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ICON: Where did the inspiration for ‘Woke Up Late’ come from? I’ve heard that it begun with a lost wallet?

Drax Project: “Let’s get this story straight. I (Shaan) was at Ben’s house and I went to go home as it was late and I realised I left my bus card at home. So I went back to Ben’s just to crash on the couch but we ended up making some music and the rif and the first verse/melody came up. Ben wasn’t that happy with me obviously because it was late. I showed the guys a week later and they thought it was good … we didn’t finish it for ages and came back to it maybe a couple of months later. It was maybe four months until we actually finished the song.”

Talk to me about the moment you found out Hailee Steinfeld wanted to do a remix with the track?

DP: “It was pretty crazy. We had just gotten back to New Zealand after touring with Camila Cabello over in Europe. Hailee ended up hearing it and then asking us if she could be on the track. Which was crazy. We were just in our studio one day in Wellington and our manager walked into the room quietly and asked, ‘Do you want Hailee Steineld to feature on the track’. We said yes, we didn’t believe it. A month later we were sent her vocals she recorded and pieced it together – we’ve never met her.”

That was released in 2017 but still to this day I hear it almost once a day on the radio. Why do you think it has remained so popular?

DP: “I think it has quite an organic sound, it’s not too intrusive. It’s not really in your face, more like a laid back, easy going but a catchy song. Like a sneaky house track. We can’t pinpoint why it’s doing what it’s doing but we’re pleased. We’re speculating here [band laughs].”

How did the band initially start?

DP: “We met at music school studying jazz and Shaan was studying the saxophone with myself (Sam) and Matt was playing the drums. We decided to go busking on the streets of Wellington and we were playing covers of all these recognisable riffs, like ‘I Like To Move It, Move It’, ‘Thrift Shop’ was another one that had just come out, ‘Cry Me A River’, Stevie Wonder – anything that’d get people’s attention. That’s the very beginning, we weren’t a serious band. We came up with the name “DRAX” just by combing ‘drums’ and ‘sax’.. then maybe eight months later we got Ben on.

Bar managers used to walk past us busking and say, ‘Come play in our bar tonight’, so we used to get a weekly slot down at a tiny little bar playing our covers because we hadn’t released any of our own music. Once the four of us were in the operation we started writing our own stuff. That was what, five years ago.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 23: Ben O’Leary, Shaan Singh, Sam Thomson and Matt Beachen of Drax Project perform on stage opening for Six60 at Western Springs Stadium on February 23, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage)
Is it a help or hindrance coming from a small country like New Zealand?

DP: “Great question, we think its both. There are a lot of benefits, I wouldn’t even say negatives – there’s just things you need to think about. We’ve got over the hard part, because the hardest part… you can create buzz in a country as small as New Zealand but getting out of that is the hard thing and we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve got to… we’ve been to Australia, Europe, we’ve played in the States and I think now, it’s a real positive. We’re also lucky that we live in an age where the world is so integrated with each other over the internet. Good music travels so if you figure out the right way to do, you can get to everybody, everywhere. We’re still trying to figure it out.”

As a band, what is your process for writing music? Does it occur organically, or do you have a systematic approach?

DP: “Sometimes it occurs organically, sometimes we’ll just be hanging out and someone might want to do something. There’s not set formula, most of the time we’ll start with one idea from one of us, most of the time it’s a guitar idea, sometimes it’s lyrics, piano, saxophone even. When we’ve got one thing, we’ll put another thing on top of that and we’ll slowly build until we’re finished.”

Did you ever imagine that you’d explode to stardom so quickly?

DP:” [Laughs] For us it doesn’t feel quick, it feels like a slow process – it doesn’t feel like we’e exploded to stardom, no. We’re still doing the same stuff, but we’re trying to get better at it. It’s a slow build and we’re just happy to keep writing music and play shows and we’re so thankful we get to do that. Nothing internally has changed over the last six years really, just more people listen to our music which is awesome.”

How are you feeling in the lead up to the album release? What can fans expect from this new music?

“We’re itching, itching. ‘Catching Feelings’ came out two and half years ago and to finally have it come out amongst a body of work is itchy.”

Drax Project’s namesake debut album is out now. For more information, check out their website here.