Sublime finds its guy in Rome
STATELINE, Nev. – After the drug-overdose death of singer Bradley Nowell cut short the career of Sublime in 1996, just before the song “What I Got” broke through on radio and gave the group a No. 1 alternative rock single, the surviving members, Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson didn’t try to trade on the Sublime name.
Instead, they formed a group called the Long Beach Dub Allstars (featuring several other musicians that had collaborated with Sublime, such as Michael “Miguel” Happoldt (of the Ziggens), Todd Forman (of 3rd Alley) and “Field” Marshall Goodman.
That band lasted until 2002, by which time drummer Gaugh had joined the short-lived group Eyes Adrift, which also featured Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, while bassist Wilson went on to form the group Long Beach Short Bus.
So it probably caught more than a few people off guard when Gaugh and Wilson resurfaced in 2009 with singer-guitarist Rome Ramirez, billing themselves as Sublime when they played Cypress Hill’s “Smokeout Festival” in San Bernardino, California.
Now the trio has released its first CD, “Yours Truly,” under the name Sublime With Rome. (The group adopted the new name after Nowell’s family and estate sued to prevent the trio from performing or recording under the name Sublime.)
So why did Gaugh and Wilson return to music using the Sublime name, when they sought to establish their other post-Sublime projects as something separate from Sublime?
Ramirez points to two main factors in the decision.
“First and foremost they’re no longer cloudy with all the (stuff) going on from the past. Drugs and alcohol had taken a really bad effect on everybody,” Ramirez said. “So the dudes are clean and sober now. They’ve been that way for years. So that’s definitely helped shape their perspective, which of course leads to my answer. Honestly, man, I think it feels right. I may end up sounding like the biggest-talking son of a bitch on the planet, but I think they found someone – someone would be me – that they feel comfortable with.
“We also get along just as friends and as brothers would,” the singer said. “So there’s a comfort level here. So when we play music and when we write music together, it’s something that feels very, very special. They’ll tell you the exact same thing.”
The story about how Sublime With Rome became reality does seem to carry a good deal of serendipity.
After Eyes Adrift, Gaugh formed a short-lived band called Volcano, but retreated to his new home in Nevada, where he played in a surf rock group called Del Mar.
Wilson, meanwhile put together Long Beach Short Bus (which included several members of Long Beach Dub Allstars). That group disbanded in 2007.
Ramirez, who at age 24, is some 20 years younger than Gaugh and Wilson, met Wilson while the two were working at a studio owned by a mutual friend. Ramirez (who was a major fan of Sublime growing up) and Wilson began jamming together, and over time became friends. According to Ramirez, the idea of forming a new Sublime happened quite casually.
“After hanging out with him for so long and jamming, we’d play like a couple of Sublime songs here and there, like at one of his parties or something,” Ramirez said. “But he actually just kind of thought of it one day and just asked me. He’s like, ‘Would you be down with singing with Sublime?’ I was like ‘Hell yeah.’ So we went to see Bud and hung out with Bud for a little bit, and jammed the next week all day long. It was awesome, man. That was the start of great things.”
It wasn’t like Wilson and Gaugh had been plotting ahead of time to find a new singer and re-form Sublime, either.
“Man, those guys hadn’t talked for years,” Ramirez said. “That wasn’t even the plan. I would say, if anything, I got some best friends talking to each other again. The only reason I think they wanted to call it Sublime is because they wanted to play their old material. There were Sublime songs, and they’re Sublime, if you ask me.”
Now the trio is Sublime With Rome, with a recently released CD in “Yours Truly” and the task of making music and touring in the shadow of a legacy that only grew to substantial proportions after the original Sublime was no longer a group.
That edition of Sublime self-released its first CD, “40 Oz. to Freedom,” in 1992 and started to gather momentum when a song from that CD, “Date Rape,” began getting airplay on the Los Angeles powerhouse rock radio station KROQ. In 1995, the group co-headlined the first Warped tour, and then headlined the first SnoCore tour in early 1996. That spring the group finished its self-titled second CD, only to see Nowell fall victim to his drug overdose.
His death brought a wave of attention to the band, and with the success of the single “What I Got,” Sublime gained the kind of major popularity it never experienced when the group was touring.
In the years since, the self-titled album has become an alternative rock touchstone, with its mix of ska, reggae, punk, surf rock and hip-hop influencing a host of acts that have come along since.
But Rome said he hasn’t felt the weight of expectations that much, and the band as a whole hasn’t felt as much pressure as one might expect.
In fact, there’s a feeling that the entire project carries a certain blessing.
“It just feels like, because of the way everything has come together so smoothly and how genuine this all feels, Brad’s presence just feels so a part of it,” Ramierz said. “I’m very grateful for that. I mean, everything we’ve done up to this point we can honestly feel very satisfied and confident about.”
“Yours Truly” has a natural flow and buoyant energy – as well as the variety and stylistic trademarks of the original Sublime.
“Panic” and “My World” are ska tunes on steroids, as blaring guitars give them an extra boost. Reggae remains a key component in the mix as well, as “Lovers Rock” offers a straight-up taste or reggae, while other reggae-based songs add in elements of rock and soul (“Murdera”) and folk (“Same Ol’ Situation”). The punk side of the group comes out on the hyper-driven “Paper Cuts,” while “PCH” finds the group successfully stepping into Jack Johnson-ish acoustic pop.
The singer said Sublime With Rome is putting several of the new songs into its live set.
Rome, who has a songwriting deal with Sony and last week released his first solo effort, an EP called “Dedication,” said he has adjusted nicely to performing on the big stages Sublime With Rome will play this summer.
“I went from playing in front of 200 people to 20,000 people in two months. There was no in-between,” Rome said. “So I had to (adjust). It was the only thing I had ever wanted to do since I was a child, and you usually only get one shot. I wouldn’t let fear dictate my future and ruin anything. So I just said hey, this is your shot. This is it. Just have fun. That’s our whole thing, man. I just always make sure I’m having fun in whatever the hell I’m doing. If it’s not fun, then it no longer becomes genuine.”