Ready To Show What They Got

After 14 years, several multi-platinum albums and global notoriety achieved after frontman Bradley Nowell’s death in 1996, Sublime with Rome find themselves at a curious crossroads: Can they pull off what AC/DC and INXS did by moving forward without their iconic frontman in a respectful way?

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. We just wanted to play good music,” new frontman Rome points out. “I guess it just felt right. [Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson] really wanted to play the music again. A lot of the songs they didn’t really have the chance to play.”

The strange road that led Gaugh and Wilson to reunite again – after the 2002 dissolution of Long Beach Dub Allstars – with Rome in February 2009 began with the same phone call they received about Nowell in the late ’80s: They had to check out this excellent new singer their recording engineer friend had just heard.

The then 20-year-old Rome impressed Gaugh and Wilson, and they played a gig at a small club in Reno to test the waters. Later in October 2009, they were billed on Cypress Hill’s SmokeOut Festival to make their official live comeback.

The reunion hasn’t been all peachy. They were involved in lawsuits over the name with Nowell’s estate from October 2009 through January. Gaugh and Wilson never intended to disrespect Nowell’s memory and have maintained they’re only in it for the music. Rome shares the same sentiment without concern for the legal issues.

“Nah, no way man. I was too busy writing songs and doing positive stuff. We just let the attorneys do what they do,” he says.

Naturally, fans have also chipped in their two cents and voiced their opinions against the reunion, but none of it really matters to Rome.

“If I spend all my time focusing on the negativity out there, I’d be depressed and I wouldn’t write any songs. I just keep my head out of the gutter. Kind of like the lawsuit stuff that was going on,” Rome continues. “To me it’s on the same wavelength. It’s just a bunch of kids on a computer pointing the finger. I don’t really get involved in it. My mind is too occupied with things more in a positive nature.”

The future is still as hazy as it was last year when it all came together. So far, “Panic” is the only song they’ve composed and performed as the new lineup. Rome says they’ve written three or four jams, but they are not ready enough to be called “songs” yet. The intent is to conclude the tour and then focus on writing and recording a new album together.

“If we’re going to have anyone produce our record, it’s going to be Paul Leary, the guitarist from the Butthole Surfers,” Rome says of Leary who also produced 1996’s Sublime.

With the Nowell estate signing off on the new moniker, Gaugh and Wilson can finally perform songs off the quintuple-platinum Sublime that many fans have never heard live – including Rome.

As a teen in the Bay Area, Rome picked up the guitar because he wanted to learn a couple Sublime songs. Like many ’90s kids, Rome’s first exposure to Sublime was the self-titled effort. Nirvana and the Misfits also captured Rome’s rock curiosity. Four years ago, Rome supplemented his guitar skills with singing. He discovered he was good at it while hanging out with some friends at a party.

Rome’s already tasted success with the Dirty Heads, a reggae rock band from Huntington Beach. Their single “Lay Me Down” is a hit, and he’s touring with them until Sublime with Rome kicks off its highly anticipated tour on stoner holiday, April 20, at the Hollywood Palladium.

“Nah, it’s no coincidence. It just seems like the appropriate day to start things off,” Rome comments about the start date.

The 12-date tour hits small-to-mid level venues through early May.

“We didn’t want to come out of the game with a full-blown arena tour because that would kind of be too overkill,” Rome says. “There are still a lot of people that have not gotten the chance to see the band in a little more intimate, private setting.”