By anyone’s standards, 23-year-old Rome Ramirez is living the realities rock star dreams are made of. He travels all over the globe, from places like San Francisco to Toronto to London, fronting the beloved band, Sublime. The Long Beach legends, which ceased making music in 1996 after drug-induced tragedy struck, are a band Ramirez grew up adoring, using their funky-fresh and punchy reggae vibes as inspiration for his own skills as a young musician. Now, he regularly plays to thousands of fans who scream with appreciation for his Bradley Nowell-tinged vocals, gaining more respect in his role as Nowell’s understudy with each performance.
When I caught up with Ramirez last year, right when the Sublime with Rome enthusiasm wave was beginning to swell, I asked him if life felt surreal at all. He responded, “Dude, it’s just surreal having lunch with Bud and Eric, ya know? Like as ridiculous as that sounds, they’re these huge icons in my eyes … when I get to go on stage and look out at the audience and they’re singing the lyrics and I look back and Bud’s smiling, and Eric’s fuckin’ smoking his cigarette, doing his thing, it’s like ‘Fuck, dude, this is crazy.’”
So, one can only conclude, releasing Yours Truly (Fueled By Ramen, 2011) with the same icons – OG Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson – is just an evolving part of the tattooed twentysomething’s musical dreams. The Pier talked with Ramirez a little more than a week ago and asked how he felt now about being at the level he is with Sublime with Rome, what his inspirations were for Yours Truly and where the most enthusiastic Sublime fans can be found. Check out our Q&A below.
The Pier: So, you are living the rock star dream, with the most recent success being Yours Truly making the top ten in Billboard’s top 100 albums as well as on the digital album chart. With that in mind, how has life been since Yours Truly dropped?
Rome: We just wanted to a put together a really great album for our thousands of fans and anything else that happened to fall into place is just a bonus, so it has just been really rad. We’re definitely grateful it has turned out the way it did and we definitely were not expecting it. “Take it or Leave it” is going to be the next track hitting the radio, and hopefully that will break into the top ten like “Panic” did. We’re stoked!
The Pier: I’m sure it’s like a whirlwind, but has there been any memorable feedback you’ve received for Yours Truly?
Rome: Yeah, I mean, totally! The fans have been so receptive towards it. A lot of the VIP people we connect with at the shows have got the album and the ones who don’t say it is because they can’t find it anywhere and they want to know what the heck is going on. So, it’s pretty fuckin’ cool because that means the album is getting to the fans and there is also this demand for it. It’s a total whirlwind it has all built up to this, and the same fans we’ve been playing for during the last year and half are now coming out and singing our new songs! It’s just even more of a party. It’s bitchin’.
The Pier: How is Yours Truly translating in the live performances? Is it infusing things with a new energy?
Rome: Really, the songs just blend into the sets very, very, very well. Everything jives and just fits in so naturally. And the fans know some of the new shit now, so it just flows together and it’s just a trip. It’s radical.
The Pier: Does getting to perform some of your own songs now bring things to a new or more authentic level for you as the front man of Sublime with Rome?
Rome: Ya know, I get the same kind of rush whether it’s my songs I’m playing or the songs that the band wrote previously with Brad. It’s still really awesome at night just to take it in and think about everything – ya know? Just think about everything that’s happened – singing great Sublime songs and then writing a whole album that fans know and sing the songs, and we can say it’s all been successful. We could have easily been one of the bands that reform and then just play off the old stuff and never expand or even put out an album. So we tried to make a new sound blended with the old sound and hone it in as best as possible and that’s something we are very confident about [with Yours Truly].
The Pier: So, what was the whole philosophy around making this album? Was there some sort of goal or end result that was decided on as far as sound and what you guys wanted the album to achieve?
Rome: The only direction that we had was to do what we wanted, exactly the way we wanted to do it. And that is kind of one of the reasons we signed with Fueled by Ramen. They’re very respectful of our creative decisions and they kind of let us handle the music part and then they just handle the business part, which is the way it should be, but in many cases it is the exact opposite. So, it’s cool to have something where we could be 100 percent us. The only people who had any say in that music were Bud, Eric, I and Paul Leary, and that’s it.
The Pier: Did working with Leary feel full circle, as far as the whole Sublime resurrection, from touring to doing an album to working with a producer who helped put OG Sublime on the music map?
Rome: Oh, yea, definitely. And I’m just a huge fan of the Butthole Surfers and his other work … so, to be able to just do a whole record with him and live with the guy was amazing.
The Pier: What song or songs on the album are you most proud of at this point?
Rome: Personally, I would probably consider my favorite song to be “Same Old Situation.” I just love listening to the song, which is saying something because usually I don’t even listen to the songs after I’m done working with the stuff. But in this case, after listening to the song it just really reminds me of like an old Marvelettes song and that’s cool to me.
The Pier: There were a lot of songs that dealt with the theme of love going bad and the complications of longer-term relationships. What inspired these lyrical themes? Did the songs come from real life situations?
Rome: Well everything is based off feelings I’ve been in at some point and some of the songs are as old as three and four years ago. I was definitely diggin’, like … a very bruised kind of vibe, but not necessarily feelings-wise more so inspirational and music-wise. I was listening to a lot of old Motown, old blues and old rock ‘n’ roll, like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. That kind of stuff was what I was listening to, so I took a lot of influence from that inspiration lyrically and vocally on Yours Truly.
The Pier: You’ve been on tour with 311 for a few weeks, what’s it like to have both enthusiastic fan bases all in one place together when you’re rockin’ out these shows?
Rome: It’s radical, ya know, because a lot of the 311 fans didn’t even know Sublime was back out on the road and a lot of the OG Sublime fans have never been to a 311 show, so it’s pretty cool. And everyone is very stoked throughout the whole bill. But we’re stoked to be on tour with ‘em and… yea, we’ll probably see a lot of weird shit this summer with all the crazy fans.
The Pier: So, are you excited for the Pow Wow festival at Suwannee Park in Florida? Anyone you’re most stoked to jam with or see on the bill?
Rome: Pow Wow’s got a solid line up, but I’m definitely excited to play another show with the Dirty Heads. I miss those guys so much. It was cool getting to see and play with them in Canada a couple weeks ago, but it’s going to be really cool to see them in their element, so I’m definitely excited for that. Anytime I get to kick it with the Dirty Heads I’m a happy guy.
The Pier: You’ve been traveling a hella lot as the front man of Sublime, what places in the US or abroad have the most enthusiastic Sublime fans, in your opinion?
Rome: South America, in general, just goes off the charts. It’s insane. We have never experienced an audience like a South American one. The experience is almost kind of shitty because of the fact that no one else can compare to that (laughs), but at the same time, it’s their rambunctiousness and wildness that makes it so unique. And, really, all the audiences are unique in their own way too, it’s just how you notice it and play to it. But, definitely, South America is a force that is not very common.
The Pier: So what’s the plan as far as what fans can expect from Sublime with Rome over the next several months?
Rome: We’re definitely going to be touring our asses off as much as it permits us. We just want to be out on the road as much as possible pushin’ the new album and then eventually do another one and … that’s the plan.
(Ending side note — I want to mention Rome’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, which occurred after our interview or, believe me, I would have asked about it. It is stellar and gave me the musical-tribute cold chills. It is definitely worth checking out below.)
Sublime with Rome Links:
Sublime with Rome Website
Sublime with Rome Facebook
Sublime with Rome Youtube
Sublime with Rome Twitter
— You can read The Pier’s official Album Review for Yours Truly by clicking HERE
– Article & Interview by: Amber McDonald
– Photos by: Bill Colbridge
Here is Rome’s tribute cover to Amy Winehouse with the song Rehab
Here is Sublime With Rome, behind the band. ENJOY!