Transformers' Bumblebee star Hailee Steinfield wanted to feature on their song, Ed Sheeran offers them life advice, and the likes of Lorde, Camila Cabello and Ed himself chose them to open at their gigs.

But it is not all Bel Air mansions and Bollinger in the green room for Kiwi band Drax Project, who despite mixing with pop royalty, haven't forgotten their roots busking on the streets of Wellington.

Although there are "pinch-me moments", bass player Sam Thomson tells NZME, at heart they are just "four mates" who simply like music and "hanging out together and doing silly things".

Both are on the cards for the band when they hit Rotorua next week for ZM's Float music festival at Lake Tikitapu, Rotorua's Blue Lake, on Saturday, February 16.


The bomb tower, the luge, and some hot pool action are "a given" for the band, which also includes Shaan Singh on vocals and saxophone, Matt Beachen on drums, and Ben O'Leary on guitar.

Thomson says the boys are keen to get among the water action with the fans at New Zealand's only floating music festival.

"If someone in Rotorua has a boat to tow us behind, we wouldn't say no.

"We will try to smash each other on the luge. The bomb tower is a given, I couldn't go to a place like that and not jump in."

ZM's Float is the New Zealand's only floating water festival. Photo / Stephen Parker
ZM's Float is the New Zealand's only floating water festival. Photo / Stephen Parker

Drax Project has similarly dived into the international music scene, soaring from humble beginnings as buskers, to household names with bangers like Toto and Woke Up Late which was recently re-released featuring vocals from Steinfield, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer behind the songs Most Girls and Love Myself and star of Transformers prequel Bumblebee.

Last year Drax Project won Breakthrough Artist of the Year and single of the year for Woke Up Late at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. As well as opening for Ed Sheeran and Lorde and touring with Cabello, they are opening for Six60's Western Springs concert
on February 23. Later in the year the boys head to the UK for a music festival in Brighton.

"We are also going to be writing and working on getting new music out for you guys."

Thomson says it's sometimes hard to believe the pace at which things have happened.


They jump in at every opportunity as though they were entering the bomb comp itself.

"There are times when we think, what is going on, how did it happen? There are definitely those moments. These are some of the coolest people in pop music and it's amazing to have the opportunity to work alongside them and learn from them."

When Ed Sheeran took time to sit down with them to share his own experiences, Thomson said Sheerhan told the Kiwi boys it was important to surround yourself with people you can trust, and also like.

"He has done that really well and it's important to us too. Ed is a really lovely guy, he gave us his time to talk to us about music business, and general life stuff."

"The life stuff" that they talked to Sheeran about is as key for the band as the music.

Before they became household names, Singh, Beachen and Thomson flatted together in Wellington when they were jazz school students. When fellow musician O'Leary moved in, the foursome started jamming and writing music together.

"Wellington is quite small as far as the music community goes."

They put the drum and sax together to form Drax in 2014, started to play the music festival circuit and became a new sensation with Woke Up Late first released in 2017 and Toto released last year.

Thomson said the boys want to continue to collaborate with other artists. "There are so many people we listen to and love their music. Everyone from rappers like Chance the Rapper, to pop stars like Camilla and Dua Lipa. We're really excited to work with anyone if the opportunity comes."

But for now the boys are packing sunscreen and shades ready for the lake of lilos, unicorns and flamingos as more than 5000 gather in Rotorua for a fantastic day on the water.

As well as Drax Project the homegrown Float line-up includes special guest Stan Walker, as well as Mitch James, Jupiter Project, Sachi, Balu Brigada, Jess B and Theia.

What: Float 2019 — with Drax Project, Mitch James, Jupiter Project, Sachi, Balu Brigada and Stan Walker.

Where: Lake Tikitapu, Rotorua's Blue Lake.

When: Saturday, February 16.
More info: Tickets are
$65 and available from

Float is alcohol-free and open to all ages. It goes hand in hand with the New Zealand Bomb Comp, brought to the public by Flava and Tip Top Trumpet. The competition runs from February 14-17.

The bomb tower will be open for casual jumps the afternoons of February 14, 15 and 17 before New Zealand Bomb Competition on Sunday afternoon. The casual section is $5 for five tries.

Registrations are open for the New Zealand Bomb Competition, with entries from $15. Competition entry also gives access to practice jumps on all other days. Visit for all the details.