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Drax Project ‘pumped’ for big gig

Masterton is set to be humming with the harmonies of New Zealand-grown musical talents as the iconic Summer Hummer music festival – this year sponsored by Trust House – returns to Queen Elizabeth Park tomorrow with pop and RnB sensation Drax Project headlining.

Since the lead act was announced in late December, the region has been buzzing with excitement about the music event – which started in 1997 – bringing big names back to Wairarapa.

Prominent New Zealand acts like The Feelers, Dave Dobbyn, Scribe, and The Mutton Birds all graced the stage in Masterton over the first 13 years Summer Hummer ran.

This year’s headliners, Drax Project, shot to fame in 2017 with their hit single ‘Woke Up Late’, and have since opened for Ed Sheeran, Lorde, Six60, and Christina Aguilera, along with recording and releasing collaborative hits.

Summer Hummer will mark the end of the band’s sellout summer tour across New Zealand and the beginning of their upcoming world tour.

To acknowledge the band’s imminent arrival in Masterton, the Times-Age spoke with Drax Project’s Matt Beachen about Summer Hummer, the band, and in the local music scene.

Other than a brief gig as a trio of teenagers at Toast Martinborough in 2013, Beachen said Drax Project hasn’t performed in Wairarapa and that it is about time they changed that.

To his knowledge, none of the four band members have attended Summer Hummer before, but the enthusiasm of their friends about the news that they’ll be performing at the festival has been overwhelmingly positive and filled with nostalgic reminiscing about seeing Scribe or The Feelers there.

“I feel like it’s well overdue that we’ve played Wairarapa,” said Beachen, who noted the boys are “pumped” to be coming over the Hill from their Wellington base.

The concert in Masterton will be the “start of the big snowball” that is an overseas tour that starts in Australia later this month, with Europe following in July.

“Let’s just say Summer Hummer is the start of the world tour,” Beachen joked.

Supporting acts for Summer Hummer will include local and college bands, and Beachen said he’s stoked to be performing with the next generation of musicians.

“It was only 10 years ago that we were kids as well, busking on Courtenay Place with no real plans,” he said.

“I think having an opportunity for college age kids to play on a stage, be part of a line-up with other Kiwi acts – I think that’s pretty cool.”

Beachen said Drax Project has been on the “slow grind”, and the group made the decision early on that they weren’t aiming to conquer New Zealand musically.

“It’s more ‘let’s make the best possible music we can, let’s play as many shows as we can, let’s individually work on our own craft and see what happens’,” he said.

As well as having toured overseas as a support act, the group lived in Los Angeles for nine months – Beachen said they’d often be walking the streets of Beverly Hills barefoot tossing a rugby ball between them, with passing motorists questioning what was going on.

But the band has always been happy to return to New Zealand, thanks to how the public celebrates their successes with them, he said.

When asked about the main difference between the crowds in New Zealand and those overseas, Beachen noted there is probably a bit of “bias toward this part of the world”.

“People seem to be up for it more, people dance more, they yell the lyrics more, they climb up on shoulders more,” he said.

“It’s a special thing, having people sing your music back to you.”

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