Rome Gomez, better known by his nom de musique No Rome, has spent much of the last three years in London after having been signed to Dirty Hit Records. There his music career has taken off, with his songs streamed millions of times on Spotify alone and gaining fans all over the globe. He recently concluded his first tour as opening act for label mates The 1975, which saw him play the O2 Arena, Coachella and back in his hometown of Manila. After playing a headlining gig here, he heads back to London where he has his own tour of the United Kingdom awaiting him. He sat down with Super to answer some questions.
What’s it like to play the O2 Arena?
That was nuts. We played it twice. Sold-out shows. Just… speechless. I’m always speechless. Every time I think about— yeah, I still can’t believe I’ve done that, at such an early time in my career. I was just lucky enough that The 1975 brought me on tour with them because we made songs together, it just made sense but for me it was an inspiration. Not because I wanted that kind of fame but kind of having your art dun sa ganung level na ganun. You know that you’re doing something right, I suppose.
Were you intimidated? Any pressure?
I guess there was but at the same time I wanted to just be the silly guy onstage na parang everybody knew that I’d never done this. This guy came from nowhere, you know? So I’m just gonna come in like how I am in my bedroom: Go onstage, just go nuts, just dance and get a little woozy-woozy, whatever, and… people liked it! They were like “this is like a silly dude onstage singing the songs that he wrote from his diary or something” so they were resonating to it in a way, so I was glad it worked out. I owe it to acting like I was in my bedroom.
So you leaned into it. You weren’t going to act like you’d played to this kind of crowd before.
I’ve been playing shows ever since I was a kid, like 12 years old, doing show band stuff, so I kinda knew how to perform in front of people but not in that big of a crowd so I just kinda took it, of course, a bit to the next level.
Did The 1975 give you any tips?
There wasn’t anything specific, it was just like “Have fun, man.” I’m like “You can’t just tell me that, dude! [laughs] You gotta sit me down, give me some sort of “Calm down…” I was having an existential crisis of my own but it worked out so now I think it’s gotten me used to, not used to but, you know, more comfortable with performing.
Did that help with Coachella?
Yeah. I think that was a nice warm-up for Coachella. I didn’t expect Coachella. I was talking to my manager and they were like “I think they want you to do Coachella” “Really? They’ve got three albums and they want to do ‘Narcissist?’ In Coachella?” They went, “Yeah. They just wanna have you onstage, man.” “Awesome.” ’Cause I didn’t know; I knew I was on tour but not that I was gonna do Coachella.
So it was a sudden surprise.
It was like two weeks? But yeah, the amount of anxiety and the nervousness I had was intense. But I couldn’t ask for anything else. That as well gave me some sort of inspiration to say “Yeah, let’s keep doing this.”
Are you ever surprised when a song is a hit in specific regions?
Yeah. I don’t really check stats but when I do it’s kind of cool to see where it’s coming from. Sometimes I wake up and this week it’s somewhere in Japan, or somewhere in Europe, and it’s always there in the Philippines, it just never goes away [smiles].
Three years ago you were talking about an album. What’s the progress on that?
It’s still happening. I’m just waiting for the right time. For me, debut albums mean a lot. A debut album is a statement. That’s a statement of you saying something to the industry, either contributing something or saying something or making something for the industry. And this is a career for me so I really wanna be ready to do it: sonically, stylistically, the ideas I have to get out… I want it to be important.
Are they still the same tracks?
It’s growing. Some of it I’ve had for ages and I’m still trying to get it to the best place it can.
You’ve grown as a songwriter so I imagine maybe there was a temptation to go back and take another crack at older material.
That’s what I’m trying to do but there’s also some songs being added that are new. But the whole idea of what I had before is still this thing, making it come to life. Making it this sort of endless road trip to somewhere, nobody knows where.
I was wondering if you were in this post-album mindset where artists are just putting out EPs or singles instead.
That was my first idea. I have control of how I want to release with the label which I’m lucky enough to have.
You’ve put out two EPs now with Dirty Hit, with a third on the way…?
That one’s more of a mixtape, so it’s more like a prelude to the album.
Are we seeing the album next year?
Hopefully. I believe in the EPs because that’s the thing, the attention span of music is getting shorter so I wanted to put concepts in the EP so you already know the gist. You got four songs to listen to. That’s not hard, listen to the concept then. In a way I’m a bit extra but I guess it worked, you know, me being extra worked; it’s a benefit. That’s why I wanted to do that, be an EP artist and then like [snaps] drop an insanely well-thought-out album would be next.
How’s it been touring with your band?
Amazing, ’cause those are my best friends. I was lucky enough to get everybody in the same boat and tour the world with me so that was pretty nice. I still can’t believe that we’re doing it, I love those guys to death, those are my guys, they’ve been there since I was doing music when nobody was coming to my shows.
It could be argued you’re the most successful Filipino musical artist outside the Philippines.
It’s a compliment, for sure, I just don’t accept it ’cause I don’t wanna get rid of the hardships that other, y’know, like Jake Zyrus and Billy Crawford; we all kind of went through the same thing: Move out and do something with music. But I don’t know where to put myself in the idea of that spectrum… I still feel that this is boiling, like I’m not at my peak yet. In my head I’m just starting out, I just have two EPs out, I don’t even have a full-length project but it serves me as inspiration to feel like “Yeah, I’m definitely doing something right at the moment.”
Has your songwriting process changed since the move to London?
Yeah, kasi more experiences. I’ve met more people, learned more from different people. Here [in Manila] I always picked up more from friends and going to gigs and shows and now I get exposed to a different world so it’s entirely different.
You once described No Rome as “an art project: a personification of teen love, melancholy and everything in between.” Is that still accurate?
Way, way, way, way accurate. That’s why I enjoy it. I’m personifying something so it’s like a project. It always has to be an entity; it’s gonna be an entity and remain as an entity. If I had become one with No Rome completely that’s gonna be an entirely different, dark, dark, dark project [laughs]. But that’s what makes it special. No Rome is like me amplified. I want people to feel some sort of relatable thing but at the same time there’s a cool evasive mystery that’s vague, that’s up for you to explain what it is.