Cub Sport on prioritising queer joy, fending off religious hatred and stanning Troye Sivan

Brisbane band Cub Sport in a promo photo for their new band Jesus at the Gay Bar.

Tim Nelson, the lead singer of Australian band Cub Sport, has told PinkNews about their latest album, Jesus at the Gay Bar, writing music with Troye Sivan and giving hope to queer Christians.

“Losing everybody, but I don’t really feel that sad,” sings Nelson on the band’s single “Keep Me Safe”, taken from their recently released fifth studio album.

It’s one of several lyrics across the Brisbane-based band’s album that indicate the subverting of trauma, and the reclamation of their own happiness.

The album moves away from the group’s previous four records, swapping brooding vocals and hazy instrumentals on 2020’s Like Nirvana for bright dance-pop that moves between airy and euphoric.

The band’s change of direction mirrors a change of direction in Nelson’s life.

“A lot of my writing in our earlier [music] was about working through the hard parts of being queer,” he tells PinkNews. “It was a lot of trauma and things that I really needed to get out, before I was able to move forward and create something lighter, that did have more of an emphasis on a feeling of fun, joy and euphoria.”

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For Nelson and his bandmates, the difficulties that come with being queer have been innumerable. Nelson met Sam Netterfield, who plays the keyboard in the band, at the age 12 at their religious pentecostal Christian school. Their two-decade relationship paints an upsetting picture of the destruction caused by anti-LGBTQ+ religious standpoints – while they both fell in love at a young age, and briefly dated when they were 17, the school instilled in them that being gay will only lead you to hell.

Although they split up, in 2010 they formed Cub Sport, – and began to realise that they had never fallen out of love.

They married in 2018, but the shame of being queer that had been burned into them took years to unpack.

“Keep Me Safe” is about the pair’s very specific teenage memory of sitting in their car, and feeling their first love blossom. It’s an incredibly formative experience for LGBTQ+ people, but one that Nelson couldn’t fully enjoy for a long time. The sense of nostalgia that the memory should have evoked was enveloped by the pain of hiding it at the time.

“I feel like it’s taken me this long to feel fully comfortable sharing that much detail about that time, because when it was happening, it was all a complete secret,” Nelson explains. “I never really got a chance to talk about the magic of that time because I was so busy trying to hide it from everyone. It’s very validating for 17-year-old me to be able to share what I now realise are huge life moments.”

Creating something “queer and joyous”, particularly at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is enduring such hostility, has been a “wonderful feeling”. The album’s title, though, has boiled the blood of homophobic religious zealots – particularly due to the fact the record was released on Good Friday.

“I knew that it was going to create a bit of a stir,” Nelson admits, despite the fact that the album’s title is actually a reference to a poem of the same name, written by trans poet Jay Hulme.

The poem is about reconciling queer identity with religious faith, rather than a point of provocation, but that didn’t stop furious Christians from flooding Cub Sport’s social media pages with quotes from the Bible which supposedly support the condemnation of homosexuality

Did this bother Nelson?

“At the start, I was very much like: ‘I can just brush this off’. But to be honest, after a few days of non-stop comments, it was a little bit triggering, just because it was a lot of what was harmful to me when I was growing up,” he says. “I had one morning where I woke up and read a bunch of comments, and I was like: ‘Why have I done this to myself?'”

While the influx of hateful comments reminded him that the types of people who forced him to suppress his sexuality for years still exist in the world, it also had the counter effect of opening the doors for queer and forward-thinking Christians to get in touch and show their support.

“There have been a lot of progressive Christians reaching out saying that they think that what we’re doing is a great thing, which has been wonderful to hear. It gives me hope for queer people who are growing up in the Church,” he says. “I just want people to have a feeling of hope.”

Brisbane band Cub Sport in a promo photo for their new band Jesus at the Gay Bar.
Cub Sport have just released their fifth album, Jesus at the Gay Bar. (Supplied)

Nelson and the band have moved on from the furore over the album’s title and are currently on a worldwide tour. In June, they will perform at LA’s WeHo Pride alongside the legendary Grace Jones and gay fan favourite Carly Rae Jepsen.

If that isn’t enough, Nelson recently got to work with one of his idols: fellow queer Australian pop king, Troye Sivan. During a song-writing camp in February, the pair got together to create some potential new Cub Sport music.

“He makes amazing pop music. He’s just got so many good ideas, he’s a superstar,” Nelson gushes.

“We were writing for Cub Sport, but there are certain parts of [the song] that sounded so much better when Troye was singing it. So, I don’t know. There’s time to figure out what could happen with that song, but I hope to do more together.”

He adds: “I’m just grateful for where I’m at and to have gotten to this point. I’m doing my best to just enjoy it, and make the most of it, while things feel good.”

Jesus at the Gay Bar is out now. Tickets for Cub Sport’s UK, US and Australia tour are on sale now.

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