Brisbane indie-pop band Cub Sport — frontman Tim Nelson, bassist/guitarist Zoe Davis, keyboardist Sam Netterfield, and drummer Dan Puusaari — have much to celebrate. For one, they’ve lately aired a sublime new single ‘O Lord’, which taps into hip-hop’s gospel micro-trend, to wide acclaim.
Nelson penned ‘O Lord’ about coming out as gay and confirming his romantic relationship with Netterfield in 2016. The song captures both that sense of euphoric freedom and anxious vulnerability that accompanies shared intimacy. Joe Agius’ video, too, is joyful as it challenges prescribed notions of masculinity. In fact, ‘O Lord’ is the first song from Cub Sport’s second album, BATS, out next month. Nelson has described BATS as the band’s “sexiest, most honest release to date”. Go, Blissbane!
Originally known as Cub Scouts, Cub Sport have experienced a steady rise since 2010, when Nelson assembled players to back him as a soloist. They enjoyed early success even internationally, with ‘Told You So’ picked up by US college radio. In March of last year, Cub Sport debuted with This Is Our Vice, spawning a mega hit in ‘Come On Mess Me Up’. The quartet supported Manchester pop heroes The 1975 — singer Matthew Healy is a fan. And, in a genius viral move, they covered Kanye West’s Chance-blessed ‘Ultralight Beam’ for triple j’s Like A Version.
This July, Nelson and Netterfield announced their engagement, amid growing national calls for marriage equality in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative government has determined that, instead of holding a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage, there will be a voluntary (and non-binding) postal plebiscite, which has the LGBT+ community alarmed at the prospect of hateful campaigning. In a powerful Facebook post, Nelson declared the plebiscite “an unnecessary and hazardous way forward”. Nonetheless, he’s urging everyone to vote.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Cub Sport will play The Last Frost (UPDATE: Cub Sport have cancelled their appearance at The Last Frost due to illness) an all-ages festival at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, as part of a cred Antipodean billing with the likes of Violent Soho, Cloud Control, The Kite String Tangle and New Zealand’s Fazerdaze.
Music Feeds chatted to Nelson — who, incredibly, still balances a day job with Cub Sport. “It’s my dream to be able to do just music,” he laughs. “But the four of us have always worked day jobs so that we can do all the things that we wanna do as a band. We’ve always had a really global vision for everything that we wanna try and achieve with this. So we just keep feeding all the income from the band back into it, so that we can keep building it – ’cause we wanna try and take over the world!”
Music Feeds: The ‘O Lord’ video is glorious. You had a big agenda — to celebrate love and to deconstruct some stereotypes. But it’s just a beautiful thing to look at. What was the concept?
Tim Nelson: It was the first video that we’ve made since Sam and I came out last year. So I guess we were more comfortable with ourselves to take the video places creatively that we may have wanted to go before, but didn’t really have the confidence, or the self-acceptance, to actually go for it and work with those sorts of aesthetics or whatever. The aesthetic of it was just the kind of look that we wanted to go for — we felt like it suits the song. Then, visually and the whole concept of it and the shots where Sam and I are holding each other, we just wanted to create an accurate video representation of the feeling of the song.
MF: It’s a beautiful song, ‘O Lord’ — it’s gospel-influenced, but not in traditional, overbearing way. It’s more euphoric. But I’ve read that you were influenced by Kanye West and Chance The Rapper — and, of course, you’ve covered Yeezy. How did you stumble upon these kind of influences generally, and is that the direction you’re taking on BATS? Or is it diverse?
TN: I think the album’s quite diverse. I’ve always really liked Kanye. I think his last album, The Life Of Pablo, was one of my favourites of last year — and also, yeah, Chance The Rapper[‘s Coloring Book]. Both of those albums had these gospel influences sort of littered throughout them. When I went to record ‘O Lord’, it wasn’t something that I had planned to do or thought about previously. I just started recording and that was what came out. But, as far as the full gospel sound, with that style of singing, ‘O Lord’ is as gospel as the album gets!
MF: How long had you actually been making BATS? Because news that you had another record so soon came out of nowhere!
TN: I started writing it in 2015, so I’d written a few songs for that before we even put This Is Our Vice out. The whole experience of putting out that first album and navigating our way through that campaign — which seems like a bit of a journey of self-discovery in itself — there were a lot of new experiences and feelings to write about. So these songs, a lot of them, when I was first writing them, just felt like things that I wanted to get out. It was how I was feeling.
I just wanted to make music to reflect that — not necessarily with the intention of releasing it as Cub Sport songs. But, then, by the time it came around to think about Album Two, our identity as a band and how well we know ourselves and what we wanna do, it all sort of aligned. These songs felt like the perfect next step for Cub Sport.
MF: It’s amazing how much you’ve achieved, because you’ve toured overseas extensively. What was that like?
TN: It’s always a big adventure taking it to territories that you don’t know well. When we tour, it’s always just the four of us. We don’t bring a tour manager or anything. So it’s a lot of work, but really enjoyable. Our last overseas tour that we did last year, we went to the UK, Europe and all across America, so we were away for about two months. I feel like that was a really crucial time for us, developing the live show, but also just developing as people. The last tour was especially important for us, I think.
MF: You and Sam are engaged and your announcement came just a few weeks before news of the same-sex marriage plebiscite broke. You made a very strong statement on Facebook. But I wondered what you hope your fans, and young people generally, will do in response?
TN: Well, I guess [we want to stress] the importance of being able to make your vote count — so enrolling or making sure your details are up-to-date so that you can have your say [go to the AEC website before 24th August]. But something that’s really important for us is to just keep reminding the LGBT+ community that there are people who love and care for them in this time when there are gonna be people telling young LGBT+ people why they don’t deserve to be able to marry the person that they love.
I think it’s really important to just keep sending a positive message to those people throughout this time as well, and to tell the LGBT+ people in your life, just keep reminding them, how much you care about them, to try and offset the potential discouraging things that they’ll be hearing over the next few months.
MF: What are your wedding plans? Are you going to hold out for marriage equality to be legalised here? Have you thought that far?
TN: We don’t wanna wait too long. So I think our plan is to get married just whenever we would if it was legal. We’re looking at some time next year. Fingers crossed that it is legal by then. But, if it’s not, we’re just gonna go ahead with the celebration and deal with the legalities of it later.
MF: Word is you have been doing some music with [pop rapper/singer] Mallrat. It sounds like there’s quite a good camaraderie among musicians up in Brissy! What can you tell me about that?
TN: That is a potential Album Three song and, yeah, it’s all written and recorded. I just produced it at home, so I’d probably have someone mix it properly before letting it out into the world. But I really love the song at the moment, I think it’s really exciting. Hopefully, we do get to release it sometime. But I guess we have to do the Album Two thing first!
MF: You’re playing this festival, The Last Frost. Is there any chance of sneaky peeks of new album songs? I assume you’ll do ‘O Lord’!
TN: Yeah, actually, most of the set now — actually, I think it’s about 50/50 [asks Sam, “Is most of the set new stuff now?”] It’s a pretty short set for Last Frost. We’re just playing for half-an-hour, but I think there will be four or so new songs.
MF: Are you a fan of any of the other acts on the bill?
TN: Yeah, big fan… especially Cloud Control. They’ve been one of our favourite bands for so long. I’m absolutely loving their new songs, so yeah, super-excited to see their set.
Cub Sport will perform at The Last Frost festival in Wollongong this weekend. UPDATE: Cub Sport have cancelled their appearance at The Last Frost due to illness, and will be replaced on the lineup by Last Dinosaurs.
‘BATS’ is set for release on 22nd September.