Sublime With Rome: Kicking It Old School
When you’re asked if you’d like to steal a few minutes of Eric Wilson’s time – one of the founding members of America’s most successful ska punk band Sublime – you don your best criminal ensemble and steal away. After getting a hold of the man on our crackling phone line, we quizzed him on what he’s been up to lately.
“I spent the weekend dirt biking in the desert actually,” responds a casual yet tired Wilson. It was around then that we thought it best not to tell one of the icons of the California punk scene that we’d inevitably spent the weekend catching up on some quality couch time. To get some perspective on Wilson’s latest band, Sublime With Rome, we asked if he’d care to cast his mind back to the glory days of the California punk scene.
“It was awesome,” Wilson enthuses. “I was 15-years-old when I started getting into punk and the punk scene was starting to die out about then, but I was lucky enough to see some great bands like The Dead Boys and it really changed my life. I was glad that I was able to catch the tail-end of it.”
While Wilson may have arrived fashionably late to the punk party, it was through a diverse mix of influences that he and band mates Bradley Nowell and Bud Gaugh were able to craft their ska punk sound and stage a mainstream revival of the genre in the United States. Alongside the likes of Bad Religion, Rancid and Pennywise, the scene flourished. Kids stuck it to the man and anarchy reigned supreme. When BLUNT caught up with Pennywise’s Fletcher Dragge at last year’s Soundwave Festival, he couldn’t speak more highly of the trio and by all accounts, the feeling’s mutual.
“His bass player Randy Bradbury was in a local band in Long Beach and I’d go and watch them practice all the time,” tells Wilson. “He’s actually the reason why I even started playing bass in the first place.”
It wasn’t until the late ‘80s that Wilson decided to gather the troops for action and craft the ska punk sound you’ve come to know and love on era-defining songs “What I Got” and “Date Rape”.
“I’d played in bands with Bud before and I’d played in bands with Brad, and when Brad came home for Christmas break one year from studying in Santa Cruz, I decided to call him and Bud and get us all together,” Wilson says of the band’s inception. “When we did actually get together, it was awesome. Brad immediately transferred back down to Long Beach where we all were so we could properly start playing together.”
With Wilson and the boys officially getting the Sublime name out in the open in 1988, it was during this year that another event would impact on Wilson’s life, namely, the birth of Rome Ramirez, the vocalist of the newly-formed Sublime With Rome. With such an age gap, we couldn’t help but be curious as to how Rome came to be on board.
“It doesn’t seem like I’m playing alongside a little kid,” Wilson laughs. “I ran into Rome at a studio where I was doing some work and we just started jamming together. I saw the talent he has; he can sing, he can play guitar, he writes great lyrics as well and he fit the criteria.”
After Brad Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996, both Wilson and Gaugh had agreed that they had no interest in reforming the band with a new member. However, it was after coming across Rome that the idea seemed enticing.
“It seemed like the right thing to do ‘cos I always wanted to play the songs that we recorded with Brad that we never got to play because he died,” Wilson sombrely admits. “Before Rome, I’d just never met anybody that could fill Brad’s shoes, so to speak, but he’s up there in talent and he’s a great musician.”
Despite the setback surrounding the band’s name, brought about by Nowell’s estate owning the rights to the Sublime moniker, the band regrouped as Sublime With Rome and released their first album, Yours Truly, in July of last year. Kicking the nostalgia into gear, Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary worked the knobs, having last worked with Wilson and Gaugh on Sublime’s eponymous final album.
“It was awesome,” gushes Wilson, evidently pleased to be working with Leary again. “It was great working with him again and everyone was really happy about it.”
With the band turning their focus to touring, Sublime With Rome are currently embarking on an Australian tour and Wilson assures us that you can expect to hear lost Sublime gems from the glory days.
“We’re gonna play a little more of our older stuff than our newer stuff, so it’ll probably only be about six songs from the new record. We want to play a lot of really old songs from the different Sublime albums.”
As for the band’s mission statement, Wilson’s just happy to be back on the road and doing what he loves.
“We just want to keep writing good stuff and keep playing around the world,” he says.
And that sounds more than alright to us.
Sublime With Rome’s new album Yours Truly is out now through Warner Music Australia.