meta-scriptSublime With Rome Talk Latest Album 'Blessings,' 10 Year Anniversary & Rocking Out With Post Malone |

Sublime With Rome 


Sublime With Rome Talk Latest Album 'Blessings,' 10 Year Anniversary & Rocking Out With Post Malone

Frontman Rome Ramirez says it's only been recently that he feels the band has taken a life of its own, in part because he's grown up. 'Blessings,' the band's third album, reflects both those things

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2019 - 02:17 am

It's been a decade since legendary '90s Southern California ska-punk band resurrected after the death of frontman Bradley Nowell with the help of, at the time, early 20-something-year-old Bay Area native Rome Ramirez. With huge shoes to fill, Ramirez, a huge Sublime fan, took on the opportunity of a lifetime. 

But even though it's been 10 years, and Ramirez acknowledges that some bands don't ever make it to 10, he says it's only been recently that he feels the band has taken a life of its own, in part because he's grown up. Blessings, the band's third album, is a sonic result of both those things. 

"The album lyrically kind of just encompasses the whole journey, like the whole 10 years of just everything, from my perspective at least from being a kid and then to traveling the world and having a kid," Ramirez told the Recording Academy.

Ramirez joined after founding member and bassist Eric Wilson asked him to join the band. Since then, founding drummer Bud Gaugh has left the band and other drummers have taken over duties, but for Ramirez things have really come together for the band since former Tribal Seeds drummer Carlos (C-Los) Verdugo has hopped onto the drumming seat. 

"That's when we started writing everything kind of for this next record and I kind of cooled it on the partying and everything started to make sense," Ramirez said. "People started growing up, things started kind of aligning into being just more of like a brotherhood, which allows you to just create so much better. "

The Recording Academy spoke more with the band about their latest album Blessings and the work that went into it, rocking out with Post Malone, songwriting challenges, their dynamic as a group and more.

So you shared a stage with Post Malone last month. How was that?

Rome Ramirez: Crazy. Post Malone is a very talented man and he's a big fan of Sublime. [He's a] 24-year-old kid on top of the world and it was really cool for him to reach out to us and ask us if we wanted a jam. So we said, "Heck yeah." We had to learn like 20 of his songs. It was a rad experience.

How was learning those songs so quickly?

Rome Ramirez: There was a process.

C-Los Verdugo: That was some work.

Rome Ramirez: Not going to bullsh*t you. It was a process. But you know, our better half isn't here, Gabrial McNair, and he's our keyboard and horn player, and he really helped us out with just breaking down like the sections. He's a musical guy, where we're kind of just like, "Play it by ear, guys." You know? So he kind of helped us like, "Hey, [these are] the sections." But it was rad. It was a really awesome experience. We got to fly down to New York. And you know, man, when you're dealing with superstars like that, there's just bunch of press everywhere and camera crews on camera crews, filming camera crews. So it was really cool to just kind of get to be around that and get to jam in front of so many people.

You covered one of his songs, "Goodbyes." Why that song?

Rome Ramirez: Because of Young Thug's verse. It was awesome. We really liked that one. It was really close to "Santeria" too, chord-wise, and we could squeeze in the solo in the middle of the song and nobody would know, and nobody does. But yeah, it's pretty rad. So it felt like really close to a Sublime song that Eric had wrote. So it just felt like we should do it.

What did you like about the Young Thug verse?

Rome Ramirez: It's just crazy. It's like sporadic. It doesn't sound like it belongs and it doesn't when you hear it like once, but when you hear it again, you're like, "I think I like it." And by like the third time you're like, "This is like the coolest part of the song. It's tight."

You have Blessings out. You've said this album is dedicated to the fans. Tell me more about that.

Rome Ramirez: Well, I mean, so we've been doing this for like 10 years. That's how long I've been jamming with Eric. The album lyrically kind of just encompasses the whole journey, the whole 10 years of just everything, from my perspective at least from being a kid and then to traveling the world and having a kid. Just the whole story of that. And I don't know, all of the pressures from just outside forces, whether it's your family or your friends or even people in the music business. So I just felt like I haven't really talked about that ever. I don't know why, but it seems like you should. So I decided to, and I was like, "F**k, that sounds good."

I just really wanted to talk about that. I feel like there's a lot of people who would dream to kind of be in the situation that I'm in and [if] they listen to the album, they can kind of hear about the journey. Maybe it'll inspire them or maybe it'll persuade them not to do this. Who knows?

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 Were you consciously in a reflecting state of mind because of your 10-year mark?

Rome Ramirez: Well, in the process of writing it we didn't even think of that. Or I didn't even think about that like lyrically because some of these songs were kind of older and then I'd rework them over... This album, we had three years to write so it was kind of rad. But it just kind of made sense. Towards the end when we were kind of thinking about artwork and everything, that's when it was in the album title. That's when it was kind of like, "Yo, we should call this album Blessings." The title song really encompasses the theme of the record, as well.

 What is it like to play with the band that you saw growing up and loved?

C-Los Verdugo: Dream come true.

Rome Ramirez: It's kind of crazy, to be honest. It is kind of nuts. I still think about that from time to time. It's kind of crazy to think about. Everything in my life now is because of Sublime. So it's kind of nuts. I love it, though. I'm so glad it happened to me and not my neighbor. I'd be so jealous.

Eric, how is it for you? To have fans join your band?

Eric Wilson: Pretty cool. I'm just glad to still play it, you know? Still attract people and talented musicians

Looking back, what have you learned as a band together?

Rome Ramirez: You got to be respectful, like your coworkers or your bandmate or your wife or just anyone. Got to be respectful of everybody and you got to make sure everyone's got a say. You know?

Eric Wilson: Trust.

Rome Ramirez: Trust. It's much like a marriage, much like a marriage. You got to know that when they go home, they're not all cheating around someone else.

In what way is it like a marriage?

Rome Ramirez: Playing with other bands, you know? That's a big thing. Family is everything. Obviously, it's crazy because it's...been 10 years. It's hard for bands to even exist for 10 years. Let alone a band with such a rich legacy like Sublime. And then someone like my a** coming in and introducing it to a new wave of people and stuff. So it can be really kind like [tumultuous] grounds .. it can be kind of crazy to navigate through. And I think it's awesome. I think it's a blessing that we're still here able to rock it and there are still people showing [up.] We're still selling out shows and stuff and that's sick. We're really grateful for that.

Do you still feel the pressure to live up to Sublime's legacy?

Rome Ramirez: I mean, it's really just wanting to do a good a** job of just making good sh*t. I just don't want to f**k anything up. I'd hate to be the guy who writes like the worst album and people read back on Sublime in a hundred years and they're like, "There was that one time where that dude wrote this terrible album." So as long as I just don't do that and try and make good sh*t that Eric thinks is tight, too, that's all I really care about is just making sure that we're all proud.

C-Los Verdugo: I just do the best I can to show respect to the old album versions of Sublime and also the live versions. So giving respect to how the songs were actually made because those are songs that are going to be timeless and people want to hear them the way they are on the record. They don't want to hear my little things I could do, so I pay respect to those. But for our new stuff, this is all stuff that we're creating together. So that's special.

Rome Ramirez: Kind of we can f**k around a little bit.

Eric, do the classic Sublime songs performed with the new band take on a new meaning for you?

Eric Wilson: I never thought of that before ... No. I mean, it's always meant the same through anything. It's always kind of a trip to hear it on the radio whenever we sit down at a restaurant or whatever, [it's a trip] they're still playing it like that.

At what point did Sublime with Rome start to take on a life of its own?

Rome Ramirez: Probably this album. Probably when C-Los joined the band. Honestly, probably it's right around that time. That's when we started writing everything kind of for this next record and I kind of cooled it on the partying and everything started to make sense. People started growing up, things started kind of aligning into being just more of like a brotherhood, which allows you to just create so much better. 

Carlos, what do you think about that?

C-Los Verdugo: It's great, you know? But it's just a vibe, we'd just all get together. I think if it was someone that they vibed with it, it might be the same, but I just lucked out to be able to jump [on with] these guys.

Rome Ramirez: He's a good guy. You should hang out with him.

C-Los Verdugo: I fit well.

Rome Ramirez: We like him.

So what do you feel like makes you three strong as a band?

C-Los Verdugo: We all hang out together.

Rome Ramirez: Yeah, out of all the bands we go on the road with, we're the only ones that get along with each other. That and C-Los is a really good cook and no one sounds like us. That's the cool thing. That's like a really sick thing is like we always stand out on the bill, which I think is like rad because you have like your rap acts and you have like your rock and roll acts, and we can kind of float around and just do our thing. It's just something unique. It's a formula that they created that we get to benefit of kind of just rocking with. 

What do you like most about working with each other?

Rome Ramirez: I mean, for me personally, I like how everything I do has to be kind of, at least in my end, I try and make it as cool as possible because Eric likes really cool shit. He likes particular cool shit. And you know, I could get used to listening to the same bands that I fucking grew up with. He actually listens and discovers more new music than I do, which is kind of rad. So, he keeps me on my toes as a f**king writer, you know, to not always just be writing the same f**king songs all the time. And come with it. Keep learning, keep listening and trying new stuff, for sure.

Eric Wilson: It's all about getting all the influences that you're into and then writing something that's from that and making it yours. 

There are several parts to the album-making process. What is your favorite?

Rome Ramirez: The recording part. The writing part's a bummer. It's the work part, but the recording part's sick. It's so fun. Just getting [to] watching everyone record parts and getting tones right and, "Let's try that drum set instead of this one." Or, "Let's go through this compressor. Let's try this guitar." That part's fun as hell. I like that part.

C-Los Verdugo: I think the playback's always fun once you create something that's sounding solid and starting to form the song.

That's really interesting because when you're on stage when someone's listening to the album, they don't necessarily think about the engineers and the mixers.

Rome Ramirez: Yeah, those dudes are important. I mean, it's a huge part of the job. The better those guys are, the more time we have mentally and physically to just devote to the writing and the sound designing. And I think that's rad because when you got to kind of wear that hat, it's just more sh*t you got to think about in the kitchen. You just want to focus on the dish.

Speaking of behind the scenes people, how was it working with Rob Cavallo on this album? 

Rome Ramirez: Dude, the GRAMMYs bought him a guitar because he's like such a crazy songwriter/producer dude the GRAMMY's actually bought him a guitar and I use that on a lot of the album.

Oh, fun fact.

Rome Ramirez: Yeah, that's a good one. But anyway, yeah, well, Rob and Doug McKean, the two guys who recorded and did the album, they're exactly what I was talking about in the question before. [It applies] to them because ... that's who I was thinking of when I was talking about that. Sh*t sounded good, like fast. And for me, because I can be such a stickler when it comes to that kind of sh*t. It was just really rad to just be totally big league. To like, "Quiet down a little boy, we got it from here." And it was like, "Dang. Okay. I could learn some sh*t."

They're the pros and it sounded so sick and I didn't have to think about none of that crap, mixing, or the mic, none of that stuff. Just the lyrics, just the melodies and the songs. And I'm sure the guys just had to worry about their sh*t, too. It makes it easier.

Going back to the songwriting part, why do you think it's a bummer to do that part?

Rome Ramirez: Well I don't mean a bummer, but I just mean you know how in every part of a job there's the part of the job [which is] ... the hard part? That's like the hard part for me [because] it's really easy to write just a song that doesn't mean anything. You'd be surprised how incredibly easy it is. And to really write music that makes you feel something, you have to go to places that you don't necessarily really want to visit or think about. And then you have to also make a song out of it. It's like one thing to just dig it up and think about it, but then you have to make it a song and then you have to make it sound good.

That whole process is work and then you have to do that like 20 times and then narrow it down to 10. For me, it's just I can't do [that process] often, I've realized. I write a lot of music and only some of it's good and it's because it's hard to do that and I can't do that very often. So for me, it takes a tremendous amount of focus and just honesty.

Is that still hard three albums in?

Rome Ramirez: Yeah. Well, luckily we just put this one out, so I won't have to do that again for a while.  It's cool, though. It's my responsibility as a creator, as an artist. I shouldn't be putting out no wishy washy bullsh**. Got to put out good stuff, great stuff that people [because it] might have an effect on people.

I also want to talk about ska. What do you guys love about that genre specifically?

Rome Ramirez: I think ska is rad because it's like Motown, but on like the two, you know? A lot of the times they're singing about some dark sh*t, but it's on a beat that is like just up. 

Eric Wilson: It came from Jamaica, and all the coolest music comes from like poverty-stricken places like that. Or like the Cuban music, you know, percussion. That all comes from poverty. It brings everybody away from all that when they're playing, make them all happy, upbeat and stuff. It's really cool.

Rome Ramirez: They're all talking about wanting to leave the hood, and everybody's dancing, dude.

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Going back to the album, is there a favorite song that you guys have?

Rome Ramirez: Yeah, mine's probably "Light On."

How come?

Rome Ramirez: Just because that song, it means a lot to me. Lyrically, that was a tough one to write. Just to get it right. And that kind of summarizes the missing part of being on the road and stuff and then at the detriment of watching your loved ones kind of grow older. And that's what that was about. So I think every time I play that song, I just think of my mom and my kid, so I'm going to rank that as number one right now.

What about you guys?

Eric Wilson: I like all of them.

Rome Ramirez: I like that.

C-Los Verdugo: I like that one, ["Light On,"] and "Black Out." "Black Out's" good. It's just a fun song to play live. I mean, it's kind of... it's pretty simple, but for me, it's just like I like the chords, I guess.

You're on tour, how has the tour been going for you guys? Do you enjoy being on the road?

Rome Ramirez: Yeah, totally. This is the fucking coolest shit in the world. Like, dude, I used to work at Staples before this. This is so much sicker than that. I'm like, no way. I got homies that are just trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives. And they're like 35, you know? So this is the sh**. Yeah, we're away from our loved ones and stuff. But man, what a good reason. 

How do you guys stay energized and stuff on the road?

C-Los Verdugo: Sleep. 

Rome Ramirez: It's crucial. Especially as a little older you get. More sleep, less alcohol.

C-Los Verdugo: Yeah, water. I'm not drinking so many IPAs.

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Photo by CHAI


New Music Friday: Listen To New Music From Soccer Mommy, Jenny Owen Youngs, Sublime With Rome & More

With albums and songs from some of the industry’s most influential artists, take a peek at four new tracks that dropped on Sept. 22.

GRAMMYs/Sep 22, 2023 - 07:07 pm

As we fully enter autumn, a myriad of artists are releasing new music to add to your seasonal playlist.

There’s something for everyone this Friday, with a new album from pop queen Kylie Minogue and a highly anticipated new record from Doja Cat, Scarlet. In sounds from around the globe, J-pop group CHAI offer "neo-kawaii" '90s-inspired beats. If you’re not in the mood to dance today, albums like Jenny Owen Youngs' Avalanche are an excellent soundtrack to blissfully vibe alone. 

Check out these tracks from four different artists, and add them to your mix.

Jenny Owen Youngs - Avalanche

After nearly a decade since her last album, An Unwavering Band of Light, Los Angeles singer/songwriter, Jenny Owen Youngs is back. Her Avalanche is an emotional, intimate album exploring the depths of loss, grief, self-discovery, and restoration.

"When I try to say the things I can’t/It comes out like an avalanche/How else do I prove that I adore you/Something about my savage heart/That wants to tear your world apart/And stitch it all right back together for you," Youngs sings on the title track.

The beautiful, folk-inspired tracks lean heavily on piano and guitar, pulling listeners through a field of heavy emotions. At the end of the record, "certain things will be different than they were before," she said in an interview with FLOOD.

Beyond her indie folk music, Youngs continues to master all trades. She’s a co-host for podcast "Buffering The Vampire Slayer" and "The eX-Files," in addition to her work as author and frequent collaborations.  

CHAI - Chai

Dedicated with love to their Japanese culture, CHAI's fourth album features fun, female empowerment tracks that they hope redefine the meaning of "kawaii," which in Japanese describes something as cute or adorable. CHAI’s uptempo new-wave sounds and pop beats add to the band's unique aesthetic and world. 

CHAI’s uptempo album features new wave sounds and pop beats,  as well as '90s inspired R&B and dance tracks such as "From 1992" and "Like, I Need." CHAI doesn’t forget to acknowledge their hometown, paying tribute to the genre of Japanese city pop, shouting out family members, and reminiscing on tracks "Driving22" and "KARAOKE."

CHAI's North American tour kicks off this weekend, at Flipside Festival in Idaho. 

Sublime with Rome - "All I Need"

Co-founded by former Sublime member Eric Wilson, California rock-reggae band Sublime with Rome manifest positive energy on their new single, "All I Need." The group will release a new EP, Tangerine Skies on Nov. 3.

Bassist Wilson and singer/ guitarist Rome Ramirez continue to commemorate the influence of Sublime through covers and original works. As with many of the OG group's songs, Sublime with Rome's "All I Need" makes you want to lie on the warm beach and keep the good vibes coming.

Soccer Mommy - Karaoke Night EP

If you’re looking for music that makes you feel like the main character in a 2010 coming-of-age film, this EP is for you. Soccer Mommy's Karaoke Night features five covers from artists like Taylor Swift, R.E.M., Crow, Pavement and Slowdive. She seemingly reinvented the tracks, adding her own influence and alternative twang.

Born Sophie Allison, Soccer Mommy announced Karaoke Night in August, through her own version of Taylor Swift’s song, "I’m Only Me When I’m With You." Her take is a slower, guitarted version of Taylor’s original country/indie track.

"This song is one of my favorites from Taylor’s first album," she wrote on Instagram. "I listened to that record so much when I was a kid and I think it had a lot of influence on me then."

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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billy idol living legend
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring


Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

**Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?**

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

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