The last four years have been a whirlwind for Rome Ramirez, the 24-year-old singer who took on Bradley Nowell's role in Sublime's second incarnation, Sublime With Rome. But catapulting from obscurity to fronting one of the biggest bands ever only made Ramirez hungry for more success and artistic growth.
We checked in with the Huntington Beach res while he was chillin' at home getting ready for a string of solo gigs including one tonight at the Coach House. His first full-length solo album will be released in the coming months.
OC Weekly (Arrissia Owen): So tell us about Get Free. Is it going to be more of what we heard on last year's EP Dedication?
Rome Ramirez: It's a totally different sound with more of an edge. The EP had an overall pop sound to it in songwriting and song construction. It was a little more heartfelt.
When I signed my solo deal, they put me in the machine. I worked with the biggest names, top-notch dogs. It was cool. It was dope. I just got kind of caught up in it. I got pushed into a corner with this album that didn't really sound like me, and that I wasn't exactly excited about. I went away and wrote some new songs, and they loved it.
I have something they want, and as soon as I give that up and do what they want, I am just a vessel with vocal chords. I would just take a side seat. I decided that was all bullshit. When I set out to do this LP, I decided to do it all by myself top to bottom, well with my friend Dave Bassett, who co-wrote and co-produced. It's the pinnacle of all my hard work.
This album's production is super crazy. The songs are influenced by bands like Bow Wow Wow and The Clash with some hip-hop and Kanye West-style production. It's punk with a modern production style. I started recording last June with this sound in mind. The first single, "Terrorista" is about as punk rock as it gets on the album.
Your career has been a bit backwards, starting out in one of the greatest bands ever and playing large arenas and with a lot of stage production. Now you're heading out with a guitar in your hand, playing songs in intimate venues. What are the upsides to that sort of career trajectory?
On these tours I am just showing up at bars and singing songs. It's a very scaled-down performance. But most importantly, it's all mine.
I'm not starting from the very bottom. I have acquired a fan base through Sublime with Rome. And I have acquired my own fan base, too. But essentially a whole audience was passed on to me.
What is the audience at a Rome Ramirez show like compared to Sublime With Rome?
There are a lot of girls. (Laughs.) It's a younger audience. I definitely embrace the fact that I am Mexican-American, and a lot of my fan base happens to be Latino.
Why do you think so many of your fans are Latino?
They can identify with me. I'm not the star quarterback of the team. I'm not a fucking model. I'm not perfect skin with blonde hair and blue eyes. I am the counter culture of everything they've grown up with.
When it comes down to Hollywood, who's out there who is Mexican? Mario Lopez? They see me up there and it shows that there are opportunities. They're like, If you can do it so can I.
When I first interviewed you, you were about to go on the first Sublime With Rome tour. You were only 20. If you hadn't had that chance meeting that rocketed you toward this type of success, what do you think you'd be doing at 24?
I would probably be doing what I am doing now, working on my music. That is basically all I ever do. Being with Sublime With Rome, that has been my big machine for the last four years. I had to do a lot of growing up.
Everything changes, from making your first dollar and then some friends treating you differently, buying yourself a car, seeing yourself on a jumbotron. There are so many things that make you feel like the man, then there are experiences that pull you down like everyone else. There have been a lot of ups and downs. You need to be a strong, humble individual to not let it drag you down and to keep marching forward.
What do you mean by marching forward?
Not everything is going to be exactly how you want it. The hardest part is to remain level headed. No matter how crazy it gets, you have to remember to keep moving forward. You keep striving to be better and better.
We went out with Sublime With Rome that first year and killed it, and then we did a record. We could have just kept doing what we were doing, singing the same songs at the same venues, or continue to grow as artists and write better songs and play bigger venues. It's easy for people to get into a good position and get comfortable. For us, it's very much about the art. It's just fucking fun. And we want to continue.
Rome Ramirez performs with Tunnel Vision and Madtown at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Friday, April 4, 7 p.m. $17.