If you’ve ever been to town on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ve probably seen this four-person band playing outside Courtenay Place’s Reading Cinemas. Made up of Shaan Singh, Sam Thomson, Matt Beachen and Ben O’Leary, Drax Project has been making waves with a blend of inventive covers and original material, playing at Rythym and Vines and releasing their first EP.
Rob: You guys have been playing in Wellington for a while now right?
Matt: Yeah, mostly in Wellington. We started off busking, and went from there to uni O-Week shows, then to the bar circuit.
Sam: That started off as a two-piece with Matt and Shaan busking. I remember when I first started at uni I saw you playing outside Reading Cinemas, did they ever actually agree to you being there?
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Matt: We just turned up, didn’t ask any questions and kept to ourselves, but there were a few times they told us to go away.
Did you listen to them?
Matt: We pushed our luck pretty hard, and I wouldn’t say we ever got shut down. When they told us to stop we usually just went to the other side of the road.
Sam: It was super good exposure doing all that. I don’t think we realised at the time quite how much the busking did for us.
Did you ever expect that the busking was going to take you to where you are now? You just played at Rhythm and Vines, and that’s quite a change.
Sam: For the group of people who are involved, I think it was a pretty natural progression. Speaking from my perspective, we’ve always wanted to do our own music, and we never had the opportunity to do that when busking.
Matt: To me, busking is the lowest form of performing, you’re just playing. So when you get a gig from that, it’s a good base to go from.
Sam: For us it was a really good way of learning what works. Finding the balance of playing what we enjoy and having fun, and understanding what the listener will stop for. Because if people aren’t stopping and people aren’t giving you money, something’s not working. So busking helps you figure out what’s good.
Matt: We’re very thankful to Macklemore for making ‘Thrift Shop’.
I suspect you’ve probably had enough of that by now.
Matt: Yeah, we played it about 5000 times. Though it is pretty cool, when you search Google for us it comes up with all these articles about us playing it.
You released your first EP six months ago, which was all your own music, and you’re working on your debut album right?
Sam: We’re getting there. We want to record a decent amount of material, probably more than an album’s worth, and we’re still looking at different ways to release it.
Matt: We’re writing a lot at the moment.
Sam: There should be some new stuff coming out in the not so distant future.
So who would you say your main influences are?
Matt: We’re all totally different… In terms of specifics I’m into contemporary hip hop, some housey stuff, people like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. I like analysing what’s new, and what they’re bringing out.
Ben: Hard out into Jeff Buckley over the last couple of years, along with some hip hop and jazz stuff.
Sam: I’m just into heaps of weird stuff. Right now I’m into Torus, a producer from Holland, Tigran Hamasyan, an Armenian Jazz/contemporary guy, and other jazz and hip hop. I guess a lot of the stuff I listen to is way more left field than the stuff we play, but I can take elements of it.
Final question that apparently has to be asked—fuck, marry, kill. Let’s do John Key, Helen Clark and Winston Peters.
Matt: I’d marry Winny, probably get at John Key, then probably kill Helen. Sorry Helen.
Ben: I think we have the same ideas about the old Winny there. Marry that man. I’d probably pop off John Key then spend a night with Helen.
Sam: I dunno, I’m really stumped here. I feel like Helen is quite reliable, you know? So I’d probably marry her. Winston’s a bit more volatile, a bit all over the place, so I’d probably do him. I’m not so much a fan of old John, so he’s gone, he’s out.
See Drax Project at San Francisco Bath House on Saturday 28 February (door sales only).