It’s 4:23 Somewhere
Livin’ Easy with Rome Ramirez
Words by Audra Tracy
Back in 2011, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, the two surviving members of Sublime’s original line-up, took a pretty big chance. While they (and the world) had lost lead singer Bradley Nowell fifteen years prior, they placed their bets on a kid named Rome Ramirez, and released an album of new material together as “Sublime with Rome”.
Flash forward to 2015. It’s 4:23 on a Wednesday in Orange County, California, and Ramirez is having a “celebratory” smoke session at his home in Huntington Beach. And why not celebrate? The guy has a lot to be thankful for lately. Sublime with Rome just dropped their second album, Sirens, and the trio is hitting the road for their biggest North American tour to date.
In between puffs, Ramirez opens up to us about the making of Sirens, what’s in store for summer tour, and why he’s not wondering if Bradley Nowell would like the new material.
Recorded at Sonic Ranch in Texas, and co-produced by Paul Leary, Sirens is the first official release featuring new drummer Josh Freese, of The Vandals. Together Wilson, Freese, and Ramirez culled a collection of eleven feel-good tracks fit for any rock fan’s summer soundtrack.
“We started all from scratch, right there”, Ramirez says of the songwriting process. “It took a little while to really get to that point where we felt like we had something to move forward with, but once we saw the direction we wanted to take the rest of the album, things just really started to fly”.
Elements of reggae (“Wherever You Go”) and ska (the Fishbone cover, “Skankin”) each fill the grooves of this record, like you would expect from any Sublime album – with or without Rome. Fellow California natives The Dirty Heads even get in on the fun, contributing to the album’s title track. But Sirens also has a darker, heavier side, channeling the hardcore energy of punk icons Bad Brains on “Run and Hide”.
“We really wanted to combine some of the edge from the punk rock culture,” Ramirez shares. “It has always had such a strong influence on us. Everything was done with that in mind – we wanted to keep it kind of raw”.
It will be a thrill to see that mindset in action on the road, as Sublime with Rome brings its ‘touring festival’ across the great United State this summer, with local stops in New Jersey on August 2nd and New York City on August 5th. Along for the ride are Rebelution, Pepper, and Mickey Avalon playing in support.
“We have a keyboard player and a new horn player and we have a whole new production”, Ramirez says of the tour. “We’ll also be playing half of the new album live as well, along with all the Sublime hits and classics you know”, he adds.
That’s the tricky part about Ramirez’s role in Sublime with Rome – he’s got one foot in the shadow of ‘the old Sublime’, and the other in the spotlight as he continues to win fans over with his own new material. So how does he balance his personal artistic endeavors while maintaining the legacy that Bradley Nowell left behind?
“I don’t really think about that to be honest,” Ramirez admits. “My name is next to Sublime, and I get to sing “Wrong Way” and “What I Got” and “Doin’ Time”. That part is done. It’s up to me and the guys to keep it fresh, and keep it invigorating, and keep people wanting to hear new music. To me, that’s where my job comes into play”.
“I really don’t think about, ‘would Brad like this song?’. That’s not what got me here”, he goes on. “What got me here was being myself and being a big fan of music, and I think that’s what Eric saw in me. And I think the moment I start to doubt myself and try to write like somebody else, it would come off a little fake, or formulaic”.
“I’m just trying to write music that I would like to hear on the radio, music that would possibly help someone else”, he concludes. “That’s the most important thing to me – keeping integrity and being yourself”.
Catch Sublime with Rome on tour, all summer long…see tour dates here!
TheWaster.com | Orange County