My beautiful child
There is nothing in this heart of yours
That ever needs to be healed.
For the longest time, Tim Nelson thought there was something inside of him that had to be healed. The Cub Sport singer grew up in a world where his true sexuality was devalued, treated as something that ought to cause shame. Forced to keep his love of friend and bandmate Sam Netterfield a secret, his band’s formative years were spent with its lead singer unable to truly be himself.
After far too many years of living in denial, the pair finally came out to the world; within two years, they were married; it remains one of the most heartening stories in Australian pop music.
The three sorrowful lines that begin this article also conclude a poem by Jay Hulme, a poem that hugely inspired – and directly lended its title to – Cub Sport’s new album, Jesus at the Gay Bar. When Nelson first discovered the poem, he was overcome, transformed, seen. It’s why his band’s fifth album sounds so gloriously free and abundantly accepting. Jesus at the Gay Bar is Cub Sport unburdened and unbridled, Nelson gleefully swapping shame for elation, with pure love permeating the entire record.
There is worth to be found in elusive songwriting – when we are left to pick apart Taylor Swift’s confessionals for signs of life – but there is also something to be said for the transparent romance at the heart of Cub Sport’s album. “Getting lost in you, baby / I don’t wanna be found,” Nelson cries in the glistening standout track “Songs About It”, and while universality is easily applicable to that sentiment, for fans who’ve followed Cub Sport from the start, it must be touching to lyrically linger in Nelson and Setterfield’s overt happiness.
On their fifth album, there is also transformation in the production, with Cub Sport unveiling euphoric electropop flourishes that feel far removed from the twee-adjacent indie of their early years. There is real catharsis to be found on the dancefloor, drenched in swishing synths and warmly melancholic beats (you feel a similar searching has brought so many fans to Fred Again..’s music recently).
And for anyone who listens to Cub Sport’s new album and relates, or at least finds a version of who they want to be in the songs, there is also genuine catharsis; Jesus won’t be at the gay bar, but salvation might.
To celebrate the release of the band’s new album, Rolling Stone AU/NZ asked Nelson to break down each song in more detail, which you can read below.
Cub Sport’s Jesus at the Gay Bar is out now. The band’s Australian tour begins in August and ticket information is available here.
“Always Got the Love”
I wrote “Always Got the Love” with Simon Lam in Naarm on March 23rd 2021. It was the day after Sam’s birthday and we’d had a kind of late night, followed by an early flight to get to the session that morning. I was super tired so I wasn’t really expecting to write something amazing but once I was in the studio with Simon it just flowed.
The lyrics were inspired by a day at Hyam Beach on a road trip Sam and I went on in February 2021. I’d been feeling pretty down around that time but this day at the beach I just felt so good. I remember being in the water thinking, ‘I wanna try capture this energy in a song so I can hold onto it.’ “Always Got the Love” ended up becoming that song.
I wrote “Replay” with Nat Dunn and Styalz Fuego, also in Naarm. It was the first time the three of us had worked together and again, this song just flowed. It feels like the meeting place of Cher, Robyn and The Blaze who are three of my all-time favourites.
It’s about moving forward, letting go (with love) and allowing yourself to move onto something greater. I love how this song mirrors that sentiment musically and energetically. It starts with this longing feeling, then there’s a harmonic shift half way through and it starts to feel lighter… by the end of the song it’s pure euphoria.
“High For the Summer” (ft. Shamir)
I wrote “High For the Summer” with Golden Vessel towards the end of 2020. It’s got this UK garage feel that I really love. It’s about having fun with friends, which maybe doesn’t sound that deep… but to me it is. There’s something very special and sacred about moments of joy with with loved ones. And when life gets hard, those moments of happiness with friends can be the thing to pull us through.
When Max (Golden Vessel) and I wrote it, there wasn’t a second verse. I’d been manifesting a Shamir x Cub Sport collab for a while and this song felt like it could be a great fit. I sent the demo to Shamir and ended up getting their vocals back a few hours later… their verse gave me goosebumps listening for the first time.
“Keep Me Safe”
I wrote “Keep Me Safe” with Styalz Fuego. He started playing the intro chords and it felt so nostalgic. I had all these memories and feelings come flooding in from the very beginning of my relationship with Sam when we were 17.
Sam was the first person I ever told that I was gay and he was the one person I could be my whole self around. We both grew up in a pretty religious/conservative world so we didn’t tell anyone we were together at the time – this song details some of that. For me, “Keep Me Safe” captures the euphoria and rush of first love, especially when the chorus hits.
“Zoom” is another song I wrote about the early days of Sam and I being together. I’d get home from us hanging out and I’d just stare at photos of him, zooming in on his face and imagining what a life together might look like.
At the time I couldn’t imagine ever coming out, so I didn’t really know if/how we could actually ever be together. This song is for my younger self, affirming all of those feelings and experiences and celebrating the happy ending we got.
“Songs About It”
I wanted Jesus at the Gay Bar to feel uplifting all the way through, and I think “Songs About It” is probably one of the most euphoric moments on the album. It’s another one I wrote with Nat Dunn and Styalz Fuego. We actually wrote it the same day we wrote “Replay”. It’s got some ’90s/’00s house references that I really love.
It’s about new love and how when you’re falling for someone, everyone and everything else kind of fades into the background.
“Beg U” is the most experimental track on the album. I initially wrote it a fair bit slower, but when I found this drum loop it felt perfect for the energy of “Beg U”, so I sped up the vocal and Juno synth to fit with the BPM of the loop. I cut the drum loop up and ran it through a bunch of effects and the drums, synth and vocals all just felt like magic together, like something had been unlocked.
Every now and then when I’m writing/recording I’ll almost get like… adrenaline when I’m listening back to something for the first time and I’m feeling it really deeply. This was one of those moments. I wrote it at a time when I was really looking for meaning in life. I was feeling kind of disconnected and I think I was desperate for love and validation and to find the truest version of myself.
I wrote “Hold” with Nat Dunn the first time we ever hung out and wrote together. There was an instant connection and the timing felt fateful. We tried lots of different versions of this song, and it didn’t feel quite right until opening it up with Styalz Fuego. It took on this DnB feel and again, it was like something unlocked.
I was obsessed with “Gotta Get Thru This” by Daniel Bedingfield when I was in year seven and this track feels like an homage to that song. There’s an electronic harp layered with a modular synth that gives me visuals of twinkling stars, listen out for that in the intro.
“Yaya” (ft. Mallrat)
Mallrat is one of my favourite artists of all time and is also one of my best friends, so working on this song together was really special. It’s about growing up and I’m really proud of the lyrics and storytelling. I’m in love with the vocal in the intro – that’s Mallrat’s vocal resampled and run through a granular processor – it reminds me a bit of SOPHIE.
I also love the “oooh I’ll always love you” chorus part that Zo added – it feels classic and timeless and really ties the song together. The vocal blend of Zo, Mallrat and I all singing together in the choruses reminds me of Spice Girls in “Viva Forever” or something.
“Magic In U”
I wanted the closing song of the album to be like a gentle hype-up and to send the message that even if you don’t feel good right now, there’s magic in you… and you should keep going. I think this song kind of showcases my love of Jamie xx and I loved getting to bring some of those references into Cub Sport.
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