There are moments when Rome Ramirez still can’t believe what he gets to do for a living.
A Sublime fan, first and foremost, he would’ve never dreamed that he’d get to front his all-time favorite band, let alone sing the immortal words of beloved Long Beach icon Bradley Nowell for a whole new generation of fans.
So to get up onstage now, with one of his boyhood idols-turned closest friends playing bass beside him, he can only feel grateful yet aware of the huge shoes he has to fill every night.
“Sublime has touched all kinds of people, man,” Ramirez told Revue. “Their music has such an effect on people at such a formidable time in their lives. I think that everything that happens [with the band] today is just an effect of the positivity that it created long before I joined. The songs had something to say and they still do. They still get played on the radio today. The fact I’m even a part of that legacy is pretty mind-blowing.”
Before listening to Sublime, Rome had never even picked up a guitar. He was only eight years old at the time of Nowell’s death from a 1996 heroin overdose and like many he discovered the reggae-rock band’s influential catalog only after its tragic end.
“My uncle had the self-titled CD. He gave it to me and told me that I would like it,” Ramirez recalled. “He was totally right.”
At just 21 years old, Rome met original Sublime bassist Eric Wilson, who soon asked him to form a newly reunited Sublime along with original drummer Bud Gaugh in 2009.
Following a subsequent lawsuit from the Nowell family, the group changed their name to Sublime with Rome.
Sublime with Rome
The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids
“Eric has a lot of music in him,” Ramirez said of Wilson. “He never got to play any of these songs, so he was kind of robbed. If he wants to keep playing music, I’ll keep playing music. I’ll roll with my boy forever. If we have to change the band name [again], we’ll change the band name, I don’t care. But I’m always here.”
Inspired by the positive reaction they received from their shows, the trio hit the studio and released their first LP, Yours Truly, in 2011. However, after briefly touring in support of that album, Gaugh left the band later that year to focus on his family back home.
“As long as Eric wanted to play music I was there,” Ramirez said, addressing the controversy following Gaugh’s departure. “None of those decisions are in my hands in the sense that I would never step up to Eric or Bud and tell them that they have to play in Sublime. I’m in no position to ever say that. If they want to quit, then they’ll quit.”
Enlisting legendary punk drummer Josh Freese, Wilson and Ramirez carried on, winning over new fans with their onstage musicianship while surprising loyal Sublime fans with their inspired new material.
This past summer the band released its second album entitled Sirens.
“This one was definitely a little bit more open for us,” Ramirez said about the new album. “It was really about coming in and not really thinking so much about what would Sublime do, just thinking about making an album that we would really like that showcases our abilities within the genre.”
Outside of Sublime, Ramirez has worked as a solo performer and a producer, famously guesting on The Dirty Heads’ radio hit “Lay Me Down,” as well as co-producing the band’s most recent album. Last year he released his first solo LP and said he and Wilson plan to begin work on another Sublime with Rome record next year.
“I’ve got music in my bones,” he said. “I’m always working on music. Whether it’s for me or Sublime or Dirty Heads or whatever, I’m always trying to work on new tunes and set the bar higher and higher for our next project.”