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NewTracks New Artist: Sub-Tribe

NewTracks New Artist: Sub-Tribe

Three Kiwis and four Australians make up Sydney-based dub-fusionists Sub-Tribe, who got an early break playing on Salmonella Dub‘s 2017 tour in Australia. Their latest single Orbit is a true blast of much-needed sunshine with an easy-going groove and some excellent harmonies. NZ On Air Music clearly digs it, adding the song to their NewTracks compilation this March. 

What are your names, where are you from and what instruments do you each play?

  • Te Oranga Nolan – Lead vox
  • Tommy-John Herbert – Lead guitar, BVs
  • Jevon Tawhai – Keys, flute, BVs
  • David Reglar – Sax
  • William Endicott – Trumpet
  • Tom Fisher – Trombone
  • Julian Belbachir – Drums (missing in the photo)

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

The majority of us are self-taught, apart from Dave and Will who studied at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. I think there’s a good balance between knowledge and feel which has been important in developing the Sub-Tribe sound.

Any other projects that we might we know any of you from?

Our main vocalist, Te Oranga, has been around the traps for a while and has collaborated a lot both here, back home in Aotearoa, and internationally too. More recently he’s worked with Grove Roots (Lower Hutt), Mista Savona (Aus) and DJ Vadim (UK). Dave plays sax for Lime Cordiale occasionally and Will jams with Winston Surfshirt. We’re lucky to have so much talent in the crew.

What’s the background story of how Sub-Tribe came to be? 

We started as a three-piece – Ray, Tommy and Jay. It was a small electronic set up with a mash of roots music and heavier bass elements which we tried to carve out our own lane in. We got our first major show supporting Salmonella Dub on a mini tour on the east coast of Aus and that really set us on the path where we are today.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in song writing to now?

The songwriting has been a natural evolution with the addition of the horns and live drums. I guess the biggest influence on our creativity these days is playing live, so we like to write songs and parts that would sound good on big stages and sound systems. But composition-wise we like to pull elements from a lot of different genres, not just strictly roots. Our goal is to create a musical journey by making our sets more dynamic.

How and when did you come up with the name for the band?

Sub-tribe is our connection to culture and sound. We channel our ancestors through heavy and higher vibrations.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Getting to play Good Love and Jammin Festival alongside some of the reggae bands we grew up listening to was a real honour for us. Womadelaide was also a massive highlight. And releasing music is always a big one too. Our first EP really opened doors for us. We’re thankful for all the support so far.

What makes Orbit stand out as a single?

Orbit looks to capture the sweeter side of our sound. We’ve stripped back the whomping bass and gone back to our lovey dubby roots!

What is the story behind Orbit?

It’s inspired by the 1960s/’70s Studio One sound from Jamaica. Especially the vocalists such as Cornell Campbell and Sugar Minott. The lyrics look to paint a picture of two imaginary star-crossed lovers swooning for each other across the galaxy. I’m a big sci-fi fan and wanted to blend that atmosphere with roots music to give it a bit of a cosmic reggae vibe!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Probably the hook. There’s a lush melody there and the vocal harmonies really set it off.

Who did you record/produce the song with and where? 

We got to collab with some solid Māori reggae artists, Zane Graham and Travis Dearden, on this one. They recorded the drums and percussion on the track back in Aotearoa and sent the stems over.

This one started as a random demo that Jay threw behind one of our Instagram vids online. It wasn’t mixed or finished but people kept hitting us up about it, so we decided to develop it. The demo somehow got to Zane and Trav back in NZ and nek minute they’re sending us drums and percussion for it, lol. It was all very organic and ended up being one of our most collaborative songs. We’re really happy with how it turned out.

What would you like listeners to take away from the song?

We hope people will appreciate the mellow side of our music. We’re all bass-heads but there’s something truly Kiwi about a good old-fashioned reggae love song that we can all sing along too.

How do you generally work out what would make a good single?

We think most of our songs are singles, lol, but it’s usually a group intuition thing. We all seem to be able to pick up on the energy when a track has some legs and are pretty well in sync with how the tracks should be released

Is there anyone else in your team?

We handle most of the management ourselves. We use DRM for distribution and have a booking agent for our Queensland shows, but otherwise it’s all independent!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

New EP coming later this year and we’re working on a music video too. Lining up some sweet festivals around the east coast of Australia too.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside Orbit.

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks?

It’s our first time getting on NZOA. DRM hooked that up for us. We’re stoked the single gets some solid airplay throughout Aotearoa.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

  • Stoney Roads – Good for up-and-coming music and news in the electronic scene.
  • Pachyman (YouTube) – Killer dub producer and cool live videos.
  • Ableton Producer podcast – Good for Ableton production advice.
  • Tape Notes podcast – Good for hearing artists break down their popular tracks.

Any last words?

Massive blessings to all our Aotearoa support! We can’t wait to come back to the homeland and play some waiata for you all. Nga mihi from the Sub-Tribe crew.