In late February, the surviving members of Sublime (bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh) performed at a Mexican restaurant in Nevada with a new vocalist named Rome stepping in for late singer-guitarist Brad Nowell, who died of a heroin overdose over a decade ago. The trio recently announced they will perform their first concert as "Sublime" since May 24th, 1996 — the day before Nowell passed away — tomorrow at Devore, California's Smokeout Festival. Wilson and Gaugh have said they're reluctant to call the show a "reunion," preferring to call it a "celebration." Bradley Nowell's estate thinks the event be classified by another name: violation.
In a statement released today, Nowell's family says Brad registered "Sublime" as a trademark under his own name prior to his death, and never intended for any band to use the moniker without him. "Out of respect for Brad's wishes, we have always refused to endorse any group performing as 'Sublime,' and now with great reluctance feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad's legacy," the Nowell family writes.
UPDATE: The remaining members of Sublime have responded to the Nowell family in a pair of statements that defend the band's decision to perform under the Sublime name. The band adds that a United States District Court allowed the trio to perform as Sublime after a temporary restraining order from the Nowell family was unsuccessful.
Nowell family statement:
"It was recently announced that Sublime bassist Eric Wilson and Sublime drummer Floyd 'Bud' Gaugh are 'reuniting' and teaming with singer and guitarist Rome Ramirez in a band they intend to call 'Sublime.' Prior to his untimely passing, both Bud and Eric acknowledged that Brad Nowell was the sole owner of the name Sublime. It was Brad's expressed intention that no one use the name Sublime in any group that did not include him, and Brad even registered the trademark 'Sublime' under his own name.
As Brad's heirs, and with the support of his entire family, we only want to respect his wishes and therefore have not consented to Bud and Eric calling their new project 'Sublime.' We have always supported Bud and Eric's musical endeavors and their desire to continue to play Sublime's music. We wholeheartedly supported Bud, Eric and the many talented members of the Sublime posse that formed the Long Beach Dub All-Stars, soon after Brad's death, to honor him through their original recordings, live performances and Sublime music until they disbanded in 2001. But, out of respect for Brad's wishes, we have always refused to endorse any group performing as 'Sublime,' and now with great reluctance feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad's legacy.
Our hope is that Brad's ex-bandmates will respect his wishes and find a new name to perform under, so as to enhance the 'Sublime' legacy without the confusion and disappointment that many fans have expressed upon seeing the announcement.
Peace and Love to all,
Troy, Jakob & Jim 'Papa' Nowell."
Gaugh and Wilson statements:
"On behalf of the band Sublime, founding members Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson are thrilled by the opportunity to reconnect with their fans around the world. While we all mourn the passing of our brother and bandmate Bradley Nowell some thirteen years ago, Sublime still has a strong message of hope and love to share -- a message that is especially important in these difficult times.
Brad's heirs apparently do not share this vision and do not want the band Sublime to continue and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to file a temporary restraining order to prevent the band from carrying on. Despite those objections, we are pleased that the United States District Court has allowed us to perform as Sublime for all of our fans.
We urge everyone to join us in our message of peace and love, and we look forward to sharing the music we created -- the music that defines us.
"It's unfortunate that The Estate would take a position against us. Eric, Brad and I started this band when we were kids. We were the ones that spent years paying dues playing hole-in-the-wall clubs. We were the ones lugging around our gear in a broken down van. We were the ones that spent years writing, recording and rehearsing. WE. Not anyone else. Sublime is a band -- our band.
Eric, Brad and I always agreed that no one should ever be allowed to tell artists what they can and cannot do with their art. It's a matter of artistic integrity.
We were devastated when we lost Brad and there's not a day that goes by that Eric and I don't think about him and miss him. When we got together and started jamming with Rome, we realized that embracing the music will be a huge step toward healing and moving forward. We see this as a celebration of Brad's memory and the music we all made together. And the fans are on board - they've started a Facebook page called "We Want Sublime" and its numbers are growing daily. Sublime's music has always been about love and we hope The Estate joins us and the fans that support us in celebrating Brad's life and our music.
Come celebrate with us.