Words || Cameron Colwell
The first word that comes to mind when I’m listening to Cub Sport’s latest album BATS is ‘vulnerable’, a concept that’s explicitly referenced in the second verse of the first track, ‘Chasin’: “I’m trying to be honest /And live deliberately /But my mind’s so scattered /With different parts of me.” From the beginning, we know we’re in for something different and very open.
That’s what I’m thinking about at the start of my interview with Cub Sport frontman, Tim Nelson, and he’s up-front when I ask him about honesty: “It’s the most open I’ve ever been…It feels like a new kind of era for Cub Sport.” A few months before BATS, Tim Nelson came out as gay and in a relationship with Cub Sport bandmate Bolan (Sam Netterfield).
Has the new honesty changed the music process? “It definitely has, I guess this album was written sort of when I first like started to acknowledge I was gay to myself and then another year before I actually came out and Bolan and I got together. The songs are all written from an honest place. It was something I wasn’t really ready to show back then when I was writing and now I feel much more free and open to be my true self. The writing process definitely feels different on this album.”
In terms of the physical recording, there was more change: Tim recorded it at home and the other bandmates recorded over it later on. “Drums, and my guitar, that sort of thing. For most of BATS I recorded everything at home by myself and those demos just got mixed properly in the studio with John Castle. We recorded in some live drums and ended up taking it out cos it wasn’t feeling right.”
The unforgettable music video for lead single ‘O Lord’ was released in August. It’s the first music video made since Nelson came out and — this is the bit where I died— he got engaged to Bolan between the two days of shooting. “We wanted it to be a true representation of where we’re at. We wanted it to be a celebration of where we’ve gone to and who we are.”
Far from the strictly electro-pop sound of their earlier music, ‘O Lord’ almost sounds like a gospel song, but this was unintentional: “I wasn’t planning anything when I wrote and recorded it. It was very in the moment. I opened up in the recording session and hit record and started singing. I listened back and then just recorded the harmonies over it and was like…that’s really gospel. I’ve been listening to a bunch of Kanye’s Life of Pablo and Chance the Rapper. They both have those gospel moments. I think it probably came from that. I didn’t think it would be a Cub Sport song when I first started writing it.”
On the influences behind BATS, I bring up ‘Solo III’, a direct reference to Frank Ocean’s ‘Solo’, and asked him if there’s anything he looks for in terms of inspiration from other queer artists: “There’s something about Frank Ocean in particular and especially Blonde… You know how there are some albums and songs that you kinda need to listen to a couple of times before you really start to love them? I just feel so connected to Frank Ocean like immediately. There’s a song on the album, ‘Solo III’, which is very directly influenced by Frank Ocean’s ‘Solo’ and I kinda just tried to capture it.”
Just because BATS is honest doesn’t mean the band’s earlier work was dishonest, but Nelson’s perspective on his old work has changed: “To look back on it it feels like watching myself trying to figure out who I was, what I was meant to be doing. At the start I was sure that that was the type of music that I wanted to make, I wanted to make it happy and upbeat. I didn’t want to acknowledge any of the stuff that was deeper than that. I see…just this personal development of figuring myself out. I also figured out my musicality a bit more.”
Is he still having fun, though? To this, there’s no hesitation: “I’m having more fun than ever. It feels like what we’re doing now is true to us as people. It comes with so much more ease than it used to.”
We get into the current state of queer politics — at the time of recording, it’d been just a day since ‘VOTE NO’ was emblazoned on the Sydney sky. “From personal experience when you’re realising you’re not straight and you’re coming to terms it can be hard to process and to acknowledge and to have to deal with it. Seeing things like ‘VOTE NO’ written in the sky, it pushes you further from being comfortable being your true self. I think for people who are out and who have been through it it’s important to be a support for anyone who is vulnerable during this time and to be a positive voice to try and counteract the negativity like that.”
There’s an anecdote that’s stuck in my mind about Cub Sport when I read about it, and I feel compelled to bring it up: Nelson talked about how, when recording the album, he would go for a run and film the bats which flew across the sky and someone from Texas told him the sky looked the same, there. That’s where the album title comes from, and the album art is one of Tim’s photos.
“I would always do a demo and go for a run and listen to it and so bats were a constant throughout the writing and recording experience. It felt like the marker of the album. I had all the demos and a working tracklist and I’d add to it as I wrote new songs and it had BATS in all capitals for almost the whole time… It stuck and I feel like it suits the album.”
I also feel compelled to ask how his dogs, who feature frequently in the band’s social media output, are going: “The dogs are so good. I’m patting Evie right now, I come and visit them on my lunch break and Missy is just lying in front of me looking so beautiful, she’s looking straight into my eyes.”
Wrapping up, I ask him what Cub Sport fans can expect of the band’s tour, now we’re in a new era: “I don’t play keyboard or guitar in any of the new songs, I’m just singing. It feels like I can really lose myself in it more… And Zoe is now playing guitar, bass, and a synth and has three different mics with different effects, the live show is developing and expanding a bit. It’s really fun and exciting.”