There’s a sprawling, magical song midway through Cub Sport‘s perfect self-titled third album that feels like it brings the whole world together for them. It’s about processing shit, the never-ending struggle to do so, and the beauty that can be found in accepting it’ll probably never be 100% okay. It’s a place I wanna start talking to Tim Nelson after bawling my eyes out listening to parts of this. Nic Kelly in bold, Tim in not bold.
Tim: I wrote that in the first half of last year. I feel like when you come out, the immediate feeling is like, “wow, I am finally free to be myself,” it’s really amazing and you feel limitless but for me it was kind of a short period of time before I realised there were so many other things I was hiding about myself. I think in society, there’s a pretty simple idea of what’s normal and what isn’t, and I think coming out as queer is one big thing to release, to no longer have to carry with you, but I think there are a number of conversations that are still hard to have around mental health, there are a certain things that are hard to be upfront about, so I wanted this song to be an anthem for accepting your whole self. Everything you are, everything you aren’t, loving everything.
Nic: What you’ve done so well across this entire album is find the glory & the beautiful side in these feelings and normalise them. That really shined throughout the entire album. I wanted to talk about your production. You were already very good, but now you are very very good.
I feel like it has stepped up a lot. This album was the most collaborative album I’ve been a part of. Max, Golden Vessel & I worked on five songs and I worked with Calvin Valentine on I’m Not Scared.
You can kinda hear those collaborative songs & almost hear their individual influences and the way they’ve integrated their work into your songwriting.
Yeah, it feels really cohesive to me. The ones I’ve produced entirely on my own and the ones I’ve worked with other people on, there’s a specific Cub Sport energy flowing through them all.
Even with a song like Video, and thinking “woah, this isn’t production I have ever heard from Cub Sport before”. I notice a lot of use of vocal effects, what do you utilise vocoder and stuff like that for?
I feel like Autotune in particular can sometimes bring out another layer of emotion. In Video, I still feel like that’s some of my best production I’ve ever done. I literally listen to it and go “I have no idea how I did that.” I think the autotune & distortion in that song kind of capture an assertiveness I don’t think I’ve ever put into a song before. So to start the album off on that felt really good. Then with a song like Trees, I think the autotune emphasises the fragility in the vocal delivery and the lyrics. There’s something about the way it impacts the tone delivery of certain things, it almost intensifies an emotion that was underlying it already.
I wanna talk about Light II, because in it you’re essentially describing some of the shittiest moments of your last few years with your health but wrapping it into a light song. Is your number one way of dealing with shitty times to put it into song, or do you have other coping mechanisms?
Writing and recording music is like a release of things I don’t even know I’m feeling until I actually listen back and go “woah, okay, that came from somewhere!” And it’s usually a case of working through things before I realised I needed to work through them. It’s something I feel happened throughout this whole album, delving deeper into myself and processing all the trauma and residual pain that I think I would have liked to have thought wasn’t actually there. Coming out and being yourself and learning to love yourself isn’t a simple process and for me, music is a really powerful way of processing things and healing from things.
Ryan Beatty’s never really shared much of what it’s like to work with Calvin Valentine so I would like you to share what it’s like to work with Calvin Valentine.
It was a really nice experience. He’s such a chill guy, we had two days together in LA and the first day I just went along, we had a few hours one afternoon and wrote a song which was cool, then I went back the next day with Bolan & Zoe & we did two songs – I’m Not Scared was the second one – and it was one of those amazing experiences where the song just kept flowing until it finished. There was no, like, “what is it missing?”. The start of the song happened when I just went up to his Vocoder, he turned it on, taught me how to use it & I just started playing those chords at the start. It just flowed, then Zo recorded on it and we sang in unison with me up the octave for a lot of it, and when we listened back to it we were like, “holy shit.”. It sounds like the Spice Girls! Like in Viva Forever! It was a very chill process.
I wanna talk about Stars for a second because it’s butterflies in my stomach kind of shit. What place were you in when you wrote it? How far between engagement and wedding was it, where was Cub Sport at the time, set the scene.
I would need to go back and check the exact date but it was definitely post-engagement, maybe late 2017? It came to me at a time when it felt like things were finally falling into place. I think for so many years I was in the mindset that my life was one big struggle and it felt like the longer I lived the more things I accumulated to struggle with. I remember thinking “what is going to happen by the time I’m 40? I am going to have so many things to be anxious about, what am I going to do?” And it’s like I had a whole shift in my perspective of life and my control over my circumstances. I think around the time I wrote Stars was when I could finally see some of the fruit starting to bear from the seeds that had been sewn through difficult times and from putting in work and trying to let love in and try and push my fears and self-doubt away. Stars was a time when I was like “amazing things are happening to me. I never thought that this could happen.” There have been so many moments where I feel like I’m almost dreaming or something, because it’s the exact thing I’ve always wanted but never thought I could have. Stars almost feels like it transcends our bodies. It almost conjures imagery of Bolan and I as the stars, or something.
You’re making me cry. I think that’s why this album is already connecting so deeply with especially young queer kids. It acknowledges the pain & trauma and simultaneously gives you so much hope that you can be young and queer and fucked up and come out the other end at peace with yourself. Now that you’ve processed most of those particular emotions through this album, what are the emerging emotions you will channel into the next record?
I feel like it’s a continuous journey. When you wrap up one part of your journey there’s a new part opening. I feel like there is so much still for me to learn about myself, being better and doing as much as I can to spread light and love to other people. I have started writing the next album. Max and I have done a few songs but there are two that I’m like, sure are going to be on the next album. There’s one I think is the best song I have ever written. I want it to come out now. It feels like it’s kind of ascended to another level of lightness. The songs I’ve written so far feel really uplifting and bright. But it’s not like everything is perfect now. I still get super anxious, like semi-regularly. There are still a bunch of things that I’m working through and I feel like music is going to continue to be my way of healing from things. I feel like if you think you’ve figured it out and you’re done, that’s proof that you’ve got much more to learn. There is always going to be stuff to keep healing from and keep progressing in.
Cub Sport’s album is out now and you can grab it here.