As Drax Project get ready to take the stage ahead of their one-off show in Auckland on Saturday 17 December at REC, Concrete Playground caught up with Ben O'Leary, the band's guitarist and contributing vocalist.
He gave us some insight to the story behind the band, their goals, sound and why we should head along to their upcoming gig — together making nine things you probably didn't know about Drax Project.
'Drax' evolved from drums and saxophone.
"The band started out with just Matt and Shaan busking — Matt plays drums and Shaan who's the singer was playing saxophone, that's where 'Drax' came from — drums and sax."
Ben was the latest addition to the band, when the other members decided they wanted to work on some original music.
"For about a year they were going just Matt, Sam and Shaan and then once they decided that they wanted to get some original stuff going, then they asked me to join. I knew them just from being around Wellington and I had a jam with Sam once before so they asked me if I wanted to come and have a jam and see what it was like. It worked out so I was the latest edition, so I missed out on all busking which a bit lame but all good."
Their sound combines pop, hip-hop and jazz influences.
"If I had to narrow it down to a genre I would definitely say it was pop, hip-hop influenced pop I suppose. We've all got super different music taste, Matt for example is super into hip-hop and Shaan is quite into Jazz. All the other guys went to jazz school so there's definitely elements of jazz that kind of influences a lot of what we do."
Each band member's individual taste adds towards the overall sound.
"How we've kind of started working on tracks now, one person works on it by themselves for a while and then brings it to the rest of us and shares what they've got. Everyone is always really happy with the end product but it can take a while for us to get there, because each person has their own style, it's heavily influenced by everyone's different taste in music and where they think the direction of the sound should go."
Anderson .Paak is one of the artists the group are inspired by.
"I'm into heaps of guitarists but in terms of Drax we're inspired heaps by a lot of electronic stuff, lots of Flume, Taylor McFerrin, we're all real into Anderson Paak at the moment, so quite a lot of hip hop like Kendrick and all that. Also there's this one guy who Shaan will often reference his sound to Tigran Hamasyan, he's this Armenian jazz pianist but it's super heavy, it's kind of like metal jazz piano which is real relevant in our live shows we always reference that kind of stuff."
Ben said the power of performing is what drives him to pursue his passion.
"For me personally I just love playing gigs. From when I was 14 when I first decided that I really wanted to be in a band, especially playing gigs with Drax, it's the most fun that I have. That's what motivates me, like when we're writing a song I always say 'Damn, I can't wait to play this live, it's going to be sick'. I think everyone in the group is kind of similar to that."
Ben was gutted by the recent death of Leonard Cohen.
"I am a big fan of Leonard Cohen. I had his book for a while, with all these little poems that he has. It has a heap of his poems. He's a genuis, we studied one of his songs when I was studying music so I was pretty gutted when he went."
The band are working to make music a full-time career.
"I think we all just want to be able to do it for a living. If we could pay the rent with music, that would be so sick. We all want to go travelling, we'd love to go play music overseas and just make music that people are into."
They have an edge that makes their upcoming gig a must-see.
"Our live shows are always pretty high intensity and are definitely something that you can dance and have a good time to. I think between our originals and covers there's something that most people could appreciate and find entertaining."