Cub Sport’s Tim Nelson: “I feel like there’s more joy and energy in the set, and it feels really good!” (6/25 at MilkBoy)

Indie rock icon Ben Lee recently tweeted a string of pretty profound statements after attending the first night of Cub Sport’s Jesus At The Gay Bar Tour of North...

Indie rock icon Ben Lee recently tweeted a string of pretty profound statements after attending the first night of Cub Sport’s Jesus At The Gay Bar Tour of North America (Read it in all of its social media glory here.)  It began with, “Hey just saw @cubsportmusic live they are the missing link between Belle & Sebastian Madonna the Pet Shop Boys and the Smiths,” before diving into more intense territory.

“I wanna talk about @cubsport . I saw them last night for the first show of their US tour and it was a gorgeous, healing spectacle. The music was perfect – dance music that makes you swoon and yearn… but mainly I was left thinking about the courage it takes in todays scary world to launch a tour of America called “Jesus at the Gay Bar” that celebrates love and self-acceptance in such an overt way. It’s genuinely brave. I imagine if you were young and gay and saw a show like this it might just leave you thinking that things were gonna be alright. Love you @cubsport thanks for putting such positive energy out into the world.”

There would seem to be little else that needs to be said about the current state of the Brisbane-based indie pop quartet, but, for those still largely unfamiliar, The Jesus At The Gay Bar Tour is in support of the group’s fifth full-length, of the same name, which hit shelves on Good Friday, this April.  Prior to its release, the album dropped four singles and earned a bevy of critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone Australia proclaiming, “The fierce honesty and torn-open vulnerability of Cub Sport is exactly the beauty we need in a world torn apart,” with Billboard adding, “Cub Sport’s love story, and the way it’s unfolded in their music, [is] an exhilarating discovery.”

PHILTHY first met Cub Sport frontman Tim Nelson back in June of 2016, shortly after the release of debut LP This Is Our Vice (If we’re keeping score, I made the Belle & Sebastian connection back then…), and just prior to opening night of their US tour at our very own MilkBoy.  Well, seven years later, and the band are returning to MilkBoy on the Jesus At The Gay Bar Tour on Sunday, June 25th.  And I recently got a chance to catch up with Tim via Zoom, where we talked about the tour, the album, and how far Cub Sport has come in those seven years.

Izzy Cihak: You just kicked off a US tour a little more than a week ago.  How have the shows been going so far?  Any particular highlights?

Tim Nelson: It’s been so good!  They’ve all been really fun!  Last night in San Fran was especially cool, though.  There was so much energy, and, for a Tuesday night, that feels like a big thing, coming from Australia, where people really only go to shows on weekends.

Izzy: This is a pretty big question, but this is your first time touring the states since 2019.  What do you think are the biggest differences between the band in 2019 and the band today?

Tim: I feel like the music has evolved a lot, and we’ve kind of moved into a bit more of dance territory with Jesus At The Gay Bar.  So, that’s kind of changed the live show quite a bit.  I feel like there’s more joy and energy in the set, and it feels really good!

Izzy: And, related to that, Jesus At The Gay Bar has been out for exactly two months now.  Have you had any favorite reactions to the new songs so far, whether things you’ve read, things fans have told you, or just reactions you’ve gotten from live audiences?

Tim: There have been so many amazing responses.  The people telling personal experiences of it just making them feel so much better, and that sort of thing…  I think performing “Songs About It” in the live show is a massive highlight, though.  It’s a part of the set that just wasn’t there before, and it’s just so much fun.

Izzy: You collaborated with Mallrat on “Yaya,” who I know you’ve actually worked with a lot over the years.  I’m a big fan of hers, as well, so I have to ask how you originally got together, and how it is to work with her?

Tim: We met in 2015 at this festival for the start of a semester at a uni in Brisbane.  And Grace was in high school still.  And she just came up and said that she loved the set and asked if we had any recommendations for a music teacher, or something.  And we kind of stayed in touch, and she started releasing music and I was like obsessed with it.  And we’ve been working on music together ever since.  She’s been on the last three Cub Sport albums, which is so cool.

Izzy: Tell her to come back to the states!  We haven’t seen her in like five or six years now…

Tim: Yeah, you need to hear “Butterfly Blue” live!

Izzy: Earlier this year you released a really cool music video for “Keep Me Safe.”  What were the biggest inspirations behind the concept of that video.

Tim: Visually, it was quite inspired by Romeo And Juliet; I kind of saw it paralleled there.  We worked with director Adam Munnings, an Australian who lives in Berlin now, and he just happened to be home in Australia for Christmas, and it was like the only days we had free, just before Christmas.  So, we collaborated with him, and he brought in this whole other part to the vision that just tied in so beautifully.

Izzy: The last time I interviewed you, or covered the band at all, was actually just after the release of This Is Our Vice, which still holds a pretty special place in my heart, so I’m curious how you currently feel about your debut LP?  I know “Come On Mess Me Up” is still a live staple.

Tim: Yeah, I still love it!  “Come On Mess Me Up” is still one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and I think it always will be, and it’s such an amazing moment in the live show.  So, that one is still right up there for me.  And, I also really love the songs “Only Friends” and “Runner” off that album, but I’m still really proud of that album as a whole.

Izzy: Not to detract from your music, but you also have really great fashion, both collectively and individually, and you all look very different from the last time I saw you, back in 2016, so I’m curious what it is that inspires your sartorial style?  And do you have any particularly significant “style icons?”

Tim: I think it’s kind of just been about expressing ourselves more.  When we started the band — Zoe, Sam, and I – none of us were out yet.  And I think there was a lot of kind of trying to hide who we really were, or something.  And it’s just been like a journey over the years of tapping into what feels most authentic to us and what we feel good in, that sort of thing.  But there are no specific style icons, just like taking little bits of inspiration from everywhere.

Izzy: You’re going to be back at MilkBoy in Philadelphia, where you played in 2016.  What can be expected of the live show this time around?

Tim: Compared to that show from 2016, it’s gonna be a lot bigger, production-wise.  We’re bringing a light show on the tour this time, which is so fun.  Just playing the new album live feels like the start of something really cool!

Izzy: On a related note, you have a fairly big catalogue of music at this point, so I’m curious how you decide what older songs you’re going to bring out for a current tour.  Is it mostly based on what you’re currently most feeling, yourselves, or more what you think your fans most want to hear?  Or, is it a combination of both?

Tim: It’s kind of a combination of both.  It’s like the ones that we really love to play, and that I feel really connected to, that’s usually what’s in the set.  But it’s also what works best in terms of cohesion, because there are a lot of different sounds, so they have to be in the right order and have the right flow for all of it to work.  It’s kind of a little bit of all of those things.

Izzy: You seem to play a pretty wide variety of venues and settings, from barrooms and listening rooms, to nightclubs and festival stages.  Do you have a particular favorite type of setting to play, or that you feel is most conducive to your show, or do you enjoy being able to play the variety?

Tim: I think the variety is really fun.  I do love playing on a big stage.  Festival crowds are so fun.  But then playing headline shows, no matter the venue size, is always such a special experience.  So, I don’t think I really have a favorite.  I love it all!

Izzy: Considering summer just kicked off – or, at least here in the states — I’m curious if you have any favorite summertime music?

Tim: I think 1tbsp, who’s a DJ/producer from Brisbane, his music is pretty perfect for summer, and worth checking out.

Izzy: Right now, you have live shows booked pretty much throughout the summer, but what’s next for you, after these currently scheduled dates wrap in September?

Tim: We’ve got some more dates for after that, and I’ve been working on some music with other artists and stuff, so I feel like there’s a chance that something may come out.  But, I don’t know.  It’s all kind of up in the air at the moment.  But there will be more live shows to be announced.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.