Over twenty years after forming legendary ska-punk band Sublime, band co-founder/bass player Eric Wilson met another singer/guitarist that would deeply affect his life. That musician — his junior by nearly two decades — was 20-year-old Rome Ramirez. In Wilson’s own words, “this kid could play guitar like a mofo and he’s got a platinum voice.” Incidentally, Wilson had previously reserved that same description for his former Sublime bandmate, the late Bradley Nowell.
Formed in Long Beach, CA, in 1988, Sublime delivered an irresistible blend of ska, reggae, punk, surf rock, and hip-hop that captured the imagination of fans around the world. Over the course of its three albums — 1992′s double-platinum “40oz. to Freedom,” 1994′s gold “Robbin’ the Hood,” and 1996′s 6x-platinum self-titled major-label debut — the band has now sold more than 17 million albums worldwide. Nowell died of a heroin overdose two months prior to the release of “Sublime,” which reached No. 13 on the Billboard Top 200, sold six million copies, and spawned such hits as “What I Got,” “Santeria,” and “Wrong Way,” which remain radio staples across with country. (“Date Rape,” from “40oz. to Freedom,” is the all-time most requested song on influential Los Angeles rock radio station KROQ, which has listed Sublime as its No. 3 act in its annual “Biggest Bands” list for the last six years.) Profoundly affected by Nowell’s death, Wilson never considered performing the group’s music live without their frontman.
It took the talent and enthusiasm of Rome Ramirez — a genial, now 23-year-old newcomer and gifted songwriter and musician — to change that. Growing up in the Bay Area, Rome was introduced to Sublime’s music by his uncle, and credits the band with inspiring him to first pick up a guitar and learn to play at age 11. “It was the first time I ever really wanted to make music as opposed to just listen to it,” he says. Rome began singing and writing songs as a teenager and was playing solo gigs around the Bay Area when he met Wilson (the two were recording at the same studio).
An instant friendship and musical bond was formed. The first big show as Sublime With Rome came in October 2009 at Cypress Hill’s annual Smokeout Festival, performing in front of 20,000 people. A sold-out tour in March 2010 followed with spontaneous sing-alongs and writhing mosh-pits at every stop. That fall, Sublime With Rome entered the studio with to begin recording their debut album.
The result was “Yours Truly,” released in the Summer of 2011. The album, produced by Paul Leary, both picks up where Sublime left off and builds on what they’ve accomplished, thanks to the fresh infusion of energy from Rome, who brought in lyrics, melodies, and chords he’d written over the past few years. Songs like first single “Panic” (a Top 5 Modern Rock hit), “Take It Or Leave,” and “You Better Listen” are reminiscent of vintage Sublime, while songs like “Lover’s Rock” and “Murdera” pick up on the reggae dancehall style the band had begun exploring in 1996. “Paper Cuts” has a distinct punk flavor, while “PCH” and “Spun” have more of a rock-pop feel.
With the release of “Yours Truly,” Sublime with Rome spent the rest of the year touring the world and treating fans to both new songs as well as Sublime favorites that many never had a chance to hear live. Bringing things full circle, the band’s first performance of 2012 was at this year’s Smokeout Festival, joined by celebrated drummer and longtime friend Josh Freese. And to make up for lost time, the trio plans to stay out on the road as long as they can.