Australian four-piece Cub Sport are about to ride the high of a third album, following on from Bats, which was released to huge acclaim in 2017.
Originally formed by singer-songwriter Tim Nelson in 2010 as a backing band for his solo songs, Cub Sport is also made up of bassist Zoe Davis, keyboardist Sam Netterfield, and drummer Dan Puusaari.
In the summer of 2107, the song ‘O Lord’ marked Nelson’s first song about his coming out, and declaring his love for bandmate Netterfield. The love had been mutual for quite some time, and they got married, allowable under Australia’s new same sex marriage laws.
Producing music that combines an r’n’b feel with a pop sensibility, the combination of pop energy with a deeply personal take, has endeared them to a young audience of forward-thinking millennials and Generation Z’ers. While Bats chronicled Tim’s journey of coming out, the new self-titled album is both a confirmation of that coming out, and expressed love, as well as a confident and powerful statement.
Hi Tim, must be late in Brisbane, it’s 9.30am here in the UK.
Yeah, it’s 7.30pm at night. I had to take one of my dogs to the vet. She’s good. Had some drops, and is settling down now. I’ve also done a few interviews, and am editing a video. Band stuff.
Tell me about Brisbane…
It gets pretty hot in the summer. Some people describe it as a big country town. There are a lot of new restaurants and bars, cool things popping up. We’ve got amazing friends and family here, there’s a nice community, for the artists as well.
I see you played Brighton back in 2013
Yes, we played The Great Escape.
Tell me about the new album
It’s more of a complete album in terms of sense of self, and understanding my identity. I wrote the last album while I was coming to terms with being queer. I came out in the middle of writing the last album.
With this one, writing the entire thing on the other side of coming out, I felt a lot more free to express myself. I felt I had a new level of confidence, higher vibration and energy or something, that surrounds all the songs on this next record.
You came out and expressed your love for your bandmate, Sam.
We got married just last August. We started hanging out, right at the end of the first tour, when we were 17. With the benefit of distance of time, I have realised that we fell in love then. But we grew up in both pretty religious homes. There was a lot of shame, and internalised homophobia.
We couldn’t feel or be ourselves, and admit our love to each other. So that was something that happened in the middle of me writing the second album. That album felt like it captured the journey of finally learning to accept ourselves, of who we were. I feel that has really fed into the music. It seems that I’ve been able to write more freely, and from a more genuine place.
Obviously, a big moment to decide to come out
We both came out to our families and friends, and then it trickled out from there. We didn’t have a big public announcement or anything. We didn’t have much of a profile before then. When we came out, and started really being ourselves, more people started to take to what we were doing. We were just being ourselves, and honest about the whole journey. People have connected with the songs. There has been this huge encouragement to continue doing exactly what we want to creatively, and be proud of who we are and what we’re doing. Triple J Radio (the main platform for alternative music in Australia) have also been hugely supportive.
This new album feels like the next step of that journey, going from a place of self-acceptance, to self-love, and really being able to feel free and confident, and to celebrate who we are.
The video for ‘Hawaiian Party’ seems to encapsulate all of that
We made a video for it with a couple of YouTubers from LA, the Dolan Twins, and they had a concept for a music video that really sent out the message that love is love. When I wrote that song it wasn’t really about that message, but that video really encapsulated the message of the album as a whole. And that inspired a lot of people to come out and be proud of who they are. That was really cool. That was their first time making a video, and they absolutely smashed it.
The legalisation of gay marriage in Australia must have been a huge event. Australia wasn’t known as being a particularly socially liberal country…
Yes, same sex marriage being legalised, and the public plebiscite to allow people to voice their opinions on the matter (61.6% of voters in a Government sanctioned national postal survey, approved a change to the law to allow couples of the same sex to marry), it was quite an amazing result. For me, growing up in quite a religious circle, I don’t feel I had the best perspective of Australia as a whole. For me, the people I was around growing up, it definitely felt like a very homophobic place. For me to know that the majority of the nation was behind us, was really encouraging, and I feel it has inspired a lot of younger people to be more open. There are a lot of younger people who are switched on. It’s a compassionate generation. I do feel like there is a big shift happening.
You’re a self-managed band, why is that?
Actually, we originally signed a global record deal, and got a management team. But it wasn’t previously the right time for us. When I wrote the album Bats, which felt like such an important and personal record to me, I felt that I needed to have complete control over every part of the record and release, and everything, so we went back to how we were at the start, having our own label and being self-managed. We still feel that doing it on our own is the best thing for us. We spend a large portion of the year on the road, but it feels like the right arrangement for us. We’ve got our two dogs, which are everything to us.
Tell me about your development as a writer
The very first song I started writing was when I was in school. It was pretty depressing. They were all pretty depressing. And when I first started in the band I was determined to take it in a different direction. Sonically, it was about trying to keep it happy. So, with the dark and depressing lyrics there was this upbeat pop sound. As I grew up and started writing from a more genuine place, and wanting to really connect, I mellowed out a bit. Pop has always been the thing that has tied the musical journey together. I’ve always loved r’n’b as well, although I wouldn’t describe our music as r’n’b, but I feel like there are influences in there. And now I want everything that we put out to be quite beautiful as well. Sonically pleasing, I guess.
I’ve got a little home studio set up, where I record songs. I wrote and recorded the new album over a period of 12 months while we promoted and toured the second album. I work on stuff on the road a little bit too. We also had a really amazing collaborator in Melbourne called John Castle, and he’s been with us on every release. At the start he was the producer of it all, and over the years as I’ve gained more confidence I’ve become better at it.
Most of the time I’ll just be playing around on the synth and find a sound that I’m vibing, and then record something. If I have an idea, entire passages of lyrics will come to me, and writing into my phoner, and it keeps coming, as fast as I can write. And sometimes I’ll pull out one of those passages, and maybe pick up the mic and start singing over it.
I see you were awarded the Triffid Award for Bats, and your name is now sandwiched between The Go Betweens and The Saints
That was incredible. It is an amazing venue in Brisbane, and it’s run by a guy who played in Powderfinger, one of Brisbane’s big bands. Its a fan voted thing, for Album of the Year by Brisbane artists. Its an incredible honour to be up theRe with The Saints and The Go Betweens.