Image: Supplied/ James Caswell

Cub Sport’s Tim Nelson On Confronting Truth And Finding Freedom

In 2019 Cub Sport delivered their definitive record. With refreshing honesty Tim Nelson, who had come out to the world as openly gay alongside bandmate and partner Sam Netterfield in 2017, delivered messages of love, self-acceptance, and personal freedom. With Nelson’s own self-discoveries arriving in the wake of Australia’s hard-won battle for marriage equality, listeners could not help but take notice. Thousands of fans, old and new, adopted the album as an emotional anchor, a totem of their own struggle to overcome prejudice, embrace truth, and begin to discover just who it was they really were.

Cub Sport’s latest album, Like Nirvana documents the euphoric highs and the painful lows of the 18 months which followed. Matching the passion and intensity of Cub Sport, Nelson and company deliver an ambitious and deeply confessional series of songs.

Talking with Music Feeds ahead of Like Nirvana’s release, Nelson discusses life during the coronavirus pandemic, self-acceptance and how Cub Sport’s latest album is their most liberating yet.

Music Feeds: What has it been like for you since the coronavirus outbreak?

Tim Nelson: It’s been really lovely being able to be at home. I’ve been hearing from a lot of people [and] that has been the vibe. We would have been on tour in the US for the last two months. I am really missing shows and everything, but I am grateful to have had this time to be in one place longer than a couple of weeks at a time because that what the last year has been like.

I feel like it has been such a huge year. Especially the last month. There are just so many enormous shifts happening. You kind of just take it as it comes.

MF: 2019’s Cub Sport was a big moment for you and the band. Take me from Cub Sport to Like Nirvana.

TM: I feel like this album is what that whole 18 months of releasing the self-titled record and touring it has looked and felt like. It’s been a really beautiful and incredible time. But it has also had its painful moments along the way. I think in that time I’ve really gotten to know myself better. I guess that’s kind of what the experience of living is.

I feel that [the Cub Sport album] represented, to me, a moment of starting to understand who I am and feeling free to put that into everything that I do. [Like Nirvana] feels like an even deeper healing. I feel like I’ve gone deeper than ever before. I feel freer than I ever have on the other side of creating it.

MF: Relative to previous albums, Cub Sport and Like Nirvana move into a confessional, honest, and searching headspace. What pulled you that way?

TM: Sam [Netterfield], Zoe [Davis] and I were all queer back when we started the band. So I feel like after living so many years, trying to hide my true self, trying to be a version of myself that I felt was more easily digestible, putting my truth and the things that I have always been most scared to share with people into songs is incredibly freeing. I’m not sure what it is or what drives it but there’s this force in me that pushes me towards where I’m meant to be going and what I’m meant to be writing. It wasn’t really until I started diving deep that I started to get this feeling of passion in my chest when I’d listen to the songs I’d written. And I feel like that feeling is kind of the guide of what we put out.

MF: A lot of people struggle to find identity and that kind of honesty is something they can really connect with. Do people ever come up and tell you that your songs have helped them?

TM: It’s really incredible to receive those messages and to meet people, to have them tell me the way it’s positively impacted their lives. There’s a line in the song ‘Confessions’ – “The truth is I’m looking for myself and I can’t see it in anybody.” I feel like I haven’t really found my experience and the way that I feel in music or in art before.

I feel that being able to put my emotions and experiences into these songs and then have them resonate with other people is – it’s like finding community and basically realising that I’m not alone. There are people like me and that is really exciting for me because I want to be the figure my younger self would have benefited from having.

MF: There is a song on the album is called ‘Nirvana’ that seems to express an overall theme on the record, which is tapping into a higher state of consciousness and finding bliss…

TM: Achieving bliss and that kind of euphoric feeling, I guess I would tie those feelings into freedom. I feel like truth is the key to freedom. And this album is me facing the darkest parts of myself head-on so that I can properly find my freedom.

I think even the sonic journey of the album – starting with a song like ‘Confessions’, one of the more darker, more abrasive moments – goes through so many levels and different energies and emotions. The place the album ends is a song called ‘Grand Canyon’ then it has a fade-out, a heavenly choir, a build-up of layers and synths and singing. It really feels like the pain and traumas melt away. It feels like somewhat of a release to kind of float up into a new place. I think that whole process, the sounds as well as the personal journey reflected in this is where the concept of Like Nirvana came from.

MF: What was the process for putting the album together?

TM: I usually write and record everything by myself. This album has two songs that Sam wrote the instrumentation for. He wrote ‘Intro’ and the chords to ‘Be Your Man’. When I heard ‘Be Your Man’ the lyrics and melodies just spilt out of me. Another one Sam did is the instrumentation on is ‘18’. I think that because my writing and creative process is such a personal thing, I end up doing pretty much all of it by myself. But there are songs like ‘Confession’ where Dan [Puusaari] recorded live drums and added some extra elements to the chaotic end section. ‘Drive’ and ‘I Feel I’m Changin’ have Zoe singing on them. ‘Drive’ also has a bunch of guitar layers that Zoe added. It’s kind of like finding the parts that feel right and adding that.

But it’s not like the four of us get in a room and write songs together. I feel like that’s the visual a lot of people get when they think of a band, but I guess Cub Sport is a little different. It feels like none of this would happen without the four of us. We manage ourselves and we are our own record label. It’s a team effort but as far as the actual songs, that’s usually something I take on myself.

MF: Was it a difficult decision to put out an album you may not be able to tour?

TM: There was a lot to consider. I think it is a good time for people to be hearing this album. It feels very fitting. A lot of it is about themes of rebirth, renewal and change in general. The world is changing in an enormous way at the moment.

I wish we could tour it right away. I think that there’s definitely something that happens when we play the songs live. There’s a new energy and a connection in sharing those moments with the people who are connected with the music as well. But I know it’s going to be incredible when it finally does happen. I just have to believe that it’s all happening as it’s meant to.

I don’t know. We’ll all just keep doing what we do regardless. I’ve been able to spend some of this time, and probably the rest of the year, writing a bunch of new songs and working on some dream collabs – the kind of stuff that wouldn’t have happened if this year hadn’t panned out the way that we were initially hoping. I think it’s just like rolling with what happens and making the most of it.

MF: Speaking of collaborations, Mallrat appeared on Cub Sport and you have now worked with her again on Like Nirvana…

TN: I’m a huge Mallrat fan. I love Grace [Shaw] so much. I think that she has one of the greatest writers and musicians that we have in the world right now. To get to create something together was special.

We had a song on the last album together called ‘Video’. I really love that song. I’m so happy that we got to put that one out together. The collab on this album, ‘Break Me Down’ is just so incredibly different but I feel it really captures the essence of both Mallrat and Cub Sport, in a way. [‘Break Me Down’] goes for seven minutes. It’s very free. When I listen to it and when I’ve shown it to people, they say that it puts them into an almost trance-like state. And I feel that it does almost open some sort of portal. It’s hard to describe!

MF: This is no easy time to be a musician. What can Cub Sport fans do to help you out? Besides buying to the album, of course…

TN: Share it with someone that you think would enjoy hearing it. If there is a song or a lyric that really resonates with you tell someone else about it because it might do the same for them.

‘Like Nirvana’ is out tomorrow, July 24. Pre-order here.

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