If you have ever been a fan of Sublime, you know the unspoken conflict of whether or not you prefer ‘Sublime with Bradley’ versus ‘Sublime with Rome’. If you love music with no bias, then you probably love the band either way. Regardless, you must know that Rome Ramirez—lead singer of the ‘new’ version of Sublime, alongside of original Sublime bassist Eric Wilson and Josh Freese of The Vandals—is the person responsible for restoring a fresh vibe into Sublime with his upbeat demeanor and undeniable musical talents. Even though most would find the task daunting, Rome has excelled in his ability to show respect to the original lineup—while contributing in his own way to the legacy of Sublime.
We recently caught up with Rome Ramirez to discuss his background, playing on the East Coast, the Sublime name and more. Check it out below:
What first inspired you to get involved in music?
It was the only thing that was really fun for me. I didn’t mind the homework process of it, the trying-to-get-good process. As I grew older I would look at myself and I could see my progression so it was something I could see, like, “Hey, this is tight. The more I do it, the better I get.”
One of the first songs you learned to play on guitar was a Sublime song.
Yeah, “Wrong Way”. Then “Come As You Are” by Nirvana.
How does it feel to contribute in some way to the musical legacy of Sublime?
Just to even be mentioned next to the guys is pretty fuckin’ cool. I think we’re just kind of keeping it moving it forward, really trying to build higher and higher, and trying it to bring it to places we haven’t been, exploring different towns. We try to keep pushing the limits—that’s what the band has always done in my eyes, so it’s kind of important to hone in on that factor for sure.
How do you deal with the pressure that comes along with joining such a legendary band?
I don’t feel pressure anymore. This is our seventh summer, which is pretty crazy. Someone brought that to my attention the other day. It kind of blew me away. When you’re caught up in everything it really happens so fast, and then before you know it, someone is hanging up tour posters in their new house and they’re like, “Hey, I have seven to put up.” You’re like, “Wow, time flies!”
So you started playing with Eric Wilson when you were 20?
Yeah, that’s when we started to get together and started forming everything, in my 20s. I played my first show when I was 21, I’m pretty sure.
I take it that you’ve had the greatest decade of 20s out of anybody?
(Laughs) Hey, I’ve definitely enjoyed it so far. I turn 28 on Saturday. I’m going to hang out with my awesome girlfriend and just kick it.
There is a generation gap between old school fans of the original Sublime and the ones who discovered Sublime because of you.
The people that know that we play, they’ve been to shows before and they get the vibe of everything so it kind of clicks with them. They bring their friends and family. It’s kind of nuts, you’ll see three generations within one family in one show and it’s fuckin’ crazy because all three will be wearing Sublime shirts. It’s rad doing what I think the guys wanted the band to do in the first place, which is to just go places, be experienced, and be heard by people who were robbed of being able to see Bradley on stage, you know what I mean?
What pushed you and Eric to keep touring under the Sublime name?
That’s honestly something that Bud [Gaugh, the original drummer of Sublime who left the band in 2011] and Eric were very passionate about. I think part of the reason why is probably because they never really got to experience that side of the fence. Honestly, I cant really answer for them, you know, because that’s their thing, but in my personal opinion, I see it as like, they never got to go and be Sublime. Bradley passed away right before they were about to go to Europe and weeks before their self-titled album dropped, which was like the biggest record in the entire world. That sucks! It’s like missing the bus for a field trip. It’s a bummer. So my attitude was like, if that’s what you want to do, do your thing and sure, I’m down! Hell yeah, count me in bro!
You allowed Eric and Bud to carry on the torch. That’s an awesome role for you to have.
Yeah, they found something in me that made them want to get back together after how many years? It’s crazy that it took a fuckin’ Mexican kid from Oakland, but you know, that’s how it works sometimes.
The band is touring with The Dirty Heads and Tribal Seeds this summer. What kind of expectations do you have for this tour?
This is going to be such a badass tour on so many different merits. One, The Dirty Heads and us are really good friends, we’re like a family, all of us. We’re really, really close so being on the road is just going to be so much goddamn fun. Not to mention, it’s really awesome when you love a band that you tour with, on a musical note, so it’s going to be awesome to hear the guys live. They have a new record coming out, we’re in the process of doing a new record, so they’re going to be doing some new songs which I helped co-produce and write and they’re going to be coming up on songs that we have them featured on.
Tribal Seeds are a great band too; they hold down and go loose. I think it’s a good complimentary package; we bring the edge, the punk and the sweet reggae, Dirty Heads definitely have more of a progressive reggae, pop and hip-hop thing going on, and Tribal Seeds really hold down the classic reggae. If you’re going to see all things reggae, you can’t knock those guys because those guys are about it, you know. They sound authentic as fuck so I think it’s a good package for everyone. I think everybody will happy.
You’ll be playing New Jersey and New York in July. Does playing on the East Coast differ from playing on the West Coast?
Definitely, because this kind of music caters to a live experience. Our fans don’t want to see us at the Staples Center, they’d rather see us 20,000 people deep outside at a festival or amphitheatre whereas with other acts, they may prefer to watch them indoors with a big theatrical thing going on. They both serve their purpose a hundred percent, but I think with bands like The Dirty Heads, it’s a live thing that people need to experience.
Same thing with us, on paper it may sound a little weird, like, “Go check out this reggae rock group, it has a Mexican kid” and, “Check out this reggae rock group, they got two blonde guys and they’re rapping.” It’s like, what? It doesn’t connect that well especially on the East Coast but when you see it, when you experience it and you have a drink in your hands and you’re looking at everyone, you’re like, “Holy fuck, this is kind of tight.”
You have already accomplished so much. As far as the future goes, where do you see yourself going—do you want to eventually do more solo work or keep rolling with Sublime?
Currently, I really love the situation I’m in now. I love going on the road and playing with the guys. It’s a lot of fun. People think it’s crazy like, “It must be nuts to go up there and feel like you’re replacing Bradley,” but it’s not even like that. Everyone just has a good time. Seriously, summer tour is like summer camp—it really is. It’s a fuckin’ blast and I love it. I get to meet so many amazing people and I get to see the world, so I would love to continue this gift as long as I can.
In the meantime, when I’m home, I’m always working on new music whether it’s for myself or other artists. I think in the future I would just like to keep performing music and keep producing and writing music for everyone…myself included.
If you had to pick between singing, playing guitar, writing songs or smoking weed for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
If I had to pick one? Well, I’m smoking weed right now…but honestly, if I only had to choose one it would be singing. (Pauses) Ah, over guitar? Damn that’s crazy…let me really think about this for a minute. I’m really contemplating this right now. Honestly, yeah, I’m going to have to go with singing because even if something happened to my hands, whoops, there goes playing guitar…but singing? You gotta kill me to stop hear me from singing, you know?
Check out Sublime With Rome with The Dirty Heads and Tribal Seeds at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ on July 8, at Festival Pier At Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, PA on July 9, and at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY on July 10. You can find tickets by visiting their website, sublimewithrome.com.