FAULT speaks to Drax Project about opening for Ed Sheeran, busking, and going platinum

Words: Aimee Phillips
Photos: Jack Alexander

 

Hailing from New Zealand, Drax Project – comprised of Shaan Singh (main vocal, saxophone), Matt Beachen (drums), Sam Thomson (bass) and Ben O’Leary (guitar) – are ones to watch. Their fun, pop-jazz fusion music has already led to a platinum record in NZ with ‘Woke Up Late’, from their EP Noon.

FAULT sat down with the four-piece after their support gig for Camila Cabello in London to talk about their journey, writing bad (and good songs), and taking it all in.

 

Tell me about your journey – how did you get to where you are today?

Shaan: We started off busking, playing covers on drums and sax. Then we decided to add a bass player, Sam, and Ben on guitar. Then we started writing our own songs. We were doing shows but hardly any of the songs were originals.

 

Do you still have any of those first original songs in your set now?

All: No! No those are long gone!

Shaan: The development process for writing songs was very different then to what it is now.

Matt: We still know how to play it, I’m sure.

Sam: Song’s come and go.

Ben: We write a lot of bad songs! [laughs]

And some pretty good ones… ‘Woke Up Late’ went platinum in just four months.

Shaan: Since that song came out, stuff has really started taking off for us. We were able to start doing music full time.

Ben: We got some massive opening slots off that song.

 

You opened for Lorde and Ed Sheeran in New Zealand last year. That must have been amazing! How did it feel to play to such a huge audience?

Matt: Ed Sheeran was massive. Something like two or four percent of New Zealand was there. 120,000 people.

Sam: I think it was good for us because it was the first time we’d really had a full team. We spent a lot of time practicing to do as well as we could. It helped that we had three nights as well.

 

So by the third night the novelty had slightly worn off?

Shaan: The first night we couldn’t even comprehend it but by the last show, we were like, I never want to get off the stage.

Matt: We were pretty sad for a few days afterwards because it was such a big high and there was such a big lead up to it.

Sam: Social media went crazy after that. People knew the song but hadn’t really known who we were.

Ben: The Lorde gig was the first show we played after ‘Just Woke Up’ came out. As soon as we started playing, the crowd went wild.

 

How important do you think it is for emerging artists to busk?

Matt: I wouldn’t say it’s very important, but it definitely helped us in crafting ourselves as a live band before we became recording artists.

Ben: It definitely helped the way we approach playing a set. With busking, if people didn’t like what they were hearing, you wouldn’t get any money. People wouldn’t’ stop and listen.

Matt: For us, it’s all about the audience and we want people to have a great time dancing to us live.

 

What are you up to at the moment?

Matt: We’ve just released a five-track EP called Noon. We’re supporting Camila on tour [her Never Be The Same tour] around Europe. Then we’re gonna head back to LA and do some more writing.

Shaan: We’ve got some of our own shows and a festival in America. We’re not back in New Zealand until August.

Sam: We’ve been working towards this sort of thing for quite a long time and hoping that we would get to this point. It doesn’t feel like we’re unprepared.

 

The band was born out of jazz school. How much influence does your training have on your style now?

Shaan: Jazz is all-encompassing. I think all of us feel comfortable with our instruments. Even though we don’t play jazz or write jazz music right now, it gave us the comfort to know how to perform.

Sam: Wellington is known for having a really good music scene, though. There’s gigs going on all the time. You could walk down Cuba Street any night of the week and there would be four bands playing.

 

What are your FAULTs?

Shaan: I’d say our perfectionism is both our fault and our blessing.

Ben: Matt snores!

Sam: We argue over things that don’t matter like snare sounds.

Matt: Maybe that there’s four of us and we don’t know how to make a decision? [laughs]

 

 

FAULT Feature: Kiwi singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore

FAULT spoke to the equally tattooed and talented singing sensation about her road to the top of the charts in her native New Zealand, and how her hit song ‘Man Like That’ made her a Bond girl.

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FAULT: You’ve recently finished your UK tour. Which do you prefer – touring or being in the studio?

Gin: Both equally!

You started writing music from a very young age (14). How important is it to have a sense of perspective looking back at your song-writing history – as opposed to being a newcomer to the writing process?

Yes and no. I waited till I was older though, to start properly making music. I didn’t really get into professionally it until I was about 20/21 so I got that time to grow up and mull around, which was definitely a good thing.

A lot of your songs have such a personal history; what is it like to work with other people on production for those personal musings?

No, because I think when you write a song it’s very personal and you can hold onto that moment, but once it gets recorded it takes on a whole new life. The personal moment never leaves but the song goes out into the big wide world and becomes other people’s experience and helps to enrich their lives and for them to deal with their own personal issues.

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You’re a multiple number 1 hit-maker back home in New Zealand. How hard will it be to repeat the trick in Europe or the US?

It’s not a big deal for me to get number 1 again. The most important thing is being able to play shows and that people turn up to and enjoy. I’m focused on just consistently touring and making good music and if it works it works. There’s no trick or sole purpose in life to get number 1. Just play shows and have fun!

Who makes better pop music – the UK or the USA (generally and/or at the moment)?

I don’t really listen to top music these days. Back in the 60s I would say the UK. They were making great pop music – The Beatles were awesome!

Tell us about your personal style. Your wardrobe changes quite considerably between the flamboyant and the understated in your videos – which (if either) is the “real” Gin Wigmore?

I don’t walk around dressed like I am in ‘Man Like That’ walking to shops or anything. My personal style is definitely more understated. Videos are times to have fun, dress up and play around.

We love the video for ‘Man like That’. How did you come with the concept for that?

I always start thinking when I’m writing a song what I’m going to do with the music video. I thought to myself, I really want to do video where I’m dancing and being silly and stupid and not taking myself seriously. I decided to do a little Charleston kind of Black Bottom dance. It’s an old street dance taken from what cows do when they get stuck in mud. Had a little dance lesson, put on a little dress and away we went.

Speaking of “Man Like That”, it was, of course, used recently for the Heineken ad that tied in with Skyfall. How did that come about?

That was my music publisher. They pitched song to the ad agency and we were kept waiting for month to find out where I was going to get it. We drank a shitload of Heineken and hoped and prayed and finally we got the call, came out to London and shot it!

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Who are underrated at the moment, music-wise? Who is over-rated?

Underrated: Anthony and the Johnson – he’s great! Overrated – Nickleback.

What is your FAULT?

I still bite my nails.

Words by Rebecca Unger; Photography by Annick Wolfers. Special Thanks: Shoshanna Stone