He’s a producer and collaborator who has written for a number of big names including Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, All Saints and Twin Atlantic. He also wrote and produced for breakthrough artist, Låpsley, with her 2016 BBC Sound Poll shortlisted hit single, “Falling Short”.
Prior to this saw, at the end of 2010, Draper releasing his first digital EP, The Introduction, which proved a hit and brought him to the attention of Bring Me The Horizon frontman, Oliver Sykes, who wanted to collaborate. Following a successful live performance with the band at Brixton Academy, Draper began to write sections for their live sets.
Then in 2012, James just out of university, Rita Ora came knocking. This was at Capitol Radio Summer Ball and they performed to a sold out Wembley Stadium. Skip to early 2016 and Draper wanted to strike out more on his own. “Break Over You”, a collaboration with Prides, was met with both critical and commercial acclaim, the track reaching over 1.5 million listens on Spotify.
What’s more, Chimes recently offered a remix of track, “Jealous”, Tuesday past (January 10). So he’s went from writing tracks for others, to having others adapt his own work. This surely the time, the opportunity, to take centre stage instead of being a background figure for others?
Luminous is derived from the releases of “Want You More” first, “Jealous” second; and “I.O.U”, also out today (January 13). Funnily enough, these happen to be the chronological order of the first three tracks on the EP. Hitting the listeners hard in the first half of its six track duration, indeed.
Cameos on the project feature on almost every track, and what follows is the chronological order in which they appear.
There’s former Black Butter Records artist and Pharrell touted singer, Sam Sure. Then hotly tipped singer, BB Diamond, who’s collaborated with the likes of Katy B, Ella Henderson and Jess Glynne. It features the distinctive tones of KYKO, the musical project of Scott Verrill, too. The second half weighs in with Milck and Bring Me The Horizon’s Sykes.
Draper begins by saying I “Want You More”. Featuring Sam Sure, it’s deep, bassy and made for the clubs. It’s big, bold and climatic. The drum pounds moody, as forlorn melody, albeit brash, plays in conjunction. A middle section strips things back, “I’m wasting all my time/Trying to know your mind”, perfectly conveys despondency. After that, the song resuming normal service, things seem elated and triumphant.
The next is big hitting and “Jealous”, featuring BB Diamond. It opens with piano that rings with a certain clarity. Like the dawning of realisation slowly turning to revelation. Rock guitar, simple in construction, combines well with emphatic, simple drum.
“What am I supposed to do?/You treat me like a fool” is almost spat with self-assured sass, sick of being pushed from pillar to post. A late middle section strips things back, slowly rebuilding before another pounding chorus.
They then declare “I.O.U”, featuring KYKO, which’s slow and moody. Harsh, industrial drum sounds like metal on metal. This then gives way to quite softly spoken male vocal, this, in turn, is emboldened with thick slabs of wavy melody. “Chasing all the days that will pass by/Leading me astray into bloodlines” very ponderous and that of the pontificator. “Running around in your mind, it’s alright” is impassioned, like, a repetition of theme, here, letting people just get on with their daily mistakes.
Following that, something inspires a “Reaction”. Featuring Milck, it’s a slow burner, moody and locked in with a drum beat an exercise in simplicity.
“Forgive me for invading/But the fastest way to heaven’s straight through hell/We need to face our demons/We can’t always try to numb the pain/Getting sick from novocaine” really tells a story of hurt and redemption. A middle section is almost paradoxically calm with trumping, rounded bass before resuming the song proper, again. Licks of wild lead guitar indicate triumph and victory, perfectly emotive.
The listener and artist are, arguably, becoming intertwined, their “Heartbeat Close”. It’s like a Nineties house music throwback, particularly to begin with. Low bass, not inconceivably bottomless, rings cool and deep. Certainly has feel good vibes throughout, though the middle section does pause for thought. It strips back to those chords, simple in their construction, before fading out.
Luminous has a curtain call imploring “Who Are You”, which features the aforementioned Sykes. The sound to this one’s massive, big to the point of distortion. “Who are you?/Give me a sign/And who are you?/Lets drink ‘til the light” certainly celebratory in essence.
Come the midpoint, the soundscape is serene, totally at odds with all that precedes it. The triumph of the normal service resuming backdrop is all the more when contrasting with the track’s mellower, quieter moments.
Standout tracks are “Want You More” and “Reaction”. This means, structurally, the project kicks off well and is nothing to be sniffed at during its middle and end. The other tracks have their own credibility in the music stakes, but not on the level of the two aforementioned. Like excellent tracks amidst, primarily, very good ones.
Opener, “Want You More”, was the EP’s first release, and it’s easy to figure out why. Deep, bassy and made for the clubs, it has that mass appeal. “I’m wasting all my time/Trying to know your mind”, perfectly conveys despondency, the heady mix of infatuation mixed with the toxicity of all consuming hunger for intimacy.
Then there’s “Reaction”. “Forgive me for invading/But the fastest way to heaven’s straight through hell/We need to face our demons/We can’t always try to numb the pain/Getting sick from novocaine” are are lines so eloquent in conveying pain. Licks of wild lead guitar then indicate triumph and victory, perfectly emotive. A solo no guitarist would snub in the melodic stakes.
Almost making the grade is “Jealous”, which was the EP’s second release. The ring of the piano like the dawning of realisation slowly turning to revelation. The line of, “What am I supposed to do?/You treat me like a fool” simple in the lyrical stakes, yet almost spat with self-assured sass, sick of being pushed from pillar to post.
Draper, with this collection of songs, offers something definitely in with the times. However, there’s a certain nuance to how he does his thing that puts him shoulders above most. Even the inclusion of the occasional guitar helps his case in that respect. It’s encouraging that a non-single would be this reviewer’s highlight. Draper’s Luminous EP can be purchased, here.
Words by Andrew Watson