Exclusive Interview with Tribal Theory’s Nico Tuilesu

Since 2005, Nico Tuilesu and Tribal Theory have been defining and redefining themselves within the Reggae genre.  While proudly representing themselves as well representing the forces that shaped them throughout their lives, they have never strayed from making music which they felt to be legitimate to their beliefs. Recently, we were able to speak with Nico, the band’s Lead Singer and Founding Member, and learn a little about his influences, his defining moments, and why he and the rest of the band are excited to play in the upcoming Monterey music festival, California Roots.




This Is Your First Time Playing Cali Roots, Correct?  What are You Looking Forward To The Most About This Festival?

“This is one of the bigger festivals that we’ve wanted to play for a really long time, since Cali Roots has actually started, so being able to play it now this year… It’s Huge!”

What Has Always Drawn You to Monterey?

The Bay Area has always had a lot of love for us, almost every time we got there it’s always a really good turnout, and having it (Cali Roots) be in Monterey is actually cooler because we have more people that can probably show up to this and see us that live in that area.”

You’ve Already Performed with a Few Different Acts on the CaliRoots Bill, What Do You Think Everyone Can Expect From the Festival as a Whole?

We’ve played with, I want to say three fourths of the people playing, so, one: it’s going to be cool to see all those guys again and (it’s) kinda like a mini reunion for us.  (We’re) looking forward to Cali Roots because there’s always been so much hype and good things that come out of there.  Good music, good people, the good vibes, and it’s just more of an honor to be there with all those great people, all those great fans, and the bands, and just be able to experience what it is.

You Clearly Love to Pay Homage to your Heritage, You Love to Show Respect to Where You All Came from, the Name Tribal Theory Speaks Volumes to That.  How Has Your Culture Influenced Your Music?

“Culture-wise, this has always been a big thing for us.  When the band first started back in 2005, all of us were really into Polynesian dance, the original members were all really into Polynesian dance, and it kind of grew from just jamming what we know as far as the music we enjoy, which was reggae at the time, and incorporating everything else.  Being able to put the theory, I guess, behind our tribal.  What we feel and what we are growing from musically, and putting that into our roots, and helping that kinda grow together, push it toward, not so much (like) we’re going for Roots-Reggae, or Cali-Reggae, or all that but this is something that is more island influenced on our end, so we appreciate what we get from them and everything else that comes with it.

So Clearly You’ve Been in the Music Game a Long Time.  I’m Sure You’ve Really Seen Music as a Whole Change and Evolve, Reggae Specifically, From a First Hand Perspective.  What Have You Seen Change the Most and Which Musicians Who Started Their Career After You Started Tribal Theory Have Inspired You Along the Way?

“We’ve seen a lot of groups, and we’ve been able to perform with a lot of them, which is great, and being able to see people like J Boog.  He’s grown.  He’s grown so much since he started.  It used to be kind of like the same thing, there was the island thing that he hit, and it kinda stopped for a while, but once he took that, and he knew he could grow from it, but once he went toward the Jamaican side of Reggae and kinda broadened his talent, that’s when it really showed up for him, so we kinda took that as “Dude, we should think about this.  We should really open up what we know.  We are talented in ourselves, so why not make it a bigger thing, and expand what we got?” Common Kings is another great group.  I’m really proud of the Island (musicians).  The Polynesian and the island groups that are coming out and kind of making their way, because it’s not huge to see island people doing what (they’re doing with) what music is out right now, and to have that now… (makes us think) yes, it’s possible to do this.”

Are There Any Artists Outside of Reggae That You Have Drawn Inspiration From?

“Definitely!  A lot of the pop stuff of course, like Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake were really big.  That’s the greatest thing about this.  Tribal theory is way into everything outside Reggae, and that includes Rock, we’re really big into old school Rock, 80’s Rock, all the to R&BBluegrass, we just got into Bluegrass, which is kinda weird, but, eh.  Specific artists, I can’t be too specific because we literally like to pull from everybody.  I listen to country music daily.  I don’t know if that’s weird.

Who Were You Listening to Before I Called You?

Brad Paisley

I’ve Been Listening to Your New Single “Part Time Lovers”, What Was The Process of Making That Song?

“It was amazing.  Our producer, Jesse Barrera, he’s a San Diego Native… He’s helped us produce our latest album, Reclamation, and that lead into the single Part Time Lovers.  We wanted to put out something new, we wanted something that wouldn’t really follow “the Reggae thing”, but had the vibe, all the undertones, and everything, but the process was basically, what every girl kinda wants is that guy, and every guy kinda wants that girl, that you’re not really committed to, but you’re “kinda” committed to.  It’s (also) about life.  It doesn’t have to be girl-guy kind of things, it’s more like vices.  If your vice is going out and surfing, and right after that you want to go and make music, you have those two outlets, and we put it in a perspective (of) a guy going for two girls, but it doesn’t just mean “A guy trying to hook up with randoms.”

Name One of Your Songs, and One Other Artist That You Would Like to Hear Cover That Song

“I would actually really like Part Time Lovers to be recorded in a country version.  Probably by Brad (Paisley).”

“He’s got that swag.” He added on.

You Have All Been Around This Industry for a while now, what what is some advice you would give to younger artists who look up to you?

“Never quit.  Never, ever, quit… You might be quitting five minutes before the dream is happening.  There is literally the time when you say “I quit”, and (then) you’re going to get a phone call maybe three minutes later (and they’ll say) “Hey, we got this big gig, time for you to go.” And you’re like “I already quit.” My thing is don’t quit.  You can’t.

What’s Next for Tribal Theory?

“Besides Cali Roots, we’re playing Island Reggae Festival as well.  We’re getting ready to record a full length album, and I am really really stoked to be doing that (and to be) Jesse Barrera again.  We want to do the full length (album) because it’s been a while since we put out one…  I want to go outside of what we’ve been doing, and make bigger and better music that we know we can do.

What is One Question Nobody Ever Asks You That You’ve Always Wanted to Talk About?

“The ‘why’, why everybody started…  When I first started playing music, I was really into everything, Rock, I got a little bit into Bob Marley, Reggae and that kind of stuff, so I just wanted to learn a couple songs, and then I started playing guitar, picked up drums toward the beginning of High School, and started playing at my church and saw how stoked my mom would get when I would play.  When the band started kinda getting into play, and playing more shows, and getting a little bit more popular, she was more and more amped that I was so well in actually following the dream, which trickled down into my sister, she loves the music, both of my sisters do, it’s something that they really believed in… I just wanted to play music and have some fun, but they’re like “you should do this.  This is big for you.  Don’t quit.” They basically told me, and that’s why I don’t quit”

“You’re going to find more reasons to quit than to keep going, I would think, when times get hard.  You probably get down on yourself at the worst of times when you know it’s not going the best, but right on the other side of that, right on the other side of fear, and the things that you hate, (are) great things.  You realize once you hit that great marker that you really had no reason to be scared in the beginning.”

Give us one last quote you want to leave your Bay Area fans with.

“Don’t quit, follow the dream, and know that Tribal Theory loves you from the bottom of our hearts.”



Tribal Theory is playing at CaliRoots at 1:45 on the OG Stage on Saturday the 27th


Tickets are still available.  You can purchase one day passes for Saturday’s performance by Clicking Here.  They will be starting their set at 1:45 on the OG Stage, and we hope you are looking forward to their performance as much as we are.