As Sublime with Rome hits its 10-year anniversary, Eric Wilson and Rome Ramirez feel nothing short of vindication.
The group arrived to raised eyebrows back in 2009 — 13 years after the death of Bradley Nowell brought an end to Sublime — but has since released three albums, including this year's Blessings. Sublime with Rome has also been a fixture on the road and, as far as Ramirez is concerned, has established its own career, albeit one that's a continuation of its predecessor.
"We've whittled out all of the doubting naysayers, so to speak," Ramirez tells Billboard. "Now it's like 'OK, you know we exist as a band. You've either seen us and like us, or you don't.' The band is better than ever, as tight as we've ever been. We've come into our own entity, but obviously existing with such a rich legacy. It's such an interesting place to be 10 years later, but it feels really good."
For bassist Wilson, meanwhile, the group's first decade feels "more like four years. It goes by pretty quick. We've grown a lot as a band since we first started. It's definitely a whole different thing than it was with Brad. (Sublime) is still part of it, but every year that goes by it becomes more and more its own thing."
Wilson and Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh had gone on to the Long Beach Dub Allstars after Nowell's death, two months before the release of the band's multi-platinum self-titled major label debut. But the two still had the Sublime itch — and so did their fans. "Any project I ever did after Sublime, everybody just wanted to hear Sublime anyway," Wilson recalls. "I was playing drag racing music in one band, psychedelic music in another. Long Beach Dub Allstars was the only band that played reggae; People were coming to our shows and they'd just want to hear the Sublime songs. And the people that would hire us to play wanted us to play Sublime songs." After playing Sublime songs with Ramirez in RAWsession, he felt the northern California native "sounded a lot like Brad (when he was) doing Brad's songs," and decided, with Gough, to revive the band.
"Y’know, we felt like we'd done all the legwork building our band the whole time up until Brad's death, and then we had to stop," Wilson recalls. "(Ramirez) has an incredible voice and is a really good guitar player. I hadn't until then played with anybody who sounded remotely as much as the feel I felt when I played with Brad. For him to try to fill (Nowell's) shoes took a lot of guts — but they're different, too, different enough that we thought it would work."
The trio launched initially as Sublime but added the "with Rome" moniker when Nowell's estate threatened to sue. Gaugh dropped out in 2011 to spend more time at home, and current drummer Carlos Verdugo joined during 2017 following Josh Freese's six-year stint. The past remains a specter with this year's premiere of the Sublime documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, but Wilson and Ramirez feel that Sublime with Rome — now on the road for a summer tour after Wilson recovered from an arm injury — holds up well to comparisons, and they plan to keep showing fans what they've got for the foreseeable future.
"It's crazy," Ramirez says. "It's hard for any band to last 10 years, let alone a band with such a kind of fragile legacy attached to it. But we're in a really amazing place where the band has continued to do bigger and bigger things every year. We've been able to continue on and prosper as a band because of the fans and their love for the music — the music we've made and what they did before. It's been an incredible journey, and it's not close to over."