The Southern Cross on Australia’s flag and the rainbow stripes of LGBTQ Pride flew spectacularly together last Thursday, when at long last, the Land Down Under joined the (still small) community of nations who’ve recognized that #LoveIsLove, and granted same-sex couples the right to marry.
It was hardly an easy lift. Over 14 years, the Aussie federal parliament had voted down marriage equality 22 times. It took a nearly two months-long public referendum—the Marriage Law Postal Survey, which passed with 61.6% of Australians voting “Yes” — to in effect compel the government to do the right thing. None of that protracted process, however, dampened the celebrations of throngs of LGBTQIA Australians and their allies over the new law—festivities that lasted well into this past weekend.
And no one in Australia’s third-largest city of Brisbane was more elated at the news than Tim Nelson and Sam Netterfield — the singer-songwriter and keyboardist, respectively, of indie pop charmers Cub Sport. Childhood best friends turned bandmates turned out-and-proud couple turned — six months ago — fiancés, Nelson and Netterfield are now capping what has been a remarkable story with the happy business of planning a legally recognized wedding for next August. The two make an almost criminally cute couple, and when you add to the mix their ubiquitous fan-favorite Golden Lab-Poodle mix “daughters” Missy and Eve, well, say no more. We’re sold.
Nelson gave soulful (at times spiritual) voice to his journey of coming out, finding love, and dedicating himself to advocacy for other young queer people on BATS, Cub Sport’s sublime second album, released in September. The record represents a musical evolution for the band and a newly confident, liberated voice for Nelson. On the first two music videos from the record, the gorgeous “O Lord” and “Chasin,’” Netterfield and Nelson are unmistakably together. Along with bassist Zoe Davis and drummer Dan Puusaari, they’ll bring those songs to North America in the spring.
After a big weekend, I give credit to Tim Nelson for being able to jump on the phone with me at 7 a.m. on a Monday (Brisbane time) to talk about the personal, the political, and this historic moment in the life of his nation.
First of all, a huge congratulations to you and Sam and all of Australia. I remember what it was like when marriage equality happened here, and so I know a little of what you guys are feeling right now.
Thanks so much! Yeah it was a big weekend of celebrating!
Do you feel like it was a long time coming? Because preceding it there was the survey, right? The public postal survey?
Yeah it really has been quite a drawn-out process. And there was the postal survey, which obviously great because there was a resounding “Yes” to that, and everyone knew where Australia stood as a nation on the topic. But it really did give a lot of people to say a lot of negative stuff about the queer community, which was just unnecessary, and it just drew it out, and made it a lot harder for a lot of people.
I saw that [former Aussie PM] Tony Abbott the other day said that Australia — like Ireland — had gone about legalization in “the right way” because they had a public referendum. Which struck me as wrong, because I don’t think a civil right ought to be put up to a vote. But what are your feelings on his comment?
I share the same view as you. We elect leaders to make decisions and to do what’s right for the citizens of Australia. And it shouldn’t be a decision by the people, because sometimes we need leaders to lead, to guide people who aren’t there yet, or who don’t have that context or understanding of what it feels like to be a minority.
I feel like our marriage equality came a lot later than it should have for a nation that is kind of progressive in other ways. It was an expensive, drawn-out way to do it, but yeah.
On a happier note, you and Sam got engaged last June, and he was the one that proposed?
It was a bit of a surprise. We were just in bed and he blurted it out. And I was like, “Well, yeah! Obviously, yes. But are you proposing? Is this happening right now?” And he was like, “Yeah!” And I was like, “Okay, yeah!” So he already had a gold ring that he was wearing on his right hand, we went and got me a ring the next day, and had to have it re-sized. So we went and picked it up a week later, then he came through and got down on one knee and gave me the ring like that.
Your story is so remarkable because you’ve been friends and band mates for years, and it wasn’t until 2016 that you came out to your families and finally acknowledged your love for each other. Sam said in an interview a while back that, “We fell in love over the course of 8 years.” That’s quite rare.
Yeah I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who’s had that happen! It was a kind of thing where we’ve known each other since we were 12 or 13 when we were at school, and then we started hanging out a lot right at the end of school and became best friends. And then we were still super young, but I think we pretty much fell in love right away. But because we had quite religious upbringings and brought up in an environment where we were told homosexuality was wrong, there were so many reasons to run from who we really were. So we were in a lot of denial for a long while and actively distanced ourselves from each other in that respect.
Then I went on a writing trip in 2015. I was in LA writing songs, and that part was good but I was still kind of miserable cause I just missed Sam, and so it was really just a confusing time. “Chasin’” which is the first song on the BATS album, that was kind of about when I was away. And then another year later, we had just wrapped up a tour in the US, and we had kind of been partying all day, and finally had “the conversation” that night.
How did that happen?
He initiated it. He said, “I don’t want this to ruin our friendship, but I’m in love with you and I want to be with you.” And then I said, “I feel the same.” There’s a song on the album, “Crush” which is pretty much about that moment.
How religious of an upbringing did you have, and how did that complicate coming out?
Pentecostal Christian. We went to a church that was also a school, and then I had youth groups on the days that I didn’t have church or school. It was like seven days a week at the same place and seeing all the same people at everything. And in that bubble, you don’t really have any other perspective, or any other views. So it was kind of like your whole reality, until you’re old enough to live outside and figure some stuff out. Homosexuality wasn’t something that was really spoken about. My parents’ religious values sort of went against that while I was growing up. But yeah, since coming out they’ve been really amazing and both our families have been really supportive. And my mum is still quite religious and she’s a great voice in that community now, kind of speaking out for gay people.
It was a confusing start to life. But I think that also happens for a reason, and it’s given us, we’re both very passionate now about making young people who are unsure of their sexuality and that sort of thing, just giving them reassurance, and trying to remind people that you are the way you are for a reason, and you’re perfect like that.
We’re living in an amazing, unprecedented time as far as queer young artists being just openly, matter-of-factly out. There’s Shamir, Olly Alexander, Sam Smith, Mykki Blanco, Frank Ocean, your countryman Troye Sivan. Have any of those people been inspirations to you and Sam?
All of those artists have. And Perfume Genius as well, he’s amazing. One of the big ones for Sam and I was Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear. I remember after the Orlando attack happened in 2016, he posted something that Sam and I both found that really inspiring. That was just before we came out to our family and friends. I think having artists like that can help make you understand yourself better, understand where you belong. And growing up, there weren’t really that many artists to look up to or anyone like that. So yeah, it is such an exciting time to have representation in that way.
Darren Hayes of Savage Garden is a fellow Aussie. Was he a bit before your time?
When Darren Hayes was present and Savage Garden was a real thing, I didn’t really understand anything about sexuality. I was a bit too young. But I really love Savage Garden though, and I’ve reached out to Darren Hayes about working together before. And he said that he was busy writing a musical, but he said if he was gonna be writing a song with anyone, it would be me. I thought that was pretty nice!
So what’s the wedding plan? Have you and Sam set a date?
There isn’t a specific date yet, but we’re aiming for August 2018. We just need to make sure that it fits around all our touring plans, and we want to make sure our friends and family and everyone are all gonna be around. So we’re working towards August. I think we’re gonna have quite a small ceremony and then have a really big party after!
I’m sure Miss and Eve will be in attendance?
Yes, they are our bridal party!
Before you get married though, you’re coming here! What can you tell me about touring the States this coming spring?
Yeah, the last tour in America was in July of 2016, but so much has changed since our last shows there. I feel like coming out has really—I feel so much more comfortable as a performer and an artist now. Cause [before] I think I was always thinking about how I looked and acted and I thought, “Is that how I should be acting?” And now, I just kind of feel a lot more comfortable just being myself and doing whatever. I think now that everyone knows where we stand, and everyone knows what the songs are all about, it feels so much better now. The energy at the shows here in Australia has changed so much around that as well, and so yeah, we’re so excited to bring that to the States!
Cub Sport’s BATS is out now. Their North American tour starts April 3rd in Atlanta. Find all the tour dates here.