Can I build my life around you? So asks Cub Sport's singer-songwriter frontman Tim Nelson on the track Party Pill, off the band's eponymous third full-length record. It's a quick line at the end of the track's chorus - blink and you'll miss - but one that sums up the energy of the LP succinctly: unabashed vulnerability, all cards on the table. The song itself is inspired by the life of its writer, Nelson, and his relationship with bandmate and best friend Sam Netterfield. Their story reads like a romance novel - Nelson and Netterfield fell in love when they were 17, but a fear of coming out and accepting his queer identity kept Nelson from being able to commit. The pair decided to maintain a friendship, before forming Cub Sport in 2011 alongside keyboardist / guitarist / vocalist Zoe Davis and drummer Dan Puusaari. It wasn't until 2016 after the release of the band's debut record This Is Our Vice that Nelson was able to accept and celebrate his gay identity and confess his (reciprocated) love to Netterfield. The pair became engaged in June 2017 before legally marrying in August 2018.
Nelson can track the evolution of his personal journey through each of Cub Sport's albums (This Is Our Vice was followed by BATS in 2017, and Cub Sport was released in January this year). "We started this band when we were really young and it feels like we’ve grown so much as a band and as individuals since we started," he says. "This is the first album I’ve written entirely on the other side of coming out and it feels really triumphant. We’re stepping into our identity, telling our whole story and being proud of that - this part of the story really feels like Cub Sport."
How has your sound changed from your first album to your current album. What are the artistic differences?
I feel like our new album is our most beautiful release to date. I’ve always been drawn to music with a gentle energy and I feel like I’ve really allowed that to flow on this album. The album moves through shifts in dynamics and tempo, there are really stripped back parts as well as grand moments and more commanding production, but I feel like there’s a gentle energy that ties it all together - it feels like the truest representation of my inner-self and creativity. There are moments on our first album that tap into that same beauty / vulnerability like Come On Mess Me Up, Only Friend and Runner, but I feel like every release peels back more layers to reveal the truest picture of who I am.
How have you changed personally from This Is Our Vice to Cub Sport?
I feel like when I wrote the first album I was largely letting my fears determine my life path. One of my favourite lyrics from the first record that sums that up is in Come On Mess Me Up: "I fell in love with avoiding problems." I feel like there’s a thematic journey that runs through our three albums - This Is Our Vice was written in a place of self-doubt, BATS was about coming to a place of self-acceptance and Cub Sport feels like the first steps into self-love. The album feels hopeful to me, even through touching on struggles and growth, the perspective has shifted to a lighter place.
"I love the album as a whole. I believe in every single song and I feel like it’s what they offer as a whole body of work that really makes the album so powerful."
Many bands have couples at the centre of their group, and I think that’s something audiences find so enthralling about Cub Sport. Can you describe for me what it’s like to work with your partner?
I love it. I love that we get to travel the world and make our dreams come true together. Our story and journey is such an inspiration for me and to be living that out at the same time and sharing it with the world feels like a very unique and special experience.
Who are some other musicians whose work you admire?
Frank Ocean, Solange, Lana Del Rey, Mallrat, Kanye West.
Which song from the album was most challenging to write?
I ended up recording a few different versions of the instrumentation of As Long As You’re Happy before it felt right. I wrote it on piano originally, then I tried a version with electronic drums and distorted / auto-tuned / almost-percussive vocals in the choruses but it didn’t feel warm enough, then I recorded the chords in on my Silvertone guitar and all of the sudden the warmth/softness it needed was there. From that point the rest of the recording process really flowed naturally and it ended up feeling quite orchestral. One of the final additions was a field recording of a forest near where we live. The calming sounds of the birds and breeze feels so perfect throughout the song.
What do you want people to feel when they listen to Cub Sport?
I had a huge consciousness shift while I was creating this album and it’s my hope that Cub Sport can contribute to raising the collective consciousness globally and usher in the new golden age.
Would you consider yourself to be happy?
I have a lot of things to be happy about. But I must admit it can be hard to be present and to be grateful for everything that’s happening while it’s happening - life feels like a bit of a blur at times. Looking to the future is very alluring. We’re super driven and we’re always looking for ways to build and expand what we’re doing which is a huge part of what has fuelled our growth over the last 12 months but it can be our greatest struggle too. I try to list the things I’m grateful for each day so that I can really take in and enjoy this amazing time in our lives.
"Writing and recording is always so exciting for me. I listen to my demos a lot and I love that when I get a day to record there’ll suddenly be a new song to add to the playlist and it can completely transform the energy of the whole collection of songs."