Sublime with Rome started out in 2009 with original Sublime members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh enlisting Rome Ramirez to tour with classic Sublime songs written by the late Bradley Nowell. After a brief lawsuit and legal battle, eventually the right compromise was made and the trio toured under the Sublime with Rome moniker. Now, it’s almost been ten years since that started and Sublime with Rome has a different lineup than when they started. Gaugh left the band, then his replacement Josh Freese left the band. Now the lineup is Eric Wilson, drummer Carlos Verdugo, and Rome Ramirez fronting the show.
Sublime With Rome (SWR) will release their third album on May 31st. The album is called Blessings. Alternative Addiction recently sat down to chat with Rome about the trio’s new album, his tenure playing Sublime’s classic songs live, and his solo career that’s currently on hold.
"The initial start of this album started two years ago,” said Rome when talking about how the band’s upcoming album started. “We didn’t like anything except for ‘Mayday’, so we tried again the following year and we came up with “Wicked Heart.” After that, we knew we had something awesome. That kicked the dust off and got everyone excited. We decided to go back to the studio and put together the rest of the songs. Then we had to sit on it and wait for a year because we didn’t have a tour. We were in the studio all summer, so we missed our window.”
Of course, Ramirez is known most for his work touring and getting to play Sublime songs with Wilson, but he’s also prolific songwriter in his own right. He co-wrote “Lay Me Down” with the Dirty Heads and also got to sing on the track. He’s also the starting point on most of the Sublime with Rome songs.
“I write all the lyrics. I’ll come up with the song structure and chords and I’ll bring them over to Eric and then Eric will have his way with them,” replied Rome when asked about how SWR starts songs. “He’ll move parts around or speed things up or slow things down. After the songs go through the meat grinder we come up with a formula, we’ll rehearse it live a bunch of times and if it feels good, we’ll go and record it.”
For the band’s first two albums, Yours Truly and Sirens, Sublime with Rome worked with Paul Leary of The Butthole Surfers. Leary did a great job, especially with the first record, but for their latest release, Sublime With Rome got the chance to work with the legendary Rob Cavallo.
“He’s awesome. We had a copy of the first single ‘Wicked Heart’ and our manager showed him to see if he was interested in doing like 11 more, and he was down. We went to El Paso, Texas and stayed out there at Sonic Ranch for like three weeks with Rob and locked down the album, that’s why the drums sound so f______ dope.”
The band also worked with Andrew Goldstein on the track “Wicked Heart.” Goldstein co-wrote the song with Ramirez.
“Me and him wrote “Wicked Heart” – I started that in my back yard on my patio. I had just got into a fight with my girlfriend. Then, he helped out with that song. He came over and put a cool little Latin beat to it, but it was just a demo at that point, but that was the song that got everyone excited. So, when we took it Texas and Rob Cavallo put real drums on it and put Eric’s bass line on it, everyone thought it was tight. We had a good thing going as far as writing goes. I think Andrew and I should’ve written some more songs together, but maybe next time.”
How Rome wrote “Wicked Heart” is the perfect encapsulation of how he works. You’re more likely to see Ramirez something with music than you are not to. Whether he’s in his studio producing or whether he’s sitting on the porch with a guitar. We also talked to Rome about how much he writes.
“My manager makes a joke all the time, he says that all the time I put in making music, if you were to add up all the time, I would probably make less than minimum wage. I do it all the time. I obsess over music. I’ve always wanted this exact life that I’m living. Now that I have it, I can’t be wasting time playing video games or going golfing, I have to live the life I want to live. I want to be surrounded in the studio with a bunch of my music.”
Talking about the upcoming album, we asked Rome if there was another song that he was attached to on the record.
“Our next single, “Light On”, that’s kind of like the theme of the record. That’s the most important song to me. If you’re going to listen to one song on the record, I’d have you listen to that song. Lyrically, I’ve never written anything like that, it’s like paraphrasing the journey so far. It starts so differently than any other of our other songs. By the time you get really into the song, you expect the song to drop, but then it’s a bit longer and then the chorus drops and it’s a full-on reggae thumping bass line. I think it’s badass. It takes you on such a journey both melodically and lyrically, that’s the song that excites me the most with this album.”
Chatting further about the upcoming release, Rome dug into clichés, but justifiably so. When asked if he thought this was the best work that Sublime with Rome has put together so far, Ramirez passionately agreed.
“One hundred percent, and I know everyone says that, but for me, I’ll be honest – I like our first record more than our second. I thought creatively I was in a better spot. This time, I feel way more in touch with the music, and that can’t be a bad thing. I don’t need critics to validate this at all, because I’ve had people praise it that I care about the most – the people who would be the most honest with me – they’ve said it’s our most honest record and that’s the only thing I could ask for.”
In 2012 after being introduced to the world by playing with Sublime With Rome, it looked like Ramirez would shift back to being a solo artist and that career would be jumpstarted by playing with the project. That never really happened. Rome released roughly five songs, including one EP and that’s about all he’s done as a solo artist after starting work in SWR. We talked with Rome about his solo career and he all but confirmed that it was on hold.
“It’s hard for me to sit down and do that thing right. In order for me to be a really successful artist, I’d have to give it 110%. I’ve been in a position where Sublime with Rome has been my focus. I feel like I was put on the Earth to sing the songs that Bradley wrote, to carry him on after he passed. Everything I do after that will just be rad. But my heart will always be with Sublime with Rome, I’m forever grateful for it. Now that I have a little more to talk about, I’ve been thinking about doing an acoustic record or something like that. Something simple, where I can just focus on the songs. I don’t know when I’d do that but, that’s something I’d like to do.”
It’s been a wild ride for the singer/songwriter since joining SWR, we asked Rome if he ever took any time to reflect on the spot that he was put in.
"It was moving so fast that I never took a second to acknowledge that. It was all happening so fast. Now, that I’m looking at doing this for 10 years, I can’t believe that I’m here. It’s crazy but it took a while to look at the bigger picture of it all,” he added.
There’s a certain level of insanity to the situation that Ramirez was put in. Immediately Sublime purists were pissed off at him because he would be singing songs written by one of the most iconic musicians of the past twenty years. But people’s outlook on SWR wasn’t necessarily misguided, it was just constantly viewed as a glass half-empty situation instead of what it should have been viewed as; a talented vocalist and musician playing with two legendary musicians in Wilson and Gaugh. Rome’s respect for Nowell’s legacy is something he’s always concerned about and you can tell that whether he’s talking about his solo career or whether he’s talking about a simple setlist.
“We tend to keep it in thirds. That’s the best formula. We try to keep it a 1/3 of the legacy, a 1/3 of the hits that everybody knows, and then 1/3 of SWR. Of our own stuff we’ll sub stuff out from the three records. There are a solid 15-20 songs from Sublime that everybody knows and everybody wants to hear. They’ve got so many great songs. At the end of the day, the way I’ve always seen it as the only agenda is to entertain people and to provide people with the best show we can. There’s never been a priority to play anything new, we do that if it supports the performance. That’s always been our main goal when building a setlist. “-aa