Drax Project Talk 'Surreal' Success of Their Hailee Steinfeld-Assisted Breakout Single 'Woke Up Late'

Jory Lee Cordy
DRAX

New Zealand quartet also discuss upcoming debut album & casting Liza Koshy in the "Woke Up Late" video: "She was very high on the dream list of actresses to take the role."

Aspiring musicians dream about the day they'll first hear their song on the radio -- and that moment must be especially sweet when it comes along during a grueling day of work.

That's what happened to Drax Project, the New Zealand quartet -- Sam Thomson (bass), Shaan Singh (vocals and saxophone), Matt Beachen (drums) and Ben O'Leary (guitar) -- behind the breakout hit "Woke Up Late," featuring Hailee Steinfeld, which has cracked the top 30 of Billboard's Pop Songs airplay chart.

"Ben and I were painting houses, that was our job, and when 'Woke Up Late' was released end of 2017, we’re still painting," Matt tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen to the band's full interview below). "While you're painting, you have to listen to the radio because there’s nothing else to do. So we’re painting away, and 'Woke Up Late' would come on the radio three or four times a day as we were painting. … We painted, like, twice as fast for the rest of the day."

While the song struck a chord in the band's native New Zealand two years ago, it took off here in the U.S. thanks in part to the addition of pop star/actress Steinfeld, who was introduced to the band via their opening slot for Camila Cabello.

"We got approached by our manager and asked if we wanted Hailee on the track," Shaan recalls. "She heard it and wanted to be on it, and it was as simple as that. She sent us the vocals like a week or two after that, maybe even sooner. It was really fast."

"It was quite weird hearing her voice," Matt says of the updated version. "Like, we obviously had been listening to that song for about a year before Hailee was on it. We knew it back to front, we knew exactly how it sounded, and then having someone else's voice singing the bridge part instead of Shaan’s was absolutely crazy."

The song has a whole new life thanks to a recently released music video starring social superstar Liza Koshy. "She was very high on the dream list of actresses to take the role, and she liked the song, which was really important," Matt says of the casting. "This is her first music video that she’s ever done. And she was keen to do it."

Koshy's nearly 17 million subscribers on YouTube and combined 20 million-plus followers between Instagram and Twitter didn't hurt either. "She didn’t just do her job; she was posting about it literally every single day on her social media," Shaan says of her continued support of the cute clip (below). "She turned out to our show. We can't thank her enough. She helped us so much."

All of this love for "Woke Up Late" is a bit overwhelming for the rookie band. "It’s quite surreal, really," Ben says, with Sam adding, "Getting invited to do stuff in different places, see different places around the country, meet different people through basically, like, one song at the moment -- we’ve got more coming, don’t worry, but at the moment, basically one song -- it’s pretty amazing."

Drax Project are currently in LA and "very close" to finishing their debut album. For early fans who have already seen them live, some of the tunes might sound familiar. "A couple of the songs on the album are songs that we've been playing for, like, over a year now, playing them live, and people have started to get aggressive with telling us to release them," Matt laughs. "So finally they’ll be coming out. It's gonna be half relief, half excitement. Mostly excitement."

Listen to the full interview above to hear how they got signed to Universal, what goes into their songwriting process, how they all came together as a band and much more.

Also on the show, Keith & Katie talk about more musicians from New Zealand who have hit the Billboard charts, including Lorde, Crowded House and "How Bizarre" hitmakers OMC.

The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)