Without a doubt it hasn’t been only us who’s been waiting all this time for Drax Project’s debut album to drop. After a whirlwind 18 months from the streets to the studio, the boys hotly anticipated self-titled debut demonstrates their ability to thrill audiences on a global scale by capturing their live energy and inventive new sound in ways that are currently lacking in the mainstream realm.
In just a few short years, Drax Project have gone from busking on the streets of Wellington, to headlining sold out shows in London and New York, gracing the lineup at the iHeart Music Festival in Las Vegas, playing Rolling Stone Magazine’s Coachella pool party and opening for some of the biggest names in music, from Camila Cabello, Christina Aguilera and Ed Sheeran, to our very own Lorde and SIX60. Proving that hard yakka and effortless talent can go a long way, Drax Project (a clever fusion of drum 🥁 and sax 🎷) have quickly become a household name, and just want their music to reach anybody and everybody wanting to have a bloody good time.
And if you attended one of their recent New Zealand shows, you certainly would have. As well as getting to exclusively hear the entire album’s tracklist live. The boys love to play unreleased material in a live setting, to gauge the potential of a song based on how hype the crowd is. The mammoth vibrations of Auckland’s Town Hall floor being pummeled by thousands of fans was a clear indication that each and every new song they played deserved a final spot on the album.
The self titled project is an addictive blend of jazz, R&B and pop, taking you on a journey in all aspects of a relationship. From that initial lust, finding that perfect somebody, coping with long distance, to painful heartbreak you can’t quite get out of your head. Opening up with breakthrough track ‘Woke Up Late’, the song that first shot them to superstardom, sets the tone and level of caliber for all 11 tracks. The song is about wrapping your head around the adventure of the night before and wanting to relive it all over again ⏰. After actress and pop songstress Hailee Steinfeld heard the track she immediately jumped on the remix. And if that wasn’t a big enough deal, YouTube sensation Liza Koshy starred as the leading lady in the video. ‘Woke Up Late’ has since re-charted over a year after it was originally released and is now sitting pretty on over 60 million Spotify streams and 16 million views on YouTube.
Justin Timberlake’s stylistic influence shines through in the band’s pop sensibilities, with lead singer Shaan using both his low range and mesmerising falsetto to create standout moments. ‘Prefer’ jumps straight into their Kiwi roots, detailing a go with the flow attitude paired with a laid back acoustic vibe with an R&B twist. Written just two weeks prior to their New Zealand shows, ‘Smart Love’ is about learning from past relationships and going into a new one with a more mature approach, “we ain’t gonna mess it up / because we learned from the ones that we f**ked up” where as the gritty synth-heavy ‘Relax’ immediately contradicts this by letting hasty insecurities creep in for no reason. ‘Natural Selection’ and ‘Only Us’ are full of lust, both showcasing soulful melodies and hypnotic production.
Having played ‘Brain’ for the very first time during their run of New Zealand shows, it was apparent that this could quickly become a fan fave 🧠. Continuing to utilise each band members talents to full capacity, the guitar-lead track describes the type of heartache that continues to linger, “I’m scrolling your wall / I’m losing my mind / what if I called just to say hi?” The skeleton of the track was also fleshed out from beatboxing alone, proving that the bands talents don’t just lie with live performance but also with honing their craft through songwriting. ‘Holiday’ embodies their humble beginning and is the first and only subtle reference to their newfound fame. It deals with the conflicting emotions of life on the road and missing someone whilst chasing your dreams, “happy birthday from my hotel room.”
‘Toto’ is the classic “I’m still trying to figure it out track”, you know, that place you hit in your mid-20s where it feels like everybody on your Facebook timeline is getting engaged or buying a house and your biggest life decision is choosing what to order from UberEats 🤷♂️. But if Drax Project say “it’s gonna be alright” then the only thing to do would be to take their word for it. ‘All This Time’ is the next song on the tracklist and there’s a reason why this song is the most shazamed song in New Zealand right now. With it’s high energy and infectious chorus, it’s a head-banging guaranteed floor filler. Lead singer Shaan’s show-stealing saxophone solo brings the studio version to life, leaving you wanting to head to Ticketmaster ASAP to buy a ticket to their next show.
Closing out the record is latest single ‘Catching Feelings’ 🎣⚡, full of transcending harmonies with protective older brothers SIX60 . The song was penned a few years go in Marlon’s bedroom after Draxy were invited to a chill writing session with the band after they first opened for them back in 2017. The original plan was for it to be released as the lead instead of ‘Woke Up Late’, but as cliche as it sounds on a fridge magnet, everything happens for a reason, and saving it for the closing track on the album has been a true full circle moment.
This music was made to be played in a live setting and the boys celebrated the momentous occasion by hosting not one but two album release shows in their hometown of Wellington. Drax Project’s ultimate goal is to get people to dance and make them feel good in that moment. And although life can be unpredictable, according to Ben, Matt, Shaan and Sam, the best part is the ride. And Drax Project make it look like a hell of a lot of fun. 🤙