Sublime is an epic element of the 1990s archives. The treasured ska songs live on via backyard playlists, convenience stores, and anywhere you can stop to reminisce about “What I Got.”
[Insert your favorite memory sound tracked by a Sublime song here.]
The band’s story is bittersweet personified, as founding lead singer Bradley Nowell died tragically from a heroin overdose in 1996, shortly before the release of Sublime’s self-titled major label debut. The turn of events was layered in sadness—a young creative artist left the world before the ink on his figurative mark was dry, and drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson ultimately didn’t have the chance to fully enjoy their success with their comrade.
A legacy was reinvigorated when admitted fan, singer Rome Ramirez, began playing with Sublime in 1999. The present lineup—drummer Josh Freese, guitarist Rome Ramirez, and original Sublime bassist Eric Wilson, under the moniker “Sublime With Rome”—are marking their sophomore release titled Sirens, the follow up to their 2011 debut, Yours Truly.
Ramirez carries a figurative torch in keeping the music alive on tour, and beautifully builds on the band’s legacy by leading a new movement of uniquely delightful music.
The new record is a delightful deviation from traditional Sublime, though the content demonstrates a fun foray into enhanced production with an interesting flair.
The title track “Sirens” features The Dirty Heads, an excellent addition to a triumphant track that carefully conjures up a musical onomatopoeia, as the added sample of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right” ensues a soft siren like sound. Similarly, the album’s first single, “Wherever You Go,” is a carefully crafted ditty comprised of authentic instrumental sounds of ska paired with enhanced production methods.
Co-produced by Paul Leary and Rome, the record was released in tandem with the band’s biggest North American tour, which kicked off July 16 in Chula Vista, California.
Immersed in the craze, Ramirez took a moment to chat about the album, his favorite part of touring, and revel in the feeling of being part of a group he has so long admired. The interview follows:
Congrats on the release of Sirens! The musical content is a great exhibition of how the band’s sound is evolving. Describe your experimentation with sound on the record.
We definitely wanted to elevate the sound and go somewhere we’ve never been before. That’s a huge reason why Sublime’s been such an iconic band. They were always able to come up with something new and refreshing by incorporating so many different sounds.
I think that with this record, it took a little time, but subconsciously we had gathered up so much music and cool ideas that when it came down to doing the record, we didn’t necessarily think we had to follow up [our debut] Yours Truly or write something as iconic as [Sublime’s 1992 debut] 40oz. To Freedom. It was more like, “We just need to write some music, man!” We were itching. It was like a mosquito bite that needed to be scratched. With that, the art comes a genuine place. With Sirens we really feel like this is a culmination of Eric’s, Josh’s, and my interests and love of music right now. It definitely shows in the entire record, I think.
What kind of composition flow did the group follow?
I’d come to the studio and I’d have a couple of songs and ideas down and by the time it’s been through “the machine” of [being worked on by] all the guys, the outcome always is a different product than what’s in my head, but it’s almost always better. It’s definitely very commutative. Everybody was really hands-on. There were parts where Josh was putting guitars down or Eric would do something on drums. We were really trying to pull the inspiration out of all of us individually.
From where do you draw inspiration for songwriting?
I read a lot. I like to apply everything I learn—through experience, or literature—to what I create. Simple songs are my favorite songs. They don’t have to be very intricate; they just have to strike up feelings, and I think a lot of that comes from the way I was brought up. My folks are very understanding and cool and let me do whatever I wanted to do as far as music and creativity. And I try to live a really simple lifestyle. That reflects in my art as well. I don’t like things to be so complicated and intricate. I think life’s complicated enough. So I try to make it easy.
What is your favorite part of touring?
Above everything when it comes to touring, there’s a lot that goes into it. Not so much for us—we’re just the guys who get to have fun every night—but there’s a lot of work that our crew has to do to make sure the ball rolls. What we have, crew included, is that hour and a half set every single time. It sounds super cheesy but that is the most enjoyable part of touring—literally that hour and a half onstage when you’re just jamming. It’s you and your friends and you’re just playing your favorite music. And you look out in the audience and there are thousands of people doing the same fucking thing. That is the most amazing feeling that I wish everybody could feel.
On tour we get to hang out, eat great meals, and meet cool people, but getting up there, playing the music we love, and connecting with our audience—that’s the sole reason why I do it, for sure.
Sublime is a group and culture that so many people grew up on and have been influenced by in special ways. What is it like to experience that vibe?
My entire life has changed now. It’s crazy! Every detail is changed—for the better of course, but there are some things that you kind of have to readjust and make them what they were again. That’s the only “obstacle” really in doing what you love, so to speak.
Sublime gave me an opportunity to sing for their band and that means a lot to me because of how much I love the band, and how important they have been to me as a developing young man. Now I’m put in the shoes where so many people would love to be and so many people look up to the band. I guess it still hasn’t even sunk in. It’s a very rewarding feeling but it’s very hard to comprehend because they’re you’re favorite band. It’s a trip.
What is your vision for the future of Sublime With Rome?
I want to play more songs to more people. I feel like the band has the potential to be playing all over the world. There are places that we haven’t been yet, like Asia, and Africa, and those places are kind of reserved for the “Aviciis” and “AC/DCs” and I feel like we have a lot of power behind us, because of the legacy that stands behind the band, and we’re still cranking out music that we feel is to the best of our ability. It still needs to be heard by more fans. I would love to be the band to go as far as we can while we’re here on earth.
Sublime With Rome will play July 31 at Festival Pier in Philadelphia, Aug. 1 at the Sherman Summer Stage in Mount Pocono, PA, Aug. 2 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, and Aug. 5 at JBL Live At Pier 97 in NYC. Sirens is available now. For more information, go to sublimewithrome.com.