Original frontman Bradley Nowell’s death ended Sublime, with surviving members Eric Wilson (bass) and Bud Gaugh (drums) forming the Long Beach Dub All-Stars afterwards. As a band, Sublime’s place in their heart never shrank and in 2009 they picked up where they left off under, with a slight change in name — Sublime with Rome. Rome Ramirez, a singer/guitarist whom first played a handful of gigs before eventually fronting the band, is the “Rome”. Switching out Gaugh for Josh Freese from the Vandals, the new-formed trio unleashed their 2015 studio album “Sirens” to rave reviews.
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Sean Ritchie: Give me a little background, I know you grew up in Freeport, California, but what was it like growing up in the Bay Area? What makes it home? What’s the atmosphere like?
Rome Ramirez: I guess growing up in the Bay Area it kind of had a scene of its own. I mean it still does. It’s a lot different from Los Angeles and Orange County in the sense that the Bay Area plays it’s own radio for the most part. So, it kind of created a community with music and I’m really into the Bay Area sound. When I went down to Southern California for the first time that’s when I heard Sublime and I kind of started getting into actually performing and playing music. I learned how to play guitar and stuff then kind of took it forward from there.
© Giuseppe Milo
SR: Awesome dude. So, elaborate a little more on how you got into music. What was your first initial introduction? How did you know this was what you wanted to pursue?
RR: At a young age it was pretty much the one thing I liked to do and something that I could control. It wasn’t like homework that I had to do, my parents weren’t yelling at me making me play guitar. It was just something that I could do that I wanted, how I wanted or if I wanted. It was really the only thing I had in my life that I was in control over. That just struck a cord with me. It made it very special to me. So, to control what was going on and keep playing music, it became basically like my best friend. No matter what was going on in my life I would always have music. I would just keep working at it and keep working at it and seeing myself grow. [I’d be] hearing my [stuff] get better and then eventually it was to the point where I needed to start singing. That’s when I started getting into singing and stuff progressed from that. Playing the bass and playing music, guitar, drums and [stuff] like that.
SR: Cool! So, I know now you’re mainly in the Ska Punk and Reggae Punk genres, but was that always what you listened to growing up or was that kind of evolutionary throughout the years?
RR: As a kid that kind of stopped with Sublime for me once I heard Sublime it was like, “[Oh my god], exactly what I wanted to hear.” It was when I first heard Sublime that was my first taste into that music. So, I was the kid that when I heard Sublime, I kind of went backwards and listened to what made them really get into making that kind of music. That’s when I was introduced to bands like The Specials and Bad Religion. Just seeing where they came from, because when I went to listen to the stuff that was post Sublime it kind of took the elements from Sublime that I wasn’t too keen on you know? That’s kind of what a lot of bands today talk about or get out of the Sublime sounds. And to be honest with you, it was the rightness and wrongness of the music and production, that made me fall in love with that band specifically.
SR: Now to fast forward a little bit, talk about teaming up with Eric and Josh. What is it like to grow up listening to them and then teaming up for Sublime with Rome later on?
RR: To say it was life changing would sell it short. But, it definitely was a transition that happened really naturally. One that I could never even imagine. I never left the Bay Area to plan to become a singer for Sublime by any means. It just happened on its own in a very natural kind of way that I really can’t put my finger on. You know if you believe in God you can put it on that, but it’s just that. I don’t know man, everything just happened really, really, eerily. I moved down to Los Angeles, because I was introduced to a girl who was doing recording in Orange County, and I went with her to Orange County one day. I then met the producer she was working with and he liked my [stuff]. So, we started working together on music and then I come to find out that he’s really good friends with the bass player of Sublime, Eric.
So, Eric started coming by the studio and then I started to hang out with Eric by default, because he was always hanging out there. I would go to his house parties and he knows me playing music, so he’s asked if I wanted to jam a couple times. Yeah, we would kind of keep doing that thing and then one day he asked me if I wanted to play a Sublime song at one of the parties with him and I’m like, “Yeah man, of course.” We started doing that for a while at house parties and [stuff]. We kind of just grew into it and then he just asked me straight up would you be interested in doing that and singing for Sublime? You know go on the tours. I’m like “Dude, hell yeah.”
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SR: Wow, that’s amazingly unreal. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, so that’s real cool to hear dude.
RR: Yeah, it’s pretty nuts man.
SR: For sure. So to transition a little now into travel, how does music and travel fit together for you in your life?
RR: I think that there’s a demand to hear a song live. That’s like the artists obligation to go out and give the people a live show. That’s kind of what it’s all about the people love to hear the music on albums, but there’s this certain kind of [spirituality] going to a live show. You go to see your favorite band and when they play a certain song it sounds, or it should feel, 50 times better than when you heard it on the album with your headphones. You should just be engulfed in it. That’s the obligation of the artist to go out there and really spread good music as much as you can. That’s the importance of touring, going to regions where you’re not absolutely famous, playing there and building it there. Showing and introducing the music to people out there and eventually they catch on.
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SR: Completely agree. So I know you’ve toured all over the world, but are there any destinations or cities that had a special crowd atmosphere or even nightlife that went along with it?
RR: Yeah, I mean there’s a lot and you know the more and more I travel and tour I realized that you can be just about anywhere, but as long as you’re with a solid group of people you’re going to have a great time, man. There are certain places that really do stand out, Brazil’s live audience, South America’s live audience is like bar none. It doesn’t get much more wilder than that. They’re crazy. You could go to places like Toronto, which is ridiculous, they go crazy. They have mosh pits. Then there’s like Florida that’s always good and really dope for us. Colorado is always really great. Everyone kind of has their vibe too. That’s the cool thing about touring and traveling man, you’re really able to experience different lifestyles and how people live and think.
SR: For sure, that’s one of my favorite things as well. On a more personal note, when you do have some down time to yourself, maybe going on vacation, are you looking for more of a beach atmosphere or are you looking for the center of a city somewhere?
RR: I’m much more of being by the water on the beach. Or, the opposite, like being in the mountains. One or the other. When I typically go on vacation it’s either a beach house or a mountain cottage.
SR: Nice, just somewhere to get away from it all a little bit.
RR: Yeah, although in September I’m taking a vacation and going to Tokyo.
SR: Oh sick! I actually saw you had shows in Hawaii the 16th and 17th of September. Are you going before or after that?
RR: After, because first it’s Hawaii and then we’re doing Guam. And, then we have two days in South Korea — two shows. So, after the shows in South Korea I’m going to take a three-hour flight to Tokyo and just stay there for a week or two.
SR: Nice. Actually from all the bands we’ve interviewed, Tokyo is the number one destination that pops up. A lot of bands love going there.
RR: Yeah, dude it’s a really cool spot and not a lot of people get the opportunity to go out there on tour, so when they do it’s an exciting thing. I’m sure when they want to travel somewhere that’s probably where they want to go and hang out too.
© Guy Schmickle
SR: Yeah, to back track a little and touch on those destination you just mentioned, what are you really looking forward to in Hawaii and Guam?
RR: Hawaii is always dope, because it’s a complete vacation. You go out there, play shows and then you’re just like, “Thanks for bringing us out here, because this is awesome.” They usually fly our family out to those shows and we stay there a little longer. Instead of getting a hotel we’ll get a house or something and all stay together. Hawaii is a special trip for us, because it’s our vacation/show reward. This is going to be dope, because after that we go out to Asia. Guam is crazy we’ve played once before and everywhere shows up the whole territory. The whole territory you could drive around in like 45 minutes. It’s really, really small and a lot of people show up. A lot of the troops too, so should be pretty awesome.
SR: Wow, those are going to be a series of cool shows. On a broader level, I know you’re well traveled, but are there a few destinations that you haven’t been to that you still want to hit? Whether they’re for personal or with the band?
RR: Yeah, I mean I would love to go to, I know it sounds crazy, but I’d love to go to Russia. That would be rad. Then, I would really love to actually play/explore Japan, because we’ve only played one show in Misawa Air Force. It was kind of like we went there, but kind of not, because it was an American Air Force base. There were Burger King’s and Popeye’s. So, it wasn’t totally Japan. It would be really cool to do a three-or-four-day festival tour out in Japan.
SR: Digging your choices. So, lastly to wrap this up, I know you’re still on tour with Dirty Heads, Tribal Seeds, and Bleeker. What are you really looking forward to wrapping up the rest of that?
RR: I have the most fun out there with the guys. Dirty Heads — I’ve known them for so long and Tribal Seeds are really great guys. Everybody really gets along it’s kind of like a family tour. It’s actually blowing by faster than we thought it would. It’s going to be kind of sad when we end the tour. Kind of not looking forward to it.
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For more on Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome visit their website: