Temperatures might be dropping –– even in SoCal –– but listening to Tangerine Skies, Sublime with Rome’s latest EP, it feels like summer.
It’s been 12 years since Sublime with Rome’s debut, Yours Truly, which served as the world’s formal introduction to Rome Ramirez, who, by the way, is not trying to be or replace the late Bradley Nowell, frontman of the OG Sublime. Head to any of the band’s live shows and you’re sure to hear the Sublime hits you’ve sung along to at least 420 times. BUT, with catchy beats, infectious grooves, and straight-talk lyrics, Sublime with Rome originals can sure as hell hold their own.
“I feel like over time, we’ve been able to grow as musicians and artists and listen to different stuff and find different inspiration, but at the same time, still make it sound like home –– still paying homage to the formula that Brad, Bud, and Eric started,” Ramirez tells me.
Quick history lesson if anyone’s new here: Bradley Nowell, Bud Gaugh, and Eric Wilson are the original members of Sublime. Wilson is currently the only original Sublime member in Sublime with Rome. He’s also the one who hand-selected a then-teenaged, Sublime mega-fan Ramirez to join him and Gaugh on their new venture. However, Gaugh has since left the band, and the current SWR lineup is comprised of Ramirez on guitar and vocals, Wilson on bass, and Joe Tomino on drums. And now you’re all caught up.
This “formula” that Ramirez mentions is what gives the four songs on Tangerine Skies that familiar summery California reggae/ska/alternative rock/beachy-stoner-music vibe we all know and love. The EP starts off strong with “Cool & Collected,” the band’s collab with Slightly Stoopid –– featuring horns and feel-good lyrics, including, of course, some lines about weed. The two recently toured together, and Slightly Stoopid is a band who’s also got strong ties to Sublime. In fact, they were originally signed to Nowell’s record label, Skunk Records, back in the ‘90s.
Next up on the EP is “All I Need,” a light and vibey tune addressing the undeniable pain in the world, but knowing love and good things will still come your way. “My favorite takeaway from Sublime was like, no matter how rough it got, there was always a way out,” Ramirez says. “And if there wasn’t, you just have a good time while you’re going through it.” And yeah, against your mother’s wishes, getting drunk and/or high likely helps in that department.
The third song, “Battle Scar,” complete with fun, bouncy, syncopated guitar (a ska/reggae staple, of course) is about growing up in a crappy place, and trying to find your way out of it. “It’s kind of like parting your own sort of paradise out of hell, and then if you’re lucky enough to crawl out of that and get to a better place, you’re usually left with a battle scar or two,” he says.
While he was growing up in “the hood,” as Rome says, he knew that no matter what, he was going to have a career in music, but he just wasn’t sure exactly how that’d play out. “I knew I would be playing music for a living, but you know, obviously, I didn’t think I would ever join my favorite band,” he says. “I never thought that I would be as quote-unquote successful as I am today or whatever. I just wanted to devote myself to playing music, and whatever came from that would be good enough for me.”
Don’t you just love when things turn out way better than anticipated?
Lastly, title track “Tangerine Skies,” a mellow close to the EP, is Ramirez artfully reflecting on growing up and starting over –– looking back on how his priorities shifted when he became a husband and father, evolving but also not wanting to completely ditch the person that he was. Balancing work, family, weed, and wine. Life is certainly different now for Ramirez than it was back when he first started this project.
If you’re wondering about the name of the track/EP, twinning with cannabis strain Tangerine Sky was just a happy coincidence, Rome says. We’re talking about the color of unbeatable California skies here, after all. “But also… Tangerine is one of the best,” he confirms.
And while we’re on the topic of weed, it should go without saying that cannabis plays an integral role in Ramirez’s creative process when he’s writing new material for the band. But of course, I had to ask.
“It helps me kind of quiet down the voices and focus on things that are a little bit less tangible,” he says. “I’m able to kind of explore a little more –– that’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever move away from. In the studio, it allows me to just get over some of my self-conscious thinking and be a little bit more creative.” Because yes, even this far into his career, Ramirez still gets self-conscious when he writes.
As for what he’s smoking these days, now that he’s “getting older” (his words, not mine –– he’s only in his mid-30s, but I digress) it’s mostly about vapor and concentrates rather than “blazing a bunch of blunts” –– but don’t worry, there’s a time and a place for that too.
Ramirez says in the past, his favorite music was how he was able to make it through tough situations, and with Sublime with Rome’s music, he hopes to reciprocate that energy.
“Sounds really hippie-ish, but I swear it’s from a really genuine place, you know? It’s been an amazing, amazing life, and I’ve been really gifted by getting this opportunity to sing and play for my favorite band,” he says. “I just want to be able to help inspire a new Sublime listener.”