We all did it. We all had that one band that we just obsessed over, right? We knew every word, sang every vocal ad lib, sounded out each guitar solo, wore their t-shirts more than our moms would've liked, plastered their stickers on our trapper keepers -- they were our thing. They got us. Now imagine you woke up one day as their new singer.
“I, literally every day, think to myself, ‘I can’t believe I get to to do this or go here, or meet this person,” Rome Ramirez, the singer/guitarist for Sublime with Rome, told me over the phone. “It’s mind-blowing to me, to know that if you look up Sublime or want to know about Sublime’s history, that I’m going to be a part of that. And for a kid who grew up listening to the band, it’s the craziest thing in the world.”
Ramirez and I spent a large part of our conversation talking about his role in the band and his part in continuing their legacy. After all, Sublime’s original frontman, Bradley Nowell, left some huge shoes to fill when he passed away in 1996. The band’s other founding members, Bud Gaugh (drums) and Eric Wilson (bass), went off to do the Long Beach Dub All-Stars (and a few other projects) after that, all with varying degrees of success. But after playing with Ramirez almost randomly at some point, Sublime with Rome was born (after some legal wrangling over the Sublime moniker).
They released their debut album, “Yours Truly,” in 2011 with its mega-hit single, “Panic,” and even though Gaugh has since departed, drummer in-demand Josh Freese (from Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle and the Vandals, among others) has joined up in his stead.
“He’s really f---ing cool, man,” Ramirez said when I asked him about having Freese as a bandmate. “He’s just a really great guy. He’s good to have in our corner -- in our band and as a friend.”
Sublime with Rome's new record, “Sirens,” drops on July 17 (one day after they kick off their national summer tour here in San Diego at Sleep Train Amphitheatre), and their frontman seemed particularly excited about it (and their new radio-friendly hit single, “Wherever I Go”) -- even if the whole thing took nearly half a decade to put together.
“Some bands are comfortable putting out the same record every f---ing time, but I’m not down with that. Good art takes time. Not every album is gonna take four years [laughs], but challenge the listeners to keep an open mind to new music. I’d like to say that ‘Sirens’ is the perfect evolution from our first record. We’re stoked on it.”
When asked if they had a particular feel in mind for their new album when they were tracking it, Ramirez said the approach was decidedly old-school.
“We were listening to a lot of Black Flag and Wasted Youth. We wanted to keep everything trashy sounding, and vintage-y, not overly produced but still really sweet with the melodies. We definitely had that sound in mind, and we did everything in our power to keep it intact all the way through. We wanted to explore down that route, jam all the songs live and keep the vibe.”
Ah yes, the ever-important "vibe." While some bands bemoan the challenges of writing, tracking records and touring the world, Sublime with Rome welcome those things and seem altogether eager to perpetuate their never-ending good vibes with open arms -- and open containers -- if their frontman has anything to say about it.
“I love being on the road,” Ramirez confessed. “It’s funner than s---! It’s like summer camp. Imagine you’re hanging with all your friends, all your good-ass people, every day on a tour bus -- which is tight by the way: It’s air-conditioned; you can smoke weed and s---; and then you go hang out with random chicks and try to get lucky. Then you go play a rock concert in front of thousands of people, talk to more chicks and get drunk! Touring is the s---!”