After the drug overdose death of singer Bradley Nowell cut short the career of Sublime in 1996, just before the song “What I Got” broke through on radio and gave the group a No. 1 alternative rock single, the surviving members, Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson, didn’t try to trade on the Sublime name.
Instead, they formed a group called the Long Beach Dub Allstars featuring several other musicians that had collaborated with Sublime, such as Michael “Miguel” Happoldt (of the Ziggens), Todd Forman (of 3rd Alley) and “Field” Marshall Goodman.
That band lasted until 2002, by which time drummer Gaugh had joined the short-lived group Eyes Adrift, which also featured Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, while bassist Wilson went on to form the group Long Beach Short Bus.
So it probably caught more than a few people off guard when Gaugh and Wilson resurfaced in 2009 with singer/guitarist Rome Ramirez, billing themselves as Sublime when they played Cypress Hill’s “Smokeout Festival” in San Bernardino, Calif.
Now the trio has released its first CD, “Yours Truly,” under the name Sublime with Rome. The group adopted the new name after Nowell’s family and estate sued to prevent the trio from performing or recording under the name Sublime.
So why did Gaugh and Wilson return to music using the Sublime name, when they sought to establish their other post-Sublime projects as something separate from Sublime?
Ramirez points to two main factors in the decision.
“The dudes are clean and sober now,” Ramirez said. “They’ve been that way for years. So that’s definitely helped shape their perspective, which of course leads to my answer. Honestly, man, I think it feels right.
“We also get along just as friends and as brothers would,” the singer said. “So there’s a comfort level here. So when we play music and when we write music together, it’s something that feels very, very special. They’ll tell you the exact same thing.”
The story about how Sublime With Rome became reality does seem to carry a good deal of serendipity.
Ramirez, who at age 24, is some 20 years younger than Gaugh and Wilson, met Wilson while the two were working at a studio owned by a mutual friend. Ramirez (who was a major fan of Sublime growing up) and Wilson began hanging out and jamming together.
According to Ramirez, the idea of forming a new Sublime happened quite casually.
“He actually just kind of thought of it one day and just asked me,” Ramirez said. “He’s like ‘Would you be down with singing with Sublime?’ I was like ‘Hell yeah.’ So we went to see Bud and hung out with Bud for a little bit, and jammed the next week all day long.
It was awesome, man. That was the start of great things.”
Gaugh, though, decided in December to leave the group. But Ramirez and Wilson (with veteran session drummer Josh Freese now completing the trio) are continuing the task of making music and touring in the shadow of a legacy that only grew to substantial proportions after the original Sublime was no longer a group.
That edition of Sublime self-released its first CD, “40 Oz. to Freedom,” in 1992, and reached a point where it co-headlined the 1995 Warped tour and headlined the 1996 Sno-Core tour to set the stage for the spring 1996 release of its self-titled second CD. But before the CD could be released, Nowell fell victim to his drug overdose.
In the years since, the self-titled album has become an alternative rock touchstone, with its mix of ska, reggae, punk, surf rock and hip-hop influencing a host of acts that have come along since.
“Yours Truly” is an upbeat CD that retains the variety and stylistic trademarks of the original Sublime. “Panic” and “My World” are ska tunes on steroids, as blaring guitars give them an extra boost. Reggae remains a key component in the mix as well, as “Lovers Rock,” offers a straight up taste of reggae, while other reggae-based songs add in elements of rock and soul (“Murdera”) and folk (“Same Ol’ Situation”). The punk side of the group comes out on the hyper-driven “Paper Cuts,” while “PCH” finds the group successfully stepping into Jack Johnson-ish acoustic pop.
The singer said Sublime with Rome is putting several of the new songs into its live set. Rome, who has a songwriting deal with Sony and has just released his first solo effort, an EP called “Dedication,” said he has adjusted nicely to performing on the big stages Sublime With Rome will play this summer.
“I went from playing in front of 200 people to 20,000 people in two months. There was no in between,” Rome said. “So I had to (adjust). It was the only thing I had ever wanted to do since I was a child, and you usually only get one shot. I wouldn’t let fear dictate my future and ruin anything. So I just said hey, this is your shot. This is it. Just have fun … . If it’s not fun, then it no longer becomes genuine.”