Drax Project, a Wellington based four piece, started off with just two members: Shaan Singh on saxophone and Matt Beachen on drums. Add Sam Thomson (bass) and Ben O’leary (guitar), a Universal label sign, and handfuls of gigs around the country (including opening for Gorillaz, SBTRKT, and a crazy EP release gig at Te Papa) and you’ll understand why I had to go and see what’s so intoxicating about them.
On one level, Drax Project play indie pop with hip hop backbeats. But the complexity of their music sonically and harmonically and the level of finesse required to create such a balance comes from professional musicians and producers who possess incredible textural understanding.
Though Drax Project started out as a covers band, their original music stood out from what they cover, and had the crowd repeating the lyrics throughout the entire night. Undoubtedly the best part was their ability to break down their songs into their constituent parts to create a build-up, and every member had an opportunity to display their ability. The audience screamed and shouted as soon as Shaan picked up his saxophone, and Drax Project knew exactly when to work the crowd, each musician performed solos at the peak of the song.
Moments when the music was devoid of lyrics were naturally when Drax Project was most free and the crowd loved to lose themselves not in the complex musical material, with a well balanced mix of danceable beats, hip hop, pop, jazz, and alternative music. This unconventional blend translates incredibly well live and Drax have curated a career of live performances from it.
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Drax have established their recorded music and they successfully translate live. That they played yet another new song in their encore shows they aren’t going away anytime soon.