By Jim Morrison

Sublime’s lead singer, Bradley Nowell, died of a heroin overdose in the spring of 1996. His son, Jakob, was 11 months old.

Two months later, the Long Beach band released their third album of their groundbreaking punk, rock, ska, and reggae stew. It sold 5 million copies, driven by the enduring hits “What I Got” and “Santeria.” 

Bud Gaugh, the band’s original drummer, and fellow Sublime founder and childhood friend Eric Wilson formed the Long Beach Dub Allstars for a handful of years after Nowell’s death. Then, in 2009, they recruited singer Rome Ramirez for Sublime with Rome, keeping the band’s considerable legacy alive. Gaugh left two years later but stayed in occasional touch with Wilson.

Fast forward to 2023 and Gaugh’s phone rang in Nevada, where he now lives. On the other end was Paul Leary from Butthole Surfers who also produced Sublime’s hit album. He was recording with Wilson and Paul H.R. Hudson from Bad Brains. 

“He said, ‘Man, you really gotta get on this record, man. It’s just screaming your name. It needs your drums on,” Gaugh said in a phone interview. “So, I called Eric and left him a message and we just kind of played phone tag for a little while. And that’s how it opened the door. That was like the doorbell ringing.”

Gaugh never worked on that record. H.R. got sick.

That led to plans for a benefit concert. And another door opened. Would they play a Sublime set with Jakob Nowell singing lead?

Jakob had his career playing his kind of music, first in Law and then in Jakobs Castle. He considered Wilson and Gaugh his uncles. They ran into each other from time to time. Gaugh went to see Jakobs Castle when it was in town. The two have a common previous employer, the owner of Billings Hardware in Long Beach and they ran into each other at his 50th birthday party in the desert when Jakob’s band was playing. They jammed on a few songs.

Wilson and Gaugh had jammed since they were kids. But would it work with Jakob?

“It sounded like a good idea. Eric and I know we can always jam together, but how does how does Jake fit? And are we going to be able to jam with him?” Gaugh said. “He’s got his record and his style and it’s a little bit different than what we were doing.”

They got together in a Burbank studio last fall before the December H.R. benefit. Jakob had never played with them. Wilson and Gaugh hadn’t worked together in a while. They started running through Sublime songs. 

“The first couple songs were a little rough and then it was like, wow, this is actually coming together quite nicely and then we started jamming through the rest of the set and I was like this could actually work,” Gaugh recalled.

For Gaugh, that initial jamming took him back to the beginning of the band, playing in Brad Nowell’s dad’s garage. Gaugh bounced between parents in those early years, jamming with Wilson when he was in town. “And one time he was like, Hey, meet this dude (Nowell), you know? And it was rad. So that’s kind of like where we’re at. It was very, very eerily similar to then (with Jakob).”

Their set at the benefit was well received and then came another call. Would they play Coachella? They would and they did. Gaugh said it was a test, being dropped on stage without a soundcheck in front of a huge crowd live and online. 

Now, there are more festivals on the horizon, including the first day of the Point Break Festival in Virginia Beach on June 1. More than 20 bands will perform including Wiz Khalifa, Stephen Marley, and Steel Pulse.

The band plans to release new music and perhaps revisit songs that were never finished or released. “Right now,” Gaugh said, “we’re just finding our groove.”

“It’s quite an emotional trip,” Gaugh added. “There were some real emotional nights when we were rehearsing before Coachella and getting to jam. You know, the feeling of I’m sitting here with my nephew playing songs we wrote with his dad — the whole gamut of emotions, the good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.”

“I never, never in a million years did I think that this would happen. You know, Jake was on a different path. And Eric was doing his thing. And then I’m doing my thing, raising a family.”

There are moments, Gaugh said, when he sees Brad in Jake. “It could be the tone of his voice or little mannerisms that he has that are similar,” he said. “We’re just all having fun, jamming together. It’s really cool to be able to do this for everyone involved. It’s been a long, rough road. It’s tough when you lose someone you love so much. And being able to repair those deep cuts, or these wounds that we’ve had just feels amazing. You know we’re all getting a lot of healing out of this.



Point Break Festival

Saturday, June 1

Sublime, Wiz Khalifa, Stephen Marley, Pepper, Fortunate Youth, Bumpin Uglies, DENM, Artikal Sound System, Joe Samba, The Supervillains, The Quasi Kings, Ganjacat

Sunday, June 2
Rebelution, Steel Pulse, Tribal Seeds, Hirie, The Expendables, Ballyhoo!, Tropidelic, Passafire, RDGLDGRN, Kash’d Out, Of Good Nature, Cultivated Mind

WHEN: Doors open at 12:00 p.m. ET each day with live performances starting at 1:00 p.m.

WHERE: 5th Street on the beach.