Rome Ramirez grew up listening to the one and only South California phenomenon that was Sublime. Inspired by the iconic early 1990s power trio’s charismatic mix of punk, reggae and ska, he started a couple of bands while attending high school in Fremont, but they didn’t go far.
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“I never met anyone that wanted to go as hard as I did, figuring it out day by day, all or nothing,” he says. “I wanted to be in a band more than anything.”
After a girlfriend turned him onto beach rocker Jack Johnson, he decided he wanted to be a solo artist.
“It was a natural kind of thing,” he says.
Hoping to make an album Ramirez moved to Los Angeles where sound engineer Lewis Richards at 17th Street Recording Studio in Costa Mesa taught him how to record music and introduced him to Sublime bassist Eric Wilson.
“We started jamming punk rock music at Eric’s house,” says Ramirez. “Black Flag, songs I wrote, songs he wrote. After a year or two of that he asked me if I’d be interested in joining the band. I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ Now we’ve been a band for 10 years. It’s pretty rad.”
At the time the new group formed, it had been more than a decade since Sublime disbanded following the sudden overdose of singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Bradley Nowell. He died only two months before the release of their breakthrough self-titled album, thereby joining fellow Generation X standard bearer Kurt Cobain along with Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and others in Club 27, a fictional group of artists and musicians who perished before age 30.
Carrying on the legacy of Nowell is something Ramirez doesn’t take lightly. Yet, in true SoCal spirit he somehow manages to make it look effortlessly easy.
“I don’t even think about that, man,” he says. “I just have a good time up there, try my hardest. Hang onto the key, have fun and do your job right or people will take your job from you.”
With the crowd singing along to every word, Sublime with Rome plays all the hits in the classic catalog including “Santeria,” “What I Got,” and “Badfish,” as well as many B-side favorites.
“We’re not really playing for an agenda,” says Ramirez. “It’s just to get people dancing. They came to have a good time. Half the people living in past, half are like, ‘This kid is cool’ and half are like ‘F*** this guy!’ But I give it my all. I close my eyes and think about some other stuff like my dog.”
Since changing the name of the group at the request of Nowell’s estate, Sublime with Rome has released two albums: “Yours Truly” in 2011 and “Sirens” in 2015. Their most recent effort put out earlier this year is a four-song EP entitled “Light On.” On the record, Ramirez’s voice is silky smooth, weaving through the tight dancehall bass and breakbeat drums with an energetic precision that recalls the golden days while also being uniquely his own.
Although he admits there has been some online criticism thrown his way over the years, Ramirez’s uncanny ability to fill Bradley’s boardscuffed shoes has steadily won over fans both young and old.
“I’m sure online people are calling me stuff. I’m a grown man,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to never have had anybody be super rude in person or at a concert. They all came to have a good time and be entertained.”
This summer Sublime with Rome embarks on a 55-date tour across the country including a date at Red Rocks the day before Ramirez’s 31st birthday.
“It’s gonna be dope since it’s the biggest tour we’ve done,” he says. “We’ve got a super sick-ass stage setup and an updated sound package with more bass. The lineup is massive, and everything is just bigger. We’re so stoked.” | grandsierraresort.com