Cub Sport is a completely independent, self-managed four-piece pop group from Brisbane, Australia. The band consists of Tim Nelson (singer/songwriter/producer), Zoe Davis (lead guitar, bass, vocals), Sam “Bolan” Netterfield (keyboards, vocals) and Dan Puusaari (drums). In September 2017, the group released their sophomore album BATS. The deeply personal collection of songs chronicle Tim Nelson’s journey of coming out as gay and admitting his love for fellow band member Sam “Bolan” Netterfield. The two are now married.
The release of the video for their track “Hawaiian Party” with The Dolan Twins saw the song fly to #18 on the US iTunes Alternative Charts and the band hit #5 on Billboard’s “Next Big Sound” chart. In January 2019, Cub Sport released their self-titled album which went #1 in Australia and secured Cub Sport as Billboard Pride’s Inaugural Artist of the Month. The band was also nominated for the 2019 Australian LGBTI Award for Music Artist of the Year. Most recently, Cub Sport performed at the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, NV and joined Local Natives on their UK tour. Their new single “I Never Cried So Much In My Whole Life feat. Darren Hayes” is out now.
DOPE Magazine: So I heard it was your first performance in Las Vegas at Life Is Beautiful. Tell me a little bit about that. What was your experience like? How are you taking it all in?
Tim Nelson: It was a lot to take in, I guess. It was the first time we’ve played a festival outside of Australia, so to be with such an incredible lineup, and to get to play [for] and see people in the audience wearing our t-shirts and singing our lyrics — that stuff is huge for us.
You guys have been internationally touring and on tour for some time now. Tell me a little bit about travel life, touring life. You guys are going on close to a year now.
Sam ‘Bolan’ Netterfiled: Pretty much. After Vegas we fly to Europe and do a two or three day with Local Natives, then to the UK, then we are back home and we do summer festivals throughout Australia all through our summer and the New Year. Pretty much no rest. We have been going on for a while now.
Tim: I think because the four of us are such good friends, and we are married. So, having that support internally, as well as a ground base, is a bit more manageable. We do miss home every now and then. We have beautiful dogs back home.
What kind of dogs?
Sam: A golden retriever crossed with a poodle.
So like, Golden Doodles?
Sam: Yeah, we call them Groodles in Australia (laughs), but yeah, we love getting to play music all around the world. It is basically all we ever wanted to do.
So you mentioned that you’re married. How is that dynamic? You mentioned that it is actually quite manageable, but did anything change?
Tim: We have been best friends for years before that and we were secretly in love the whole time … like inseparable. So it didn’t feel like it really changed that much. I feel like coming out and getting together properly it felt like we understood the dynamic more, and felt like we could be more open in general. It kind of felt like it strengthened what was already a strong foundation.
Was O’ Lord a coming out track for you? Was the relationship open before that music video was released?
Tim: Yes. That song was the first single of our second album, and I wrote that second album while I was coming out basically. So half of it was written while I was coming out, the other half was written just after I came out. And that song, in particular, I remember when we first got together, it felt like everything was kind of too good to be true. I felt like I was used to looking for the next thing that was going to go wrong, and that was kind of the vibe in that song when I finally felt like I had everything. That music video is the first visual thing we put out since coming out publicly. So that song definitely felt like that start of something for us.
The LBGTQ community, I assume, is completely supportive of your music as well. Is that more recently a part of your life following, or was it always part of it?
Tim: It has definitely become a central part of what Cub Sport is. I think getting to be open about who we are and sharing our journey with people has been a really amazing experience. I think when we were younger there wasn’t as much queer representation in music, or any industry, really. To be able to be part of representing queer people, and just being open and being able to inspire other people to live their truth is a pretty great thing we get to do now.
That is a great message. Tell me about the history of the group. How did the band start? How did you guys come up with the dynamic?
Tim: I have always been the songwriter for Cub Sport and the four of us have been in it together right from the start. We put out our first EP in 2012 and I feel like as we changed personally, we grew into ourselves as people. The music has sort of followed the same journey. When we started we were quiet. It was almost like we were tropical indie pop and we were called Cub Scouts because we looked like a group of babies playing music (laughs), and then we had to change our name to Cub Sport because of a legal issue with Scouts Australia.
Like the Boy Scouts of Australia? What happened with that? Did they give you a phone call? An email?
Sam: They sent a letter (laughs). Very formal.
Like a cease or desist?
Sam and Tim: Ahh … yeah (laughs).
Sam: It was the word ‘Scouts’ that was the issue. We wanted to keep some sort of continuity, the flow and the sound [of the original name]. So instead of Scouts, we ran through hundreds of words that could take its place and we eventually landed on Sport. It kind of felt strange because we were used to being Cub Scouts so it felt strange for a while having this new name. Over the years we have really grown into it and it feels very much like us now.
So you’ve been on the road and you’re here in Vegas now. What’s the next stop?
Sam: Our next show is in Amsterdam.
You guys smoke weed?
Sam and Tim: Yeaaah (laughs).
Tim: We love Amsterdam.
Australia has a fairly strict cannabis policy as far as I understand. Was cannabis part of your upbringing? Did it influence your music at all?
Tim: It was kind of something we got into once we were a bit older, and I feel like it has affected how our music sounds. Actually, more how we are, personally. I think I have chilled out a lot and it was something that helped me look internally a bit more. I feel like with my songwriting and what I like sonically kind of changed as I went into using it more frequently. The music has become pretty reflective and introspective. I feel like it has an overall gentle, dreamy vibe, which just feels like who we are now.
Some people out there describe your music as dream pop. Is that how you would describe it as well?
Tim: Yeah … I am not sure. On our Insta bio, we say it’s ‘Queer Trans-Dimensional Pop.’
Sam: It is one of the hardest questions.
So how would you describe yourselves?
Tim: I feel like the vocals are kind of the thing that tie it all together, and outside of that, it feels very free stylewise. Within each album there are a bunch of different sounds, and it kind of depends on what is flowing through me while I am writing and recording. We don’t feel contained to any set, style or genre. It is kind of whatever we are vibing.
How has your most recent self-titled album been different from previous albums?
Tim: For that album, it is the most complete body of work that I have written on the other side of being out. So I feel like I went into it with a more confident mindset and feeling more sure of who I am. With each record it kind of peels back more layers personally. It is like refining the things we like about music at that level as well. The truest representation of us at that time.
I saw that you guys have had a lot of television features. How has that type of fame affected you?
Sam: It can be a lot to take in. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, even months to process that some of these things are even real. It’s like this strange thing of actually living your dream. Something that you have always thought of happening and suddenly it becomes reality, and having to soak that in. It’s incredible, strange, exciting and just weird altogether.
Tim: I feel like with the busy schedule and how there is always the next thing we have to be preparing for, I am trying to be more aware of making sure that I am present. That I am taking in these moments while they are happening because sometimes it is after the fact, when you slow down for a second that this thing that we have been striving for years just happened. It is incredible and it feels like every day there are things that happen that I cannot believe. To us years ago it was only a dream that we got to play outside of Brisbane.
Sam: This is where cannabis really helps. Let’s you slow down, sink in.
That is a great way to put it. We talked a lot about reflective moments. What has been Cub Sport’s biggest moment? What has defined you so far?
Tim: Our album tour in Australia earlier this year was just beyond what I had imagined Cub Sport could ever be. We played to thousands of people back home and our Melbourne show, in particular, sold out weeks in advance. It was like 3000 people and a huge stage. I remember at that show just looking out at this wild light show happening around us and being like, we have come so far … we did this.
Sam: We self-manage and are fully independent as well. The fact that we made that decision to really push ourselves as far and as hard as we could having led to moments that are more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.
Tim: This weekend as well, playing at such a huge festival like Life Is Beautiful, and this being the first major festival we played in the US with some of our favorite artists on the same day just feels like a huge moment for us. Even though Cub Sport was pretty small on the lineup, the fact we were on it was surreal!
What’s coming up next for Cub Sport?
Tim: Our newest single is called “I Never Cried So Much In My Whole Life” and it’s about happy crying. Which kind of feels full circle because with some of the earlier songs that I wrote it was definitely based around the sad kind (laughs). The song was inspired by just having one of those moments of reflection where we are like “Wow. This is where my life has come to?” We were just at home and I looked at Sam on the couch with our two dogs, and I was looking through the window. And they just looked so happy and beautiful. I like just started crying! So it is basically about being grateful for the things I love most about my life.
That’s really amazing and inspiring. When is the next time we can see you in the States?
Tim: Probably the first half of next year. Looking everywhere really. After this, we have a few days off in Amsterdam and then we have the show. Then I think we are playing in Brussels, Paris and Zurich. And then, well I am not sure what the order is, but we have a show in Berlin, Cologne and Copenhagen. We are going to Sweden for the first time! So that’s exciting. We’re getting everything locked down at the moment and look to be headlining some big shows in the US in 2020!