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Sublime Wars! Rome (Gently) Strikes Back as Band Moves on With Bradley Nowell’s Son

Even if late Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell actually had a crystal ball, he couldn’t have possibly imagined the latest dramatic developments in the world of his band. Twenty-eight years after Nowell’s tragically early death, two entirely separate versions of Sublime will be touring in 2024. And no one’s happy about it, especially Rome Ramirez, who will be playing numerous contractually obligated shows billed as Sublime With Rome — the final concerts for that band — even as original bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh reunite for Coachella and other festivals as plain old Sublime, fronted for the first time by Bradley’s 28-year-old son, Jakob Nowell. “If it were up to me,” Ramirez tells Rolling Stone, in his first interview about the drama, “this wouldn’t have been the way that it went down.”

Ramirez, who had been keeping the Sublime flame alive with Wilson since 2009, has a new single out today, an impressive cover of Lee Fields’ ballad “Forever” that shows off serious vintage-soul vocal chops. He’s looking towards a solo future along those lines, while also continuing Rome and Duddy, his project with Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell of the Dirtyheads. According to Ramirez, the decision to end Sublime With Rome — which led to the return of Sublime — was his own. “Eric has had some serious health issues and some life-changing incidents within the past year, all of which we’ve continuously tried to help him with,” Ramirez says. “I really do have the time of my life getting on those stages and singing those songs… On the flip side of that, having to kind of watch someone struggle with their health and trying to maintain practices to help better themselves, that can be very difficult.”

“My health is actually better than it’s been in years,” Wilson responds in a statement to Rolling Stone. “I’m still recovering from shoulder surgery and it’s been a long road, but I’m healing quicker than expected. Honestly, I wake up every day feeling better now than I have in years. Getting to play music with my best friend Bud and jamming with Jake has me inspired again. And that inspiration has led to me taking my health more seriously and enjoying each day. For me, the Sublime with Rome thing had its time and I wish Rome the best.”

Ramirez says he learned about Wilson’s reunion with Gaugh, who had been out of the picture for a decade, in a Jakob-fronted version of Sublime “the same way you all did — over the internet.” But the real surprise, he maintains, was learning just last week, via a public Instagram post from Wilson, that the bassist wouldn’t be joining Ramirez on the remaining shows they have booked this year as Sublime With Rome — which means the performances will feature zero original members of Sublime. “We were under the assumption that he had been working on, you know, getting his stuff together,” Ramirez says, “and then we were going to continue out for the remainder of the year and then part ways on a very beautiful journey that we’ve embarked on for the last 15 years.” 

Wilson responds, “As far as me not playing with SWR, that has been known for a while now. The behind-the-scenes stuff can get a little cheesy at times. For me, it’s about the fans and music, so for now I will leave it at that.”

Again, Ramirez wishes it wasn’t going down this way. “If I could wave a magic wand and just turn those into Rome shows, I would,” the singer says. “But the fact of the matter is, we have commitments that we’ve made to multiple people, from our fans, to the promoters, to, heck, even the legacy. We’ve made commitments, and we have to stick by them. That’s the kind of person I am. There’s a lot of stuff right now happening behind the scenes, and a lot of stuff people would probably love for me to say, but that’s just not me.”

He emphasizes his warm feelings for Wilson, who started playing with Ramirez when he was an unknown kid who didn’t even own a guitar. “It’s a very conflicting situation, because I have a lot of love and admiration for him. I don’t think that I would’ve made it this far in music without Sublime and without that opportunity. And he was the person who championed for me and introduced me to Bud and gave me my first electric guitar after I pawned everything.”

Jakob Nowell recently told the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast that he respected Ramirez’s talent, while revealing that the very existence of Sublime With Rome had been emotionally difficult for him.  “I grew up worshiping the band, but for Jakob, it’s a much more personal thing,” Ramirez responds, mentioning a civil phone conversation with Jakob two weeks ago. “That’s his father and he has a different relationship to that music. He’s entitled to those feelings about Sublime With Rome.” 


In his ideal world, Ramirez’s time with Sublime would have ended far more elegantly. “I would have loved to have done something so special and pass the mic to Jakob and let Bud take the kit on the last show — just something awesome for the fans, because that’s what they deserve. Sublime doesn’t need any drama. Sublime is a beautiful thing.”

It’s clear that there are no hard feelings on his side as he adds: “But regardless,I think Jakob is the right man for the job. He’s Bradley’s son, for crying out loud! I have three beautiful children of my own. I can really relate to that sentiment. At the end of the day, I’m just a diehard Sublime fan like everyone else, and I wish nothing but success for them.”

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