The Sublime World of Rome Ramirez

(Photo by Cameron Schuyler Photography)

December 25, 2019 | By Jimmy Alvarez

Years ago my Dad gave me great advice. He told me that no matter what road I take in life, I need to keep one thing always in mind. To know where I’m  headed, I have to always remember where I’ve been.  That’s always been a solid foundation for me… you know; to give myself a true and honest measuring stick. Luckily for me, music was the road the fates chose for me.  This Christmas, I thought about the advice my Dad gave me so many years ago. For me, I think that one of the band’s that best personify the holidays in SoCal is Sublime with Rome

Orange County has always been a great resource for anyone trying to research anything music related. OC has seen the rise of the Righteous Brothers, Social Distortion, The Vandals, The Offspring, Lit and Dirty Heads just to name a few. After all, the OC is the birth-place of 3rd Wave Ska-Punk. Bands like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and The Aquabats are forever linked to the heritage that is the OC music community. That said, one of the biggest bands that the locals identify with isn’t even an OC band. Although, they were right next door in the LBC; and they’re near and dear to the hearts of the loyal OC ska community.   That band was led by front-man Bradley Nowell (lead vocals and guitar) , and featured Bud Gaugh (drums) and Eric Wilson (bass). They formed the trio known as Sublime. OH, and don’t forget their mascot, their Dalmation named, Lou Dog.

Sublime formed in 1988, and had crazy success with hits like Date Rape, Bad Fish, What I Got, Doin’  Time, Wrong Way, Pawn Shop, Jailhouse, Santaria, Saw Red, BurritosSmoke Two Joints, Caress Me Down and April 26, 1992.

Sadly,on May 25, 1996 we received the news that Nowell died. The aftermath of the circumstances surrounding his death did take one turn that eased the pain to some extent. Neither Nowell’s or the band’s legacy has been tarnished, their music lived on with positive energy from the band’s fan-base. Needless to say, their music became more popular than ever.  For their supporters, they would never be able to experience the joy of seeing the band perform live again. For most bands, that’s where their success and story ends.

Truthfully, there have been several bands that reunited with different members, aside Boingo, most ventures aren’t very successful. In this curios case of the story is Sublime, the Music Gods looked down favorably on this band. In 2009, Sublime’s music was still getting mad airplay just about everywhere on the planet. They were still featured at radio juggernauts KROQ and 91X, and mainstays at OC’s KX935 in Laguna Beach. Given the radio support was still there, and the fan-base remained intact, Gaugh and Wilson started performing one-off’s with a virtual unknown at the time, Rome Ramirez.   They played those shows as Sublime, but due to legal trademark considerations, they had to change the name, they went with Sublime with Rome in 2010. Ramirez also got much love from his collaboration with fellow regatta-punk-ska-hip-hop under-band from Huntington Beach, Dirty Heads.

They put out their first release the next year, the album was titled Yours Truly. The album got great reviews by industry types, but the fan-based was split. Many loved the fact they could hear new tunes by the core of the band, while others despised the fact they were even taking the stage. Nevertheless, they moved forward. In 2011, Gaugh left the band and was replaced by Vandals uber-drummer, Josh Freese.

In those early days of Sublime with Rome, I was fortunate enough to have interviewed them a few times whenever they played local gigs. I’ve also sat down with Rome one-on-one to talk about the band, music and life in general. The thing that strikes me most about Rome, back then and today, he remains the same happy and positive guy.

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(Jimmy Alvarez with Sublime with Rome circa 2012 | Photo by Green Eyed-Blonde Photography)

Back then, the band was a lightning rod in the local Ska community. The reaction I would get from fans back then were very clear, you either loved them, or hated them, there was no middle ground. The supporters were just that, positive and happy to see them playing. The nay-sayers on the other hand, they came across mean and spiteful at times. Luckily, the band had more supporters than critics. Ramirez and Wilson have always been direct and honest with me. I believe them when they said they wished Bradley was still with us; they were saddened by his passing. That said, at the end of the day, they had to deal with the reality of the situation to handle it the best they could for the fans.

What they were trying to accomplish back then was to provide a vehicle for everyone to experience the sights and sounds that is Sublime, especially for those who didn’t get to see the original lineup. If Sublime was a part of the soundtrack of your life, this incarnation of the band does justice. Rome is humble and respectful of the band’s history. Over the year’s he’s told me he gives his all every time he takes the stage. He tries very hard to create new memories and provide a positive experience for all. As a results, countless fans from coast-to-coast and around the world have experienced their live performance. The band is electric, it pumps a bone piercing sound while providing vocals that are surreal in range.

Their album, Sirens also did very-very well, it simply blew up and launched them back to Billboard’s Alternative Charts hitting # 17 with Wherever You Go. 

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(Sirens | Released July 17. 2015)

For Ramirez, not only has he demonstrated his abilities and sonic vision, but he has developed into a well respected song-writer. Ramirez and Wilson lived up to their word when they told me so many years ago that they were’n’t going to rely simply on the band’s legacy, they would create new music for their fans. Consequently, their first hit Panic took off and got great radio play, they even got to perform on late night TV with guys like Jimmy Kimmel, crazy right?

Songs like Take It Or Leave It hit a cord with their fans, and everyday people. The lyrics were soulful and resonated and became the voice of the bee-hive. Everyone was now talking about Sublime with Rome and not just Sublime. Who can’t relate to these words: She’s got a knack for hurting me, is it the words she says? The only thing that keeps me here are her eyes in the morning… I’ve packed my things a thousand times, and I’ve faked believe all her lies… for the last time.

(Take It Or Leave It from the album, Yours Truly)

The band has come a long way, but their evolution wasn’t done.  A third lineup was created in 2017 with the departure of Freese and addition of Carlos Verdugo. In May 2019, they released the album titled Blessings, which features a song called Wicked Heart. This song is another hit getting radio love and it’s being received well by their hard-core fans and the general public.  It helps that their music video is funny and also tells a story we can all related too, or know someone who has lived the life the story tells.

(Wicked Heart from the album Blessings)

For Ramirez, 2020 is poised to be a great year. New music is in the work, he has a beautiful home he shares with his wife and children. Fatherhood has given him a new yet renewed perspective on life.  The thing about Rome is he is a genuinely good person. He doesn’t take criticism to heart, instead, he uses it constructively; AND he always remembers his roots.

The first time I met him, he was so thankful for the opportunity to play with Bud and Eric. Not long before that he was not far from the days where he would play a set of music for food at a venue. He remembers those days vividly. He remembers the struggle and as a result does everything he can to donate clothes to the homeless, or plays shows like their holiday shows at the House of Blues where proceeds benefit local charities like the Orangewood Foundation right here in Orange County.

Looking back at his life, Ramirez doesn’t care if it’s luck or hard work, he remains the same person and will continue to do what he thinks are the right things, no matter what people think or say. As for me, we’ve all had our Top Ramen days  and therefore, I like to support a guy that works hard for a bright future while paying homage to his past.

Sublime with Rome plays their annual Christmas show at the the House of Blues | Anaheim December 27th and 28th.

Here’s the link to see how you can help charities like the Orangewood Foundation:

Link to follow Sublime with Rome:

Link to the House of Blues | Anaheim:

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