Cub Sport’s Tim Nelson talks new album ‘Jesus At The Gay Bar’ and “euphoric but complicated” single ‘Keep Me Safe’

The pop band have announced their fifth album today – the frontman talks to NME about how it’s their “most dance-forward” and “party-centric” record yet, and how it reframes a personal past of religious trauma

Cub Sport have returned with a heady and contemplative new single titled ‘Keep Me Safe’, along with details of their upcoming fifth studio album, ‘Jesus At The Gay Bar’. Watch the video for ‘Keep Me Safe’ below and read on for NME’s interview with frontman Tim Nelson.

‘Keep Me Safe’ follows previous singles ‘Always Got The Love’ and ‘Replay’, which were both released in 2022. Nelson notes that those first two singles were chosen to hint at the record’s broader musical palette – “This is definitely our most dance-forward, party-centric album,” he says. On the other hand, ‘Keep Me Safe’ embodies the album’s raw, poignant narrative: one of reflection and reckoning, but also learning to find the beauty in otherwise dark situations.

The song is described as “a postcard to [Nelson’s] former self”, which he wrote “about a euphoric but complicated time” – when, before coming out as queer in 2017, he and keyboardist Sam Netterfield were forced to keep their relationship a secret. Now at 32, filtering the experiences of his youth through a new lens and even celebrating the intimacy and vulnerability that he and Netterfield shared in the shadows, Nelson says a song like ‘Keep Me Safe’ “feels very powerful and validating for my younger self”.

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These cathartic meditations on Nelson’s coming of age, breaking free from spiritual shackles and learning to embrace his truth, are not particularly rare in Cub Sport’s catalogue – their last album, 2020’s ‘Like Nirvana’, is largely framed around them. Though Nelson sometimes worries he’s “harping on my past too much”, these stories are so integral to his character that in his pursuit to be authentic as possible with his art, the past is unavoidable. “I think as more time passes,” he elaborates, “I feel more comfortable with and confident about who I am, and it’s easier to share more of what happened back then because I feel safe to talk about it.”

The songwriting process, Nelson adds, is also rather cathartic, as he’s able to “recast that whole period [of my life] with the perspective that it wasn’t something I needed to be ashamed of”. On earlier Cub Sport records, he’s addressed the trauma born from his struggles with both queerness and religion, but now, he says, “I want to go back and fill in those blanks [to turn my past into] something that is beautiful worth being celebrated as well.”

‘Keep Me Safe’ arrives alongside a video directed by Berlin-based filmmaker Adam Munnings. It was inspired largely by Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, marrying its concept of “forbidden love” with a key lyric in Cub Sport’s single: “I just want to die in our heaven.”

Aesthetically it’s choppy, jumping from lo-fi film footage to crisp, theatrical cinematography, then snippets of retro-tinged home videos and strobe-inflected performance shots. This kind of visual chaos, Nelson says, is reflective of the song’s themes: “It starts more ‘real life’-feeling [with Sam and I] in a car, and I’m sure for a lot of queer people, or anyone who’s had a secret relationship – especially when you’re living with your parents – a lot of what goes down is in cars, it’s like the one place you’ve got. So it starts in that sort of world, and then as the video progresses, it kind of becomes more surreal and dreamy. And I think that’s the sort of lens you see things through in a relationship, when it’s this euphoric, new, special thing.”

Watch the video for ‘Keep Me Safe’ below:

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‘Jesus At The Gay Bar’, available for pre-order here, will be released independently on April 7 – the same day practising Christians will observe Good Friday this year (a release date locked in long before the title was). The album’s title comes from a poem by Jay Hulme, published in his 2021 book The Backwater Sermons, that envisions Jesus Christ visiting a gay bar and being approached by a boy who “beg[s] to be healed”, only to be told that “there is nothing in this heart of yours that ever needs to be healed”.

That poem, Nelson says, struck him to his core: “It basically recasts the idea of who and what Jesus is, and his [perceived] perspective is on gay people. And having spent literally years of my life praying every day that I wouldn’t be gay anymore, reading that poem… I feel like that perspective would have changed everything for me when I was younger.”

For all its intense, introspective themes, Nelson maintains that ‘Jesus At The Gay Bar’ is Cub Sport’s most euphoric album. He says ‘Like Nirvana’ was his album of “pure catharsis”, with this follow-up honing in on the optimism that blossomed in the aftermath. “My vision for [‘Like Nirvana’] was kind of what this album ended up being,” he explains.

“I wanted that [album] to feel light and celebratory, but I don’t think I was there yet. There were so many roadblocks and things I needed to acknowledge for myself before I could have this kind of moment. So it’s really cool for me, listening to these new songs and feeling like I’ve captured some joy – it’s something new for me and my process.”

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