’m going into battle. That’s why in the song I’m contrasting images of plentiful greenery and nature with more bloody, visceral images.

I usually bring the songs to Karsten in rehearsal and we’ll jam on it for a while, fleshing out structure and figuring out what it needs organically. That’s the fun part!

Karsten: The alternating time signatures of Joni's lyrics at first threw me for a loop. I got there in the end, with the intent to really place emphasis on Joni's delivery of her lyrics with my kick pattern. Belly is a song I really let loose on and one that is close to my heart, rhythm-wise!

We're in awe of your commitment to analogue recording methods - how important was it that you captured that raw sound, and who are some of your favourite artists from decades past that inspired you to do so? We think of ourselves as mainly a live band, as we said before. Being a two piece means you really have to lock in a groove with each other, and we find it's easier to do that when playing at the same time. So, we like doing this when we're recording too! As for analogue recording, this is mainly because we were approached by producer Ben Auld who explicitly wanted to record us to tape. We listen to a lot of music from the 70s and 90s (ranging from artists like Harry Nilsson to PJ Harvey) that has been recorded to tape and we jumped at the chance to work with Ben because of that.

As you've been together since 2018, why did now feel like the right time to start putting music out into the world?

We were actually set to release a whole EP in 2020, but those plans fell through for obvious reasons, and we decided we would wait. In the end, we think this was the best decision for us because it gave us a chance to really listen to our own music and figure out exactly what we wanted to sound like. We came back knowing what kind of band we wanted to be and now we're confident and happy with the music we were making, so it just felt right!

How are you feeling post-pandemic about finally being able to perform live? Is there anything coming up that you're super excited about?

We've been counting the days until we could play again. The minute restrictions were lifted, we were back on it with a double set at The Windmill Brixton in London. We came back louder and more energetic than ever. We're also really excited to have the chance to play our first festival - Sound City Ipswich. We were one of the 8 bands chosen from 90 applications to be showcased at this festival, so that's going to be a fun one!

Thank you for indulging us, we're so excited to catch you in the flesh ASAP!

Thanks so much for having us! See you at a gig xoxo

See Fräulein live:

23 September - Bristol - The Exchange (Basement) (supporting Coven favs Projector)

25 September - Brighton - Green Door Store (supporting our pals Sick Joy)

1 October - Ipswich - Sound City Ipswich

Listen to Belly on Spotify and Apple Music

Review and interview by Courtney Myers

Photography by Emma Swann

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