Up and coming New Zealand artists the Drax Project made a name for themselves busking the streets of Wellington. They have now played some of the country’s biggest music festivals including Rhythm and Alps and Rhythm and Vines. Ahead of their anticipated Homegrown performance, Massive Magazine caught up with guitarist Ben O’Leary.
The band began as buskers in Wellington, is that right?
It started with Shaan and Matt just busking in the street, Shaan used to play saxophone and they just used to busk on Saturday nights on Courtenay Place. It started off just to pay rent, but then Sam came along and they moved into playing places like El Horno and Establishment. I joined three years ago. I was in my final year of studying just as they decided they wanted to start writing their own original music and start playing some bigger gigs.
How was the band ‘discovered’?
The first gig they played was a toga party – they were approached by this dude while they were busking and he offered them the gig. The reason they called me up was because they were opening for David Dallas… just to fill the sound out a bit more and then it was a snowball effect pretty much.
What has been a highlight of the journey so far?
For me, my favourite gig we played would definitely be Rhythm and Alps, it was the first time that we had flown to a gig and it was awesome. We had played Rhythm and Vines the night before, so we weren’t nervous or anxious.
I heard some you guys studied at Massey in Wellington, is that true?
The three others were studying at jazz school when it was at the campus.
Is this your first year playing at Homegrown?
This is our first year playing in the festival, we played two years ago at the local stage, but this is the first year we are in the actual festival, we are real excited about it.
What’s next for you guys?
We have a few shows we are in the middle of sorting out, but the main thing we are doing is focusing on getting more music out there. We are working on another single at the moment… and we are looking at doing some colabs with other people as well.
Where did the name Drax Project come from?
It’s pretty much just from when it started out – drums and sax – Drax. That’s it, there are no big secrets.
Do you have any advice for young, aspiring artists?
Just go hard really… we are still in the process of trying to make it 100 per cent full time which is real cool, but yea. Just go hard, play as many gigs as you can and I guess have no pre-conceived idea about what something is going to be like. We are open to any gig we get given because the guys started playing on the streets.
Are there any New Zealand artists that inspire you?
The real obvious one for us is this guy Devin Abrams who releases music under Pacific Heights, he actually produced our most recent EP. He’s had a massive influence in our sound and we all rate his musicality. We are all real into Kimbra. And then we support the local guys like Thomas Oliver and Louis Baker as well.
Finally, what’s your favourite spot in Wellington?
It used to be the rope swing on Mount Vic, I don’t think it’s there anymore because a few people fell off and really hurt themselves. It was pretty sick it had a mean view of the city and it was a great place to chill out.