Q&A: Drax Project

Fresh from headlining sold-out shows in New York and London, Kiwi pop sensations Drax Project are coming home for gigs in Auckland and Christchurch. What’s Hot New Zealand talks to drummer Matt Beachen about overnight success and sharing the love. (Image: Jory Lee Cordy)

In just a few years, you’ve gone from busking on the streets of Wellington to selling out your own headline tours and opening for the likes of Ed Sheeran and Lorde – how surreal has that been? It’s definitely been a crazy few years! I don’t think any of us thought it would go as far as it has when we were busking. We’ve always just had fun with it and we’re super grateful that we get to do what we do!

Your song ‘Woke Up Late’ – when did you realise you had such a massive hit on your hands? It’s hard to say really – I think when we opened for Ed Sheeran in March 2018 and everyone was singing it back to us, we knew it was going well! Also when Hailee Steinfeld asked to be on the remix, it really hit home.

All this and you are still to release an album – did success get in the way? Not at all! ‘Woke Up Late’ has inspired us to go harder and write more and more. With the album coming this year, we’re the most excited we’ve ever been to release new music! We also can’t wait to play the songs at the Town Hall shows too – that’s the best part.

What can you tell us about your upcoming album debut? We feel it’s the best music we’ve written and a couple of the songs have been a few years in the making! It feels good to release a longer project after three EPs. Genuinely can’t wait for people to hear it!

Describe your song-writing process? Does someone take the lead or is it more collaborative? The four of us have equal input on everything but quite often a song starts with a guitar riff and we write everything from there. We’ve been lucky to work with some talented people in the US, as well as back home. For a while we were taking ages to finish a song but over the last 18 months we’ve started to hone in on the process and not overthink things!

The four of us come from different musical backgrounds and we all have different tastes but as a band I’d say Justin Timberlake is a massive influence. We cover a few of his songs and till this day play ‘Cry Me a River’ at every show.

Supporting Six60 gave you your Auckland and Christchurch Town Hall debuts and now you are doing the same for rising stars Fortunes and Paige – is that important to you? We’re eternally grateful to the Six60 boys for that opportunity! Now to be doing our own shows is just mind-blowing. To be joined by two of our favourite acts is the icing on the cake. We love opening for other artists and have always talked about making it the best experience possible for whoever opens for us! Looking forward to their sets.

You’ve performed the world over. Where has been your favourite city to perform and why? That’s a tough one. The show we just played in Berlin opening for Christina Aguilera was amazing because the whole arena was packed and getting into it. But in all honesty, playing at home can’t be beaten. There’s always a different kind of energy, and we get so pumped up on stage that it turns into a circus with all the jumping around.

What’s your favourite haunt in New Zealand to perform at? I have a feeling these Town Hall shows will take the cake but up until now, Powerstation in Auckland, San Fran in Wellington and Waihi Beach Hotel are some of our favourites. Again, playing at home can’t be beaten!

Do the band have any pre and post-show rituals? We call a friend of ours before every show, no matter where or when it is, and sing a song with them. Followed by blasting ‘Slice of Heaven’ – this ensures morale is at its highest before we hit the stage.

Tell us about your best/worst experience on tour/at a concert? One of the best experiences was on the Camilla Cabello tour in Berlin last year when the whole crowd, without us asking, waved their phone lights to ‘Prefer’ – that was unforgettable. One of the worst experiences was probably at the Amsterdam show when Shaan asked the crowd to “give it up for Ben on the guitar” leading into a guitar solo – right after he’d kicked the power out of his guitar pedals. The silent guitar solo will never be forgotten

Are you starting to get any weird fan requests? Not really. We get people asking us to play songs that we released way back in 2014, which isn’t weird at all. It’s pretty cool, actually.

What album/song do you have on high rotation at the moment? In the tour van we’ve been loving the new Jaden album as well as every Ariana Grande song. ‘Somebody Else’ by The 1975 is a jam after seeing them at Coachella.

Anything on the cards for when you’re on the road? We love to hit the bowling lanes when we get some time so we make sure to book in early. We’re quite competitive too so that makes it more fun when I win.

Drax Project
Auckland Town Hall – July 27, 2019
Christchurch Town Hall – August 2, 2019