Your Summer Soundtrack:
Rome Ramirez On The New Album, ‘Blessings’

Words by Steve Melone
Photo by Andreas Ramierez

Recorded at Sonic Ranch in the Texas town of Tornillo, Sublime With Rome’s newest release ‘Blessings,’ finally makes its debut May 31st. The album is the band’s follow-up to 2015’s ‘Sirens’.

Since then, the band has added new drummer, Carlos Verdugo, and trombonist/keyboardist, Gabriel McNair to the mix. Bassist Eric Wilson, has remained the sole original Sublime member in the band.

Speaking over the phone from Los Angeles, frontman Rome Ramirez took the time to discuss the latest release from the eclectic West Coast group, whose roots go back nearly three decades. We talked about the value of touring around the world, the creative process, and life experiences that had a part in formulating this new music.

It’s been four years since Sirens. What has SWR been doing in the meantime?

We’ve been touring around the world! It was cool these last four years, we spent some time overseas, traveling a bunch – getting a different perspective of what the genre is around the world. Pretty badass, but we’ve been doing a lot of jamming and just kind of mobbing. We got a new drummer, Carlos [Verdugo]. He’s been awesome. He’s Eric’s neighbor, so band practice is usually over Eric’s house. It’s kind of crazy, definitely been more of a maturing type of phase for everybody. We’ve definitely grown in the last five years since putting out the album.

How has it been since bringing Carlos Verdugo on? And is Gabriel McNair only playing live with you guys?

Gabe’s all over the record and he plays live with us too. Gabe’s a phenomenal addition to the band. He came about maybe two years ago. It’s just been rad man, this will be our first big summer tour since having these guys on board. It’s kind of crazy how when you introduce somebody new into the kitchen how drastic the cooking can be, regardless if the person is doing a substantial amount of writing or not. Just having a different influence during the creative process is such a trippy thing. With Gabe, and Carlos it was such a different force in the studio than what we’re used to, which was just me and Eric [Wilson] coming up with everything. This one was definitely more of a communal thing. Lyrics I’ve always kind of kept to myself, but how we arranged things, it was definitely a big community effort. Also Rob Cavallo – he’s a legendary producer – helped kind of navigate the whole ship. So it was something so different for us, but yielded such a dope result!

And I take it there was a lot of improvising in the studio when it came to laying down the music?

That’s how it always is. I’ll have the lyrics and framework of the song, then I’ll bring it in, and Eric will tweak on it and do his thing with it. That’s what the formula has always been. But in this instance it was the full band doing the formulizing and everything. Which is pretty dope cause it’s different than what we’ve usually done.

When you’re writing, are you usually starting on an electric or acoustic guitar?

I’ll typically start with an acoustic, and then try to hash out the song in its purest form. If it’s good like that then it doesn’t really matter how we dress it up. We can only fuck it up from there!

Was there anything else unusual about recording the album this time around?

We had tried to go and do this album about two years ago, and we didn’t really come up with anything that we felt was strong enough. We did it again the following year and we came up with, ‘Wicked Heart.’ That was the song that kick started everything really. That got everybody really excited to make new music. That was the driving factor for us. Sometimes you just kind of need one song to get everything going and shake the dust off the machine, so to speak. That’s what ‘Wicked Heart’ was for us.

SWR has been playing together for about a decade now, has the group’s identity changed at all from then to now?

It’s kind of a trip looking back. It’s been about ten years since I started jamming with Eric. We played Smoke Out in 2009, but just from a retrospective view, it’s definitely been an evolving journey. We’ve definitely been around long enough to where we’ve showed our side of the story, and kind of expressed to people why we’re a band and why we continue to exist. I feel like we’ve definitely made a voicing of who we are, what we want to bring to the community and how we want to kind of elevate it. We’ve also established the fans who support this and maybe those people who, it may not be their thing, but we’ve been around long enough to draw that line in the sand now. It’s just kind of magnificent when you think back. To put together an album, then a tour and then go out and celebrate back how we did ten years ago. This is kind of the whole reason we decided to name the album, ‘Blessings,’ because it’s such an appropriate title for the point in time we’re at as a band.

I read somewhere that you described the makeup of SWR as one-third hits, one-third legacy and one-third is current SWR, or something along those lines. Do you still agree with that?

I mean that’s the best recipe for us so far, it just seems to work the best, because Sublime has such a different fan base. How old are you?

I’m 27.

So like our generation, we probably got into Sublime at like thirteen, twelve, fourteen around that age – and the generation now – they’re not really discovering Sublime at that age, they’re discovering Sublime at an older age. Cause right now they’re discovering Lil Pump and shit like that, so it kind of transcends over time, and Sublime’s music is timeless in that way. They have productions with hip-hop, then in rock, then in pop, so we just figured out that it’s the best way to present that vibe. It’s for everybody!

So this is the first time you’ve all toured abroad, playing shows?

For sure, we never did much touring outside the United States prior to these last years. This is definitely a first time experience for us.

Was there a certain degree of cultural shock you guys felt being outside of the US that maybe you brought back with you at all? Did it give you a new perspective in any way?

Creatively, you tend to soak up outside influences, quite often. I think that’s part of being a musician and a songwriter – at least one who tours anyway – is that you have the benefit of traveling and experiencing different cultures, and formulas of thinking. It’s really kind of badass to bring it home to the studio, and being exposed to so many different things, subconsciously you kind of channel that in the studio.

I got the impression there was some existential influence in the writing with some of the news songs. To a degree that was maybe more apparent than earlier SWR tunes. Would you agree with that?

I guess I’ve always been a fan of existentialism. From this point, I’m married, I have a child now and I’ve been blessed to call this the profession of my life for a third of it. There’s definitely a bit of – from a macro-perspective – looking in and summarizing my lifestyle, my decisions and the journeys that I’ve been on. That’s something I was way more vocal about in this new music than I’ve ever been. So, I would definitely agree with you on that, more so in the past where at the time I hadn’t really lived much of a crazy, exciting life. I had gone through my personal problems with my family and stuff, but none that I really felt comfortable with writing yet at the time. It takes time traveling around the world, finding yourself, making mistakes, getting some wins, and just kind of growing up so to speak. There’s a story in that that not a lot of people get to write about. I just feel like I’m fortunate in this position to be able to write that, and put that out on a platform where people can listen. More so than in my bedroom, you know? | Blessings