GREEN COVE SPRINGS – For the third time in three albums, Sublime With Rome went to Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas, a studio Rome Ramirez (vocals, guitar), Eric Wilson (bass) and Carlos Verdugo …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – For the third time in three albums, Sublime With Rome went to Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas, a studio Rome Ramirez (vocals, guitar), Eric Wilson (bass) and Carlos Verdugo (drums) like because it’s isolated enough to allow bands to really concentrate on the business at hand instead of getting distracted during recording by nightlife and other recreational opportunities.
“I think Eric really likes that kind of rhythm out there, like no distractions. I’ve grown to love it as well,” Ramirez said.
Sublime with Rome now will bring much of their new music created in solitude to the busy Clay County Agricultural Fair on April 4 at the Cattleman’s Arena. Jacksonville Beach’s Split*Tone will open the show at 7 p.m.
But being at Sonic Ranch was about the only thing the making of the group’s latest album, “Blessings,” had in common with the previous pair of albums.
The group’s first two albums were done in a rush. “Yours Truly,” released in 2013, had to be finished in about six weeks. The 2017 sophomore album, “Sirens,” had a similar urgency, although the circumstances that put the band under the gun were different.
The experience in making “Blessings,” which was released in May 2019, was a 180-degree change.
“It was so different. It wasn’t like ‘You need to make an album.’ Then ‘You guys need to make an album right now,’” Ramirez said. “It wasn’t even like ‘Do you guys want to make an album?’ It was like ‘We want to make an album (now).’ And all of the songs were written beforehand.”
What’s more, the group was hearing positive things from management, the record label and radio promotional people about the songs that were in play for album number three.
“I’ll tell you this: when you have songs that are already getting your professional circle around you excited, you know already that in some sort of way, your part as the ‘quote-unquote’ business owner if you want to look at it like that, you’ve fulfilled your part of the obligation,” Ramirez said. “That creates such a less stressful environment. Everybody was really excited, radio programmers, management, the record label.
“Having that sort of, I don’t want to say confidence because it comes with a certain connotation, but having that sort of confidence, for lack of a better word, really does help ease the creative process where you can now start to create freely without any pressures of trying to make it big (commercially) or trying to make everyone happy.”
In all, Sublime With Rome spent a year and a half making “Blessings,” which brought out a different kind of feeling for the band as well. As Ramirez noted, cranking out an album in a matter of weeks can be fun, despite the deadline pressure, and stretching out the process has its drawbacks. “This one took so (darn) long, oh my God, you just want to be done with it,” Ramirez said. “Then you’re kind of like, you have to not listen to the music because you don’t want to get burned out on it before it comes out.
“But luckily, you’re able to put out a thought-out piece of material,” he said.
Making an album the group can stand behind is a valuable thing for a group like Sublime With Rome, which has a considerable legacy to live up to that goes back three decades.
That’s when original Sublime, with singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell, Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh, formed. That group’s run was cut short in May 1996 when Nowell died from a heroin overdose – just as a self-titled third album was ready for release.
Nowell’s death brought a wave of attention to Sublime, and the lead single from the self-titled album, “What I Got,” became a chart-topping alternative rock hit. Before it finished its run, the “Sublime” album had gone five times platinum and helped cement Sublime’s place as one of the pioneers of what is now a thriving reggae-rock genre.
For a decade plus, Nowell’s death looked to have ended the Sublime story. But in 2009, Ramirez crossed paths with Wilson while they were both working in the same studio. Ramirez, who is nearly 20 years younger than Wilson, was a major fan of Sublime growing up. The two began jamming together, and over time, became friends.
One day, Wilson asked Rome if he’d want to sing in a new edition of Sublime should Gaugh sign on for the project. Ramirez jumped at the chance, and with Gaugh on board, Sublime (soon renamed Sublime With Rome after Nowell’s family objected to the band using only the Sublime name) was in the studio working on “Yours Truly.”
The debut album was a significant success, spawning a top-five alternative rock hit with the song “Panic” and giving Sublime With Rome a strong measure of legitimacy.
Gaugh dropped out of the band in 2011, with Josh Freese – who is also one of rock’s most sought-after session drummers – taking his slot for the “Sirens” project. (Verdugo, formerly of Tribal Seeds, replaced Freese in 2017.)
“Sirens” didn’t generate a hit song on the level of “Panic,” but the album debuted at No. 2 on “Billboard” magazine’s Alternative Albums chart, and Sublime With Rome saw its audience continue to expand, to the point where the group could consistently headline amphitheaters.
Now comes “Blessings,” which was preceded by a trio of reggae-centric singles, “Wicked Heart,” (which cracked the top 35 on “Billboard” magazine’s Alternative Songs chart), “Spiderweb” and “Light On.”
With touring resuming as the country opens back up, one of the major challenges is crafting a setlist that retains the back catalog songs fans want to hear while figuring out which new songs are connecting best with audiences.
One thing the group won’t do to make room for new material stops playing the key songs by the original Sublime lineup.
“You know, we’re entertainers. We’re not out there to prove an agenda or shove anything down peoples’ throats. People come out to have a really good-ass time and hear some of their favorite music,” Ramirez said. “You put on a really great show and play songs that everybody loves…That’s kind of always been the M.O. from the start.”
For tickets to Sublime with Rome or any of the other six nights of concerts, visit claycountyfair.org.
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