The last time I interviewed Rome Ramirez, Sublime With Rome's namesake frontman, it was 2015. The reggae/rock group was about to drop its second studio album, "Sirens," and the band was riding high on pre-release jitters (cough, among other things, cough). This time around, the mood wasn't entirely dissimilar when we connected over the phone one recent afternoon.
"Yeah, it's been a while. A lot of things have popped off -- we've been some places since then!" he said laughing.
When Sublime With Rome (which also includes original Sublime bassist Eric Wilson and new-ish drummer Carlos Verdugo) released its debut album "Yours Truly" in 2011, they took four years to release its follow-up. When Ramirez and I talked last, he expressed disappointment that it took so long to get another record out. But he also understood that "great art takes time." In our latest conversation, the 30-year-old still adheres to that creative tenet.
"Yeah, it takes time, I'm not gonna lie to you," Ramirez told me. "We went into the studio two years ago, got in the lab, we came up with 11 ideas and we only liked one of them. Then we went back in and tried another time. It wasn't until I had a kid that we wrote 'Wicked Heart,' and everybody got really excited."
Ah yes, parenthood. Nothing tends to change perspective more.
"[Having my son] was a really big transitional period for me and gave me a lot of inspiration to figure out this whole journey. Like, it's been 10 years of just straight rock & rollin' and partying with the guys -- but now throw in a child and having a legacy of my own and figuring out that next chapter and everything. That type of responsibility alone just creates such unique art. Definitely different art. Ask anybody who's had a child -- things change remarkably."
Indeed, the guy I spoke to in 2015 was a little more wide-eyed, a bit more exuberant back then -- whose only real passion seemed to be playing music with his friends and partying around the world. While maybe that hasn't changed too much, I can tell he's slowed down just a tad. He seems a bit more measured now; more in tune with the moment.
"I've always been a student," he told me at one point. "Just when you think you've figured out how s--- works, everything changes. It's imperative to stay in student mode: talk less, listen more."
And if anything reinforces Ramirez's new sense of purpose, perhaps it's reflected most in the band's recent charity shows. Following their Dec. 13 Concert For Kids benefit (which raised funds for UCSF's Benoiff Children's Hospital and Toys For Tots) in San Francisco, the group is hosting back-to-back shows at House of Blues on Dec. 29-30 to benefit Caterina's Club and Music Hugs -- which supports immigrant children held under unlawful government separation (Ramirez told me, "It doesn't matter what race or creed, children are children, man. You gotta take care of the kids"). Apparently, the band's had a philanthropic mindset from the start.
"We've pretty much always kinda done things for the better cause," Ramirez said. "I remember when we first started, when Bud [Gaugh, Sublime's original drummer] was in the band, we were on tour and a tornado came and made a massacre of a town we were supposed to play in. We donated like $20,000 bucks and then we went and handed out waters and s--- because it just seemed like the right thing to do. We were like, 'We should do more s--- like this.'"
Sublime With Rome headline House of Blues on Dec. 29-30 for two charity benefits -- get tickets for the shows here.