With every album release Cub Sport have continually dived deeper into a further exploration of vulnerability and self-identity through lead singer Tim Nelson’s personal journey. From the coming of age feeling of ‘This Is Our Vice’, to openly coming to terms with his sexuality on ‘Bats, to the romanticism of love on their self titled record, ‘LIKE NIRVANA’ takes solace in being an open exploration of hope, darkness and spirituality.
Created to be an outer-body listening experience, the cohesive record takes you on a journey of self reflection within yourself which is incredibly empowering. Following it’s first week of release, the album debuted at #2 on the Aria Album Charts, and coincidentally proved that their power in connecting is incredibly special and raw.
I recently chatted to Cub Sport lead singer Tim Nelson about the personal journey of ideology and spirituality that drives ‘Like Nirvana’, the creative process behind songs like ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Break Me Down’, as well as explored why ‘333’ felt like it deserved it’s own individual release. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: ’Like Nirvana’ is definitely your most personal body of work yet as it embraces love and hope, not just romantically, but also in the personal love that we should learn to have for ourselves. So what would you say has been the hardest thing for you to accept about yourself through your own personal journey that you’ve then used this album to work through?
TIM NELSON: I feel like there are a few things that are tied together, so I wouldn’t necessarily say there is one particular thing that has been the hardest to love and accept about myself. But I do feel like the theme around the expectations of what it means to be a man, and the ideas that I had in my self conscious about how I should act and look, do come together and play a major part in that.
I feel like it’s been a journey of acknowledging all of those different parts of me, and learning to not dance around them and just say it how it is, that has properly helped me come to terms with a lot of things personally.
TB: ’Best Friend’ is a song that immediately stands out with it’s experimental production along with it’s romantic storyline about your relationship with Sam. So can you tell me about the creative process behind this song?
TN: I actually wrote it exactly one year ago today, as it’s our two year Wedding anniversary today, and I wrote it on our first anniversary a year ago! I wasn’t even setting out to write a song about us that day, I was just downstairs in our home studio and playing around on this Microkorg that I picked up while we were in Portland. It has this arpeggiator setting where you can play with the tempo, so I was kinda just playing these chords that felt really beautiful to me, and while it was recording I was playing with the tempo and winding it up.
So it naturally has this section at the end that speeds right up and then slows down. I was kinda just doing it because I liked it in the moment, but when I was adding all the other instrumentation it started to feel really intense in a way that reminded me of how your heart races in the first moments, like first kisses. It feels very representative of what loves feels like to me.
The lyrics then kinda just came to me. It talks about the very start of Bolan (Sam Netterfield) and I’s relationship. It’s pre ‘Party Pill’, so it’s the earliest part of our story really.
TB: ’Break Me Down’ featuring Mallrat is a seven minute personal breakthrough which is quite raw in parts and takes you on a little journey. Was it a song that you kept adding to creatively or was it one that naturally came in at that seven minute mark?
TN: The very first demo of the song was actually nine minutes long. We were referring to it as a sketch of a song because I just recorded in the guitars and then put it on loop while we recorded through the whole thing and free styled sections. And then at the end of the day we just bounced out what was there, and it was nine minutes long. We both had in our minds that we would trim it down to a 3-4 minute song, but it didn’t end up happening.
What’s interesting is that we didn’t really add anything to it after. Grace (Mallrat) just added in some little piano parts but it was kinda just one of those songs where trying to add things and play around with it after-the-fact felt like it was taking away from what it was. So it ended up remaining pretty much in its demo form.
TB: Speaking to your fans at the album launch was a very special experience as it was so interesting hearing and seeing their reactions live in such a intimate manner. A moment that really stood out to me was someone who was explaining how ’Be Your Man’ took on a different a meaning to them as a trans man. So has it been quite special over the past weeks seeing how fans have interpreted and related to songs in their own ways?
TN: It’s honestly been incredible! I write from my personal experience in a way where I’m really doing it for my younger self to reassure them that they should be proud of who they are. So to realise it’s actually reaching so many more people than just my very specific experience is really incredible. I think it’s also a really beautiful reminder of just how connected we all are to each other than we really think.
I’ve had relatives, people that I used to work with and people that are in such a different world to me say that I inspire them, which genuinely shocks me as I’ve always looked at them like they’ve got everything together.
But that is really beautiful to hear about that fan from the listening party and what they took away from that song. It’s honestly so incredible and special.
TB: The record is a very dark and reflective album that also celebrates hope and love. So why did the song ‘Nirvana’ feel like the best representation of what this record felt and represented to you, to then name it after it?
TN: I feel like ‘Nirvana’ the song represents the moment of freeing yourself from the heaviness, and I think that it is what the album as a whole represents too. It’s not about ignoring the heaviness or turning your back on it, but sort of feeling it, accepting it, and moving through it.
I feel like the whole album feels like that process. From a song like ‘Confessions’ which is quite grittier and heavier, and is definitely some of the darker lyrics on the album and probably one of my darkest periods that I wrote through, right through to ‘Grand Canyon’ with the quiet ending that feels like an Ascension.
With Nirvana’ being bang in the middle, it feels really fitting. Originally I thought ‘I Feel Like I’m Changin’ was going to be the title track, which would also make sense, but I do feel like there is something about the words “like Nirvana” and what it represents that felt right for representing the album as a whole.
TB: ‘Like Nirvana’ is a very conceptual collection of songs that captures a distinct moment in time personally and creatively for you. But looking back on your previous albums, is there any old songs that you think could cohesively fit on this album and may have been catalysts for this record?
TN: I once heard Lorde in an interview refer to songs like that as a “portal song” that you go through to go into the next world, and I think there has always been songs like that on each of our albums.
I think ‘I Am Not Scared’ from our self-titled album was somewhat a portal song through to this next era. I remember when the album came out and people were writing about it assuming that it was about a romantic situation, but in-fact, it was actually about when I started to feel more aware of spiritual forces around me. I started to feel the presence of angels and this whole spiritual world that can be quite scary to acknowledge even exists, and that’s what that song references with the lyric “I feel you there, and I’m not scared”.
I feel like ‘Like Nirvana’ continues to walk down this more spiritually aware path. I haven’t really spoken about a whole lot because I know it sounds absurd to a lot of people, but I do feel like it was a prominent theme in my life and really inspired this record.
TB: At the end of last year you released a trio of singles called ‘333’, as well as a standalone single with Darren Hayes called ‘I Never Cried So Much In My Whole Life’. Why did these songs personally feel like a standalone moment for you compared to being included on ‘Like Nirvana’?
TN: When I’m writing songs I’m always putting them together in a sequence and trying to figure out what one’s belong with each other and what one’s energetically flow into each other.
I wrote ‘Be Your Man’ in June last year, and that song set a new standard of what I wanted ‘Like Nirvana’ to feel like. It took me a little while to feel that out and write the songs to know what that really was, but when I wrote that song I had an inkling that some of the other songs I had written were from another body of work.
I wrote ‘City Of Angels’ and ‘Hearts In Halves’ at the end of 2018, and I feel like who I was and where I was in that point of time was completely different to who I was at the end of last year. So much had changed, and my perspective was different yet again.
I need the albums we release to feel like the most honest representation of who I am at the time, and I didn’t really feel like I could go into 2020 and start promoting ‘Hearts In Halves’ and ‘City Of Angels’ because it was representative of someone that I used to be. But I do love those songs, and I really wanted to release them as I knew people would like them.
I then wrote ‘Air’ in April 2019. I completely lost my voice at the time and couldn’t record any vocals or anything, so I feel like it really led me to being more expressive in the instrumentation. I’m obsessed with that song, and it felt like it fitted so beautifully with those other two songs.
I love the idea that there is a Cub Sport release that people can put on if they just want to dance in the car. It really felt like those songs belonged together and on a seperate release to able people to do that, which was the whole idea of why they didn’t make it onto ‘Like Nirvana’.
TB: You have recently recorded a special stream concert which will be premiering on August 23 for free on YouTube, with donations also being accepted for Black Rainbow. So when putting together this show and performing all of the songs from the album for the first time, what song was the hardest to re-create in the live realm?
TN: For me it came together pretty easily and beautifully, but that is because Dan had done a lot of work in getting it all cohesively going. We worked with a sound engineer called Jared Daly on re-creating the vocal patches that I used for my vocal effects in the sessions to translate smoothly into the live setting.
So in songs like ‘My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears)’, where the back half of it has this vocal solo that sounds like a saxophone or guitar but is actually me singing, I sing into a designated microphone to isolate that vocal.
I’ve basically got two microphones the whole show because there are moments where there will be a verse with autotune, a moment where my voice is pitched up, or like in ‘Break Me Down’ where there is distortion and autotune to sound like a synth.
‘Like Nirvana’ is out now!