Sublime doesn’t practice “Santeria”—the band has no need to rehearse the popular surf rock song that has been permanently etched into popular music consciousness since its 1996 release. In a recent interview with The Heights, Rome Ramírez, known as Rome onstage, discussed the band’s latest album, Blessings, and life on the road.
“It’s totally muscle memory at this point,” Rome said of playing Sublime’s classic hits. “It’s the new stuff we gotta really practice all the time.”
Although Rome chalks up performances of the band’s foremost songs to muscle memory, the musical legacy of “Santeria” extends itself into the band’s current creative process. The band sampled parts of the song on “Goodbyes,” a cover of a Post Malone track that Sublime with Rome released on Sept. 13.
“We noticed that the song was like really close to ‘Santeria,’ so we were just like, ‘Yo, we should just like, use the tune,’” Rome said. “So I put the guitar solo of ‘Santeria’ over the song, and it worked out really good.”
This reinvention allowed Rome to claim a small piece of what the band’s original lead singer, Bradley Nowell, established with bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh in the late ’80s and carried into May of 1996, when Nowell died of a heroin overdose—just two months before Sublime was set to release its now-iconic, self-titled album. Sublime exalted the band to rockstar status with hits including “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” and “What I Got.” Prior to releasing Sublime, the band released a string of albums that established it as a wave-maker in the ska punk genre that surfed radio airwaves through the ’90s.
Rome joined the band in 2009 when surviving members Wilson and Gaugh reformed as Sublime with Rome. (Nowell’s estate threatened legal recourse when the band performed under its original name at the Devore, Calif.-based Smokeout Festival in October 2009.)
Aside from refreshing the Sublime catalog with covers of contemporary artists, the original band’s songs have been given new life with recent covers: Lana Del Rey included her own rendition of 1996’s “Doin’ Time” on Norman F—king Rockwell! this year. Sublime with Rome has also been releasing original music since 2011. Blessings, released on May 31, is the band’s latest update to the surf rock genre with smooth modern production elements and more mature subject matter—on the lead single “Blessings,” Rome sings, “They try to kill us in the streets / Oh Lord put your blessings over me.”
“Honestly for me, it was just kinda being a little bit more honest with myself and digging a little deeper,” Rome said of making the new album. “I’ve always kind of wrote from a more reserved standpoint, but this time around I was just kinda like ‘F—k it.’”
To make Blessings, the band went into the studio a couple of times while it was still touring 2015’s Sirens, and the full album was completed in June of 2018. The 11-track album is ultimately a product of a highly collaborative process that consisted of writing, jamming, and eventually recording over the course of the past couple of years.
“Eric, being that he’s older than me and he comes from a different time from me, his influences are always a lot different than mine,” Rome said. “It’s kinda rad—he’s constantly showing me stuff and I’m constantly showing him stuff. It makes for an interesting recipe.”
For Sublime with Rome, current influences include Blacktop Queen, a Los Angeles-based rock trio. Rome hinted at more new music to come, stating that the band is hoping to drop more songs “at the top of next year, and maybe something before the year ends.” Sublime with Rome also plans to tour abroad and explore areas the band hasn’t experienced yet. In 2019, it’s all about new horizons for the veteran band, but regardless of where Sublime with Rome performs, it stays true to the distinct California sound that launched its career.
“People want to escape to that,” Rome said. “That’s what music is. Music is an escape, so it’s like, in an essence, it doesn’t really matter where you are.”
Sublime with Rome will perform at the House of Blues in Boston on Oct. 6.
Featured Image by Dan Prakopcyk