- Carola Kolbeck and Nassima Alloueche
Finding Euphoria: Cub Sport’s Lead Singer’s Journey of Self-Acceptance Through Music
Cub Sport’s new album ‘Jesus at the Gay Bar’ touches on the complexities of accepting queerness through its uplifting songs and candid vulnerability.
When Cub Sport, Australia’s hottest indie band, released their fifth and latest album Jesus at the Gay Bar, on Good Friday 2023, it was greeted with a mixture of reactions. In reality, it was a significant, jubilant, and somewhat magical moment that celebrated the LGBTQIA+ community and also opened up conversations that absolutely needed to be had.
The quartett, comprised of Tim Nelson (lead vocals), his husband of five years Sam Netterfield (keyboard, vocals), Zoe Davis (keyboard, guitar, bass guitar) and Dan Puusaari (drums) has been together since 2010, and have captured their fans’ hearts with their emotive, candid and vulnerable songs. Always evolving and experimenting with music, the band’s versatility in different genres and ability to make them perfectly their own is not just evident in their discography but also in their new album.
In the midst of their epic world tour, singer-songwriter and front man Tim Nelson made time for INJECTION Mag to talk about the motivation and beauty behind Jesus at the Gay Bar, his journey away from Christian faith towards a connection with the universe, celebrating who he truly is and the joys of connecting with Cub Sport’s fans in real life again.
© Cub Sport
First of all, huge congratulations on your fifth studio album ‘Jesus at the Gay Bar’. It’s a triumph on so many levels. How do you feel about it?
I feel really good about it. It was quite a journey to create the album. And I had a vision of how I wanted it to feel. But the road to getting there wasn't always clear. It was a process of having all the songs that felt like the right ones to represent this next chapter of Cub Sport and getting to a place where I was ready and excited to share this with the world. And then to actually have it out and see it connecting with people is really cool. And I think it has exceeded my expectations a little bit already, which is always a lovely thing.
How would you say your new album sits amongst the rest of them?
I think this album, sonically and stylistically, it's much more dance-forward than our other four albums. And I think, it kind of feels like a celebration, even if not all of the lyrics and themes are happy and uplifting. I feel the music and the energy of the songs have this uplifting kind of lighter energy compared to some of what's come before. The whole discography has been an ongoing journey of learning to accept and love every part of myself. A big part of it has been coming to terms with being queer and learning to embrace that. To me, this album feels like a celebration of how far I've come since the start when I started writing and putting out music. So this feels like the celebratory party album in the Cub Sport landscape.
Are you ever apprehensive when you're writing these songs and when they go out on the album? And does it feel scary sharing such intimate and vulnerable moments?
It can be a little bit scary at times. But I think that the more honest I am with my writing, the more genuine emotion goes into it. It feels like people connect with it in a more meaningful way. And I think getting to see the way that this can help people and connect them balances out any of the fear of sharing so much of myself. My worst nightmare used to be anybody finding out that I was gay or in a relationship with Sam. But now I am in a place where I feel safe and comfortable and proud of being gay and being in a relationship with Sam and getting to shed a light on that. To be able to celebrate that all these years later is really special.
When I was writing Zoom and Keep Me Safe, I had a few moments where I imagined that my 17-year-old self could have heard these songs and seen into the future and known that it was all going to be okay. And it’s very validating for my younger self to revisit this and talk about it. And to share how amazing the start of this beautiful relationship with Sam really was.
© Cub Sport
Do you have a favorite song from ‘Jesus at the Gay Bar’?
I think my favorite song is Keep Me Safe for the reasons that I just touched on. It's somewhat of a release for me to talk about how challenging it can be for a lot of young queer people to go through the experience of having a secret relationship and having to hide their true self. But I think the overall feeling of Keep Me Safe is euphoria and the rush of first love. I'd never really let anybody know that I was gay and I remember the first time that I felt so alive, accepted, and loved in my whole life. I think being able to capture that in that song just feels like a really beautiful and important part of the Cub Sport story. Musically as well, I think it's one of the most beautiful songs in the album.
Can talk about the title and the release date of Jesus at the Gay Bar. Why was it important to you to release that album on what was Good Friday in the Christian calendar?
I grew up in a very Christian environment, and when I came across the poem by Jay Hulme, Jesus at the Gay Bar that I named the album after, it was really impactful. Even though I’m not a part of the Christian faith anymore, but because it was such a big part of my upbringing, it still resonated in such a big way. And I really wanted to share that with other people who may have been through something similar to me, and also for queer people who do want to be part of the Christian faith but have felt excluded.
I think releasing it on Good Friday definitely brought more attention to the album, and to the message of what it's all about. It definitely comes off as controversial and I love that part of it as well. I knew that it would ruffle some feathers, but in doing that, it would get the right eyes on it. I also think it's an opportunity to share this with people who could do with seeing another perspective of the whole world.
Overall, the response was really positive; there were a lot of people who hadn't heard of that poem before, who said that it felt very healing to them. I guess in combination with the music and the way that it reflects my own journey of coming out of a world where I didn't feel like I could be myself to learn to embrace who I am and to celebrate that, It just felt like the right thing. We had actually chosen that date to release the album before we even had the album name. It kind of all felt very fateful; it was meant to be.
© Jay Hulme
You've said that you do not identify with Christianity anymore, but how do you navigate faith and sexuality in your music? Were you surprised by the backlash you received from some of the Christian community?
I think that I just try to be as genuine and open as I can be with my writing and sharing my ever-evolving perspective and self, and I'm not afraid to sing about my sexuality. I'm not religious at all, but I do feel a connection to the universe or something greater. I feel like I'm a pretty spiritual person, and I think that has been woven into the music as well. As for the backlash, I was expecting it a little bit because I knew that there would be people of like Christian faith who just wouldn’t understand where it was coming from and people who were saying that it was a mockery. But I genuinely don't see it as a mockery because I feel like Jesus comes off really well in the poem. It's a celebration of what Jesus actually would have been like. I just tried to not let it get to me too much, and there were a lot of Christians who were commenting and messaging in support, which was really cool.
Do you think that the music industry and society are doing enough to create a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQIA+ community? What challenges have you faced in promoting inclusivity and acceptance within your fan base?
I think it's heading in the right direction. But there's always much further to go. In terms of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, we're definitely on the much more privileged end of that spectrum. There are a lot of challenges that especially trans people and people of colour who are trans as well face that I don't think I could ever understand. I think that what I can do is be open about my own experience and, hopefully, inspire and empower other people to share their journeys and their stories. There are so many untold stories of people in the queer community. And I think it's really important to share the breadth of that. And if we can, help pave the way for more diverse voices to come through and raise awareness of other parts of the community. That is one of the goals of what we're doing. I think it's something that people are becoming more aware of, but there's definitely a long way to go.
Of course, we need to talk about your world tour. Because, let's face it, that's pretty epic. What are you most excited about? Are there any cities that hold a really special place in your heart, any cities that you're especially looking forward to, and are there any places so far that have surprised you?
I think the thing I'm most excited about is just to connect with the fans in real life again. It's such a powerful energy exchange and performing live is one of my favorite things about being in a band. Traveling around the world with Sam, Zoe, and Dan is so fun. Just getting to actually be in a room with the people who connect with the music is such a special feeling.
I'm really excited for London, especially now that it's sold out. I think the vibe is gonna be amazing. We're playing Pride in LA, which I think is going to be really fun. I think the Australian shows are going to be really fun as well. They're our biggest headline shows we've ever played, so I think it’s gonna be pretty huge.
© Cub Sport
Having spoken to Tim and having had the privilege to see Cub Sport perform live at their sold-out show at London Lafayette, it’s crystal clear that the band has a huge fan base who adore them, Tim’s connection to the fans is electric, and their music embodies diversity, inclusivity, hope and above all, love.
More than just role models or spokespersons for those who still struggle, the band is a trailblazer for marginalised communities and creates a safe space for their fans and anyone who turns to their music
The sky’s their limit, but one thing will never change: They’re a ray of bright sunshine, a beacon of light for everyone whose lives they touch, and a certainty that love always wins.
Follow Cub Sport on Instagram and TikTok, check out their website, and listen to their latest album, Jesus at the Gay Bar on Spotify! You can also book tickets for their current tour here.