We caught up with Sublime with Rome before they embarked on their summer tour with 311 to talk about their new album Yours Truly, which drops July 12. Here's what the laid-back trio had to say about their new album, their first international tour as a band, where they see SWR five years from now, and how to make a rockstar feel humble.
L.A. WEEKLY: ROME, You haven't had the opportunity to start small with the band and grow into selling sold-out shows. How difficult has it been to just put yourself out there and play to an inherited fan base?
ROME: I wouldn't say difficult, it's been challenging, but all of the best things in life come with a challenge, you know.
The challenge isn't necessarily winning over the fan base because they see us have a lot of fun on stage and just kind of do our own thing and it looks really natural, so it comes off really positive and genuine; but the challenge came from playing in front of 200 people and then going and playing in front of like, 80,000. It takes a long time, and I'm still learning to get more comfortable doing this, but this is what I wanted to do since the very beginning, so I knew what I was getting myself into.
L.A. Weekly: BUD AND ERIC, How does it feel to watch a new star rise among your band?
BUD: It's been really cool just being able to get back out and play the music that we've been wanting to play for so long and writing new music, you know. The other bands that I played in just were missing something, that element, and I think that element was being with my best friend Eric and playing music that we grew up playing. So watching Rome take the reins has really made us proud and we're like family. Rome said earlier, being able to call ourselves brothers and stuff is great. My family is expanding. It's a good thing.
ERIC: I just think that Rome had what it took before I even met him and because of Sublime, he can really get out there and show everyone what he's got. He writes songs just like all the other greats who have ever written a song. We're just happy to have him with us.
L.A. WEEKLY: Now you have a new wave of fans tuning in as well as hardcore diehards … is it difficult to cater to both generations of fans?
BUD: No, we just try to please ourselves. Just like that old [Ricky Nelson] song goes “You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.” And that's how Sublime has always been. We always played the music that we liked to play, that we liked to hear and if nobody else out there is enjoying it, we are. I think that's where the genuineness comes in, is that we're playing the music that we want to hear. We change up the set from night to night because we want to play these songs and in this order. So really, it's for ourselves and I think the fans appreciate that.
ROME: They can see it, you know. That's always been kind of like our mentality. It's definitely been [Bud and Eric's] mentality, but since I've joined the band, they've really helped me adapt their kind of mentality where it's just like: We only get about an hour and a half of just us–of just me, Bud and Eric on stage, doing what we do, a night–and that's during our set. And for that hour and a half, just put aside everything–put aside the label; put aside management; put aside publicists–just go up there and do what you guys want to do. Go up there and have fucking fun. We played this metal festival, not too long ago, over in Switzerland and we were the only band of our kind of sound on the bill. I mean everyone there was very, very hard …
BUD: RAWWWWWR! (Laughs)
ROME: So like we were kind of put in this weird place where like “Well, lets try to change the set and lets make it a little bit heavier,” you know. We don't do that often, but we kind of stepped out of our element. And we went up there and we played, but we didn't do as good as we knew we could. A couple days later, we had the same festival moved over to a different spot in Europe–same bands, same steez, but we went up there and did what we do best–which is get up there and play what we want to play, how we want to play it. I mean, that was one of our greatest shows in all of Europe and I think that was kind of like a reality check to us like, “Hey, stick to the programs, guys,” you know, just do you. It's a simple message, but it really takes you the furthest.
BUD: It's like, if you're collecting art, you always want to get an original. Why get a print? I mean, of course, if you can't afford it, but you'd always rather have the original because it's special to you and that's what we try to do–deliver original art from each night.
LA WEEKLY: You guys recently headlined in Argentina and Brazil this past spring… how did it feel to be embarking on your first international tour as a band?
ROME: That was amazing. We had a great time. Our man Bud here couldn't make it because he had some personal issues to attend to, but [Eric and I] teamed up with our buddy Matt from The Dirty Heads and he covered in for Bud for the drums and we went down to South America. We never headlined anything over there, nor had the band previously with Brad, so going out there we didn't know what to expect. We delivered amazing, sold-out shows. I mean the audience was insane. Our biggest show out there headlining was close to 8,000 people and we never played there. We don't have a song on the radio there as the new lineup so it was really, really special to see that because we weren't really expecting that.
LA WEEKLY: Were most of the fans over there already familiar with your music?
ROME: Oh yeah! Dude, they were total Sublime fans! I mean that's the kind of thing that happens whenever we leave the country–It doesn't matter where it is: Canada, Europe, South America–the music transcends borders and time.
LA WEEKLY: And language?
ERIC: I don't even think they knew what they were saying, but they knew how to sing them.
ROME: And they had the enthusiasm to match it so that's rad.
LA WEEKLY: Your single “Panic” has a very old skool Sublime vibe, does the rest of Yours Truly follow suit?
ROME: I think it just brings the same essence as any previous Sublime record, which is that it doesn't necessarily pertain to a sound. You have a hard time classifying the genre of the album in general. Some bands put out a dance album; some bands put out a reggae album; some bands put out a heavier album; but Sublime has always put out an album consistent of whatever the hell they wanted to play. I mean, on every album there was a contrast to every song, which isn't really like most bands and I think that kind of sticks to the same formula for Yours Truly. It's a total contrast–every song is different from the song before. We explore all different kinds of genres, just like Sublime did previously, but it's 15 years later, with new sounds and new influences. Everyone's grooving to new stuff on their iPods and there's new music being created out there today, so we have that formula, that same recipe, but updated 15 years later.
LA WEEKLY: Which song off the new album are you most excited to unleash on fans?
ROME: We have a dubstep track called “Safe and Sound.”
ERIC: It's a dubstep genre song and it's definitely off the beaten path–something you wouldn't expect us to be doing.
LA WEEKLY: As a band, Sublime has a history of creating songs from spontaneous jam sessions. Did you approach this album the same way?
BUD: Yeah, I invited a friend, Jammal Tarkington, down from Reno, he plays in Keyser Soze and we had him come down to put some sax on some of the songs, so we were in the studio in Costa Mesa and we were just going to warm him up and we just started jamming a dub-reggae kind of jam and Paul Leary hit record on the deck and we just jammed out for like eleven, twelve, thirteen minutes.
ROME: And kept about nine of those minutes! (Laughs)
BUD: Yeah, just freestyled the whole thing, just wailing, so we had to cut a little bit down to fit it on the album.
ROME: That's kind of our style, and it goes from the studio all the way down to the stage too. Every night we're up there just going into breaks and random stuff. We never get the same set twice. It's very freestyle and very spontaneous and that's kind of how the album flows as well. We tried the whole “Let's go in there and you play this, you play that” Pro Tools separately, but it just didn't work that good. We had to go in there and organically get together and just rough shit out.
LA WEEKLY: You recorded this album in El Paso, right? Didn't it feel a little unnatural to be creating a sound so indicative of southern California in a studio in Texas?
ROME: No way. It was mindset. Yeah, you know we couldn't go surfing or put our feet in the ocean but, I mean where did the album was very special and it was a very special time as well. We worked with Paul Leary from The Butthole Surfers, he produced the album. He did an amazing job. He could have helped produced this album whether it was under a rock or if it was in Greenland. He could have made this album just as good as we expected him to. And where we did it was in the living quarters. We literally ate breakfast together at the same table; ate every meal [together]; went to bed; woke up; and recorded the music and we lived there close to two months. That was all there was. It was almost even better, I'd say, because of the fact that it took you 45 minutes to go to the grocery store; it took you an hour to get to a bar–you're in the middle of nowhere–but all you have are these songs, each other and a really cool ranch.
ERIC: And a bunch of equipment.
BUD: We did that too when we recorded the self-titled album in [Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texas] with Paul and it was at Willie Nelson's ranch and there's just something about Texas. It's Texas what infects us!
ROME: I wish we would have put that in the album somewhere. That would have been a cool title. (Laughs).
LA WEEKLY: When you guys aren't recording or touring, what do you do in your spare time?
ROME: Sp…are time? How do you say that?
BUD: Eric and I are both dads so there is no such thing as spare time, but I like to work on cars. I have some classic cars and bikes that I tinker around with. I like to paint, like auto painting and stuff like that, and spray metal flakes and candies and things like that. I like to go out and four-wheel drive, kayak–a lot of outdoor stuff–snowboard in the wintertime, build guns.
ROME: I try to go to concerts and stuff and check out the bands that I like. I skate and play video games and record music–just like I did when I was young.
LA WEEKLY: Almost every older Sublime song mentions Long Beach. Do you guys still have a deep connection with that city? And does it still continue to influence your sound or lyrics?
ROME: I go skate big speed hills every over week.
ERIC: I still live there.
BUD: I'm still on probation there. (Everyone laughs.)
BUD: Just kidding.
ROME: Eric is a Long Beach OG, he's never left Long Beach. Eric holds it down. I don't live in Long Beach, but I go to Long Beach a lot to go golfing and skateboarding.
BUD: One of our [new] songs is titled “PCH” and it's kind of in reference to the Long Beach [theme], even though [the Pacific Coast Highway] isn't on the coast in Long Beach. (Everyone laughs.)
ROME: I know dude, what's up! [The PCH] is so deep in there.
LA WEEKLY: Are you guys looking forward to touring with 311 this summer? How did that opportunity come about?
ROME: The fans. Totally.
ERIC: They made us do it.
ROME: The fans have been asking both bands.
ERIC: And we're like “shut up already!” (Laughs) We'll do it.
ROME: And it's a great opportunity. The guys [of 311] asked us if we'd be interested and we considered it and said “Hell yeah, what better way to spend a summer.” It's going to an epic, epic summer. People are going to want to keep this merch for a long time. This is going to be a show that a lot of people have been waiting for and we're both very excited to do it. The dudes of 311 are just super cool, mellow dudes and we're the exact same way, or pretend to be, so we're amped and ready to hit the summer, man. We're back home! We spent all of 2011in other countries, playing all of this new music for other countries and now we're back home, you know, finally hitting our domestic motherland.
LA WEEKLY: You'll also be a part of their three-day long Pow Wow music festival in Florida in August. Are you guys roughing it and camping or staying nearby in a hotel?
ROME: I don't think I'll be camping out. I'll be too hungover to camp out.
BUD: My daughter is two and half, and I'll have my family out there, so we probably won't be camping. But we'll be hanging out, walking around, and checking out all the fun stuff.
ROME: There's a lot of good bands on the bill.
ERIC: I'll just pass out under someone's car and hope they don't drive away.
LA WEEKLY: You're also playing a show in Japan, despite the nuclear crisis that is still occurring. Aren't you concerned with the health risks associated with traveling to that part of the world right now?
BUD: Fuck yeah.
ROME: Yeah, of course.
BUD: What are we going to eat while we're over there? I mean, everything is affected by radiation.
ROME: If you really want to know, yeah, it's a concern.
ERIC: We're going to look into that. Thanks. (Laughs) We're going to have to look into the radiation levels sometime before the concert to see if it's getting kind of scary or what. Maybe get some suits or space suits or something.
LA WEEKLY: Where do you hope to see Sublime with Rome 5 years from now?
ROME: Hopefully doing this, but on a much greater scale. We want to do this forever, until it's no longer fun and genuine, then we'll stop and get day jobs, but until then, we're loving life. We're having way too much fun and we fully believe in the direction of this band. And we have the fans' support too, and we're very grateful for that.
ERIC: We're looking for black holes to get to other universes to carry the music into other life forms.
BUD: Yeah, we're going to have to find a new medium though, because I don't know if the digital medium is going to work after we go through the black hole. It will probably demagnetize it.
LA WEEKLY: ROME, OK–be honest–do you ever feel compelled to go home to your childhood bedroom and autograph your old Sublime posters? (Everyone laughs.)
ERIC: He already did!
ROME: No, no, no, no. Actually though, you know what, going [to my childhood] home is a trip because I still have my bedroom there and there are still Sublime posters everywhere and [posters of] all of these bands that I now play with on stage. It's such a reality check. If you still got your original bedroom setup at your parents' house and you're a rockstar, I suggest you go home every once in awhile and fucking stay the night there cause you'll leave just like you did when you first left home. It's a real humbling experience, for sure.
LA WEEKLY: A lot of people must be looking up to you because you're living the dream that you've always had since you were young. What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a career in music?
ROME: Well, I have my strategy, but I don't ever want to be the person to tell someone to do this and then they fail and then they come back and blame me. My whole thing was I never had a Plan B. Never. Failure wasn't an option, you know. It was just like “This is what you're doing, man, just admit it, sorry.”
BUD: That's the right way to do it.
ROME: And that was it. As much as I may have suffered at that point in my life, whether it [was at] school or work, nothing else mattered than my goal, my vision, and I went to bat with just that. I didn't know what I was going to do if I failed because I didn't think I would [fail].
LA WEEKLY: BUD, You've mentioned “Brad's House” in past interviews and your desire to provide addiction recovery services to underprivileged teens. Is that an organization you've been able to build upon and where does it stand now?
BUD: We're still developing the business model for it and trying to get tax exempt status for it because it is a charity. So we're just figuring out the best way to do it right now. There are maybe a couple more months' worth of research and legwork and then we're looking to open it up in 2012. We've already started with the Band of Recovery, which is bracelet that you can buy that helps fund nonprofit rehabs and the idea behind that is to be able to make enough money to send people to rehab. So far we've sent two people to rehab and it seems to be working really well.
ROME: Rehab isn't cheap, by the way. In case the readers want to know. Rehab is usually twice the amount of a student loan.
BUD: Yeah, $20,000-40,000, depending on the place. It's really expensive and a lot of times, insurance doesn't cover it and people don't have insurance and my thing is, the need is there and there are a lot of people who have trouble with drugs, alcohol, depression, mental or behavioral disorders that can benefit from [rehabilitation] and turn around their situation in life and become productive members of society, so helping others is something that is deep in our hearts and we're going to keep doing it until it's done.