Drax Project (Matt Beachen, Ben O’Leary, Shaan Singh and Sam Thomson) released their latest single Tukituki Te Manawa on Christmas Day, a song which is fully in Te Reo Maori, and last October, they worked with Fetty Wap and AACACIA on the release of Firefly. In 2018, their single Woke Up Late won Single of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards, and the following year, they went on to re-release the song with Hailee Steinfeld which has seen Platinum certifications. During their career so far, Drax Project have been the opening act on a number of shows including for Ed Sheeran and Camila Cabello and, at the end of last year, they performed their first show since the pandemic started at Black Barn in Hawkes Bay. Recently speaking with us, Drax Project talk about releasing Tukituki Te Manawa last month, opening for artists on tour and re-releasing their hit single Woke Up Late with Hailee Steinfeld.
You released your latest single Tukituki Te Manawa on Christmas Day, can you say more about it?
It’s a song fully in Te Reo Maori which is something we wanted to do after being approached by the same team who helped us with the Te Reo version of Woke Up Late in 2019. We wrote it a few years ago in English and it was called Take My Breath Away. The new translation gives it a new beautiful angle on the idea of someone taking your breath away – it’s a straight up love song!
Can you tell us about releasing Firefly with Fetty Wap and AACACIA last October?
The whole experience of writing it in three hours in LA, filming the video in a freezing cold paddock in our home city and getting Fetty Wap and AACACIA onboard is something we’ll never forget! The whole process was smooth and it’s a song we’re proud of. That day we listened to the final mastered version on blast in our studio… we couldn’t keep still.
Your release of Woke Up Late saw you win Single of the Year at the 2018 New Zealand Music Awards, how was it then re-releasing the song as a collaboration with Hailee Steinfeld?
Adding Hailee to the track was the icing on the cake for us! She added a whole new dynamic to the song and gave it a new lease of life – which put a lot more ears on the tune. Seeing it getting played all over the world and climbing charts was amazing for us!
A number of your releases have been certified Gold and Platinum, what’s it like seeing the response to your music?
It’s something we never take for granted. We get to do what we do because people listen and continue to support us. It’s also super motivating when music connects with people.
You released your self-titled debut album in 2019, how did you find the process and who do you think it will appeal to?
We’d always wanted to release an album and the opportunity came up in 2019 to drop the debut. The process was a bit of a whirlwind – especially looking back now, being in LA studios and working with world-class producers was awesome. It’s hard to pinpoint who the music would appeal to! People who like spicy pop music maybe?
Where do you get inspiration from for songwriting and how do you start work on new music?
First and foremost, we are musicians so almost every song is born out of a guitar riff/chords or beat. Inspiration can come from anywhere, like when we were missing home we wrote Holiday, and Woke Up Late is an embellished real life story that we thought people could relate to!
How do you find the experience opening for artists such as Ed Sheeran and Camila Cabello?
It might be our favourite thing to do. Firstly, having the opportunity to play in front of so many people is a privilege and something we’re eternally grateful for! We love the challenge of winning people over who don’t know us – maybe that’s the busking roots popping through.
How has it been working as Drax Project during the global pandemic?
We’ve been lucky that we live in New Zealand where the effects on the live music industry aren’t as extreme as other places. We’ve just had to find ways to keep busy and keep the ball rolling! It’s also been a blessing in disguise because we’ve been forced to take a breath and reflect on the adventure of the past couple of years.
At the end of last year, you performed your first show since the pandemic started, how did it feel getting back to performing in front of a live audience?
Playing live is everything for us and we were itching for a good nine months to play a show, so when the opportunity came up – we took it and played at one of our favourite venues Black Barn in Hawkes Bay. To be honest, we thought we would be a tad rusty but the show absolutely banged!
What would you say are some of your career highlights so far?
There are many! Hearing people sing our songs back to us for the first time in a sweaty Wellington club is definitely up there. Opening for Ed Sheeran in front of 110,000 people over three days was insane. Travelling the world while playing music is a dream come true! Hearing our music on the radio is still a buzz, basically everything about the last five years is a highlight.
Had each of you always known you wanted a career in music and what’s it like working together?
We all began getting music lessons at a young age so music has always been a major part of our lives. We never set out to be a famous band or anything when we started busking so every time something cool happens, we’re just riding the wave and stoked to be doing it! Working together is something very important to us, all four of us have equal input into everything which means things might take time to get finished, but the outcome is always better.
Which music artists do you like listening to?
Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, SZA, Montell2099, John Mayer, Radiohead and many, many, many, many more.
What do you enjoy most about streaming on Twitch?
The added pressure of making something good! When you know people are watching, you’re forced to make musical decisions faster and get things done. To be honest, we don’t take it too seriously and it’s fun just hanging out and being ourselves.
What are you hoping 2021 will bring for your career?
Well, we know for a fact it’s bringing more music, more live shows and more good times.
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