Tim Nelson and Sam Netterfield of Australian indie synth group CUB SPORT share how they celebrated marriage equality in Australia, their religious upbringings, drag names, the importance of role models and more in our extended interview.
“It took forever, it was a huge step for me and I think that was a catalyst for a lot of things to come after and I guess it’s hard but trying to accept yourself first even if other people don’t.”
EL CHAMP: Firstly I think we should talk about the amazing marriage equality results, where were you guys when you heard about it and what were your first reactions?
SAM: We were at Woolworths, we’d been a bit anxious throughout the morning we had been up for ages and just needed to get out of the house.
EC: Because the results came out around 9am?
EC: So you would have already done your pilates Sam and you would of already have gone for your run?
TIM: (laughter) Yeah I think we had just been hanging around getting nervous and we were like ok so lets go get stuff for breakfast or something and then the results came in while we were walking into the shops and then we just got a flood of messages from friends saying YES YES YES YES YES….and then we celebrated with a bottle of bubbles.
EC: The younger generation had the highest participation rate in the yes vote, what do you guys think of that?
S: I am so proud of that, it’s really cool.
T: It’s exciting. Young people care, it’s so good.
S: Hopefully it will be the start of more good to come.
EC: So do you guys have plans to marry?
T: I think we’re looking for August I think but now I kind of want to make it earlier because we also have touring plans…
EC: Maybe you guys can do multiple destination weddings?
S: A wedding tour.
EC: Yes! That’s the tour name…The Wedding Tour.
“Yeah I think as the indie musicians started coming out as gay I was like ok this is someone I could definitely relate to and it was something that I want to do and I saw the way that they helped people to feel accepted and that’s the thing and I think that had a lot to do with us coming out as well.”
EC: I’m sure a few people already know about your romantic story, but do you guys want to tell us a little bit more about how it all kind of came about? So you guys have known each other since high school?
T: Since middle school. We were 12, we were in year 8.
EC: And were you guys friends back then?
T: Ummm no not really, we were like in pretty different circles for most of school and then towards the end of school we were in choirs together and did music and that sort of thing and thats when we started becoming friends and then it was like when we finished school that we started hanging out everything day. And then I guess it took years for us to work through all of our internalised homophobia and working through all the religious stuff we had from every angle growing up.
EC: Were you guys like alter boys, like how religious was your upbringing?
S: Our school was like Pentecostal so Hill Song style…
T: It was like the movie Sage almost.
S: Literally, our school was like it.
S: It had like smokes and lights, rock like hill song church style. We had a workshop team together.
T: So funny we were on the workshop team. So we were like the ones leading the songs at chapel and stuff. It was like…
EC: This is like some under cover shit you guys could of done…
S :(laughter) it’s honestly ridiculous.
T: But it was the only way we cold get a chance to sing into microphones, it was like hell yeah I’ll do it.
S: We were Chapel prefects for doing that. So it was very very much engraved from a young age right until the end of school and it took so long to unlearn or even just to see, we were behind the 8 ball in school like we had no idea.
“….and I would just take anything I could to get any indication of people that were gay and successful.”
EC: Did you find that because of your up bringing and whatever values your family had they were also fed to you?
T: It was quite an all encompassing thing so it was like all your friends are from the same school and their parents had learnt the same thing and at everything social thing it was like the same stuff so it was hard to get any perspective on anything and I think that’s why it took us so long because we really had to start unlearning stuff and then start learning and then start acknowledging what was happening.
EC: Did you guys have any recollections of when you were in middle school or high school of seeing a guy and being like oh that guy’s cute.
T: I had a crush on Sam in year 11 but I like obviously squashed that and denied it and then pretty much it never really went away. Sam is such a babe.
S: I had plenty yeah.
T: But so then after years of I guess of denial and wondering if it was a phase and if it was going to go away or whatever finally recognising that it’s not something that changes that you are who you are and then we finally… I think our feelings for each other were getting deeper and deeper.
EC: Without anything coming to the surface.
T: Yeah exactly it was like and then once we finally had the conversation and admitted it to it each we went straight into the most seriously relationship ever.
S: We went from 0-100.
EC: How did you guys bring that up?
S: We had been away for two months, we were overseas on tour and we had already spent basically everyday together for the previous 8 years, we hardly spent a day apart.
EC: But just as friends, was there ever as straight guys anything that now in hindsight that you could of seen as being more of friends.
S: Oh yeah, stuff definitely happened over the years.
EC: But you guys didn’t acknowledge it.
S: Then at the end of the tour last year we had…it was literally just after the Orlando attacks and we were just in Colorado at the time. We were pretty much just following the pride marches. It was really cool and it brought a bunch of stuff to the surface and we went out in public as gay people for the first time because before that point we hadn’t really really come out. I had only sort of recently come out so attending those things in public were kind of an awakening.
S: And then a week or two later the tour finished in Vancouver ad we had a couple of days off so we partied pretty hard…
EC: What happens in Vancouver stays in Vancouver.
S: And I was just like pretty wasted and I was just like I know what I want to say to him so I did.
T: I think you might have said you were in love with me and you wanted to be with me.
T: And I was like yeah same.
EC: And this was the first time it was ever said out loud.
T: Yeah and then the next week we were back in Brisbane and then I just got a message from Sam and he had just been at his parent’s place for dinner and then I got a message from him saying, “I just came out to my parent.” So then I organised to have breakfast with my parents two days later and I didn’t tell him I was coming out to them other and then on the way home I was like I just came out to my parents and I told them about us and then we told all our friends.
T: I think it was like not even a day that mum was coming to terms with it, she was like it’s sexual and I was like yep…cant believe I’m having this conversation with you but yes. And then yeah the next day because we work together as well at my Dad’s orthodontic practice and the next day we had a staff retreat thing and staff training. So the first time that dad was seeing us together and seeing Sam was at this work conference whilst sitting at these round tables..like hello… But then he came to our room after the session and told Sam that he would treat him like our siblings’ husband and wife and then two days later I think you (Sam) were at our house for a family dinner and it was all very natural.
S: We should of done it sooner. Although I don’t regret not having done it sooner I think it was the right time.
“I feel like I never really had much of a queer community that I fell into until recently and it’s exciting that young queer people now will have so many more places where they can fit in.”
EC: You want to have a safe space and feel comfortable when you’re coming out. Did you guys have any queer literature or content that you were able to identify with growing up?
S: I remember Queer As Folk on SBS and then there would also be like international movies that were R rated and I would be like 15 and I would be like oh hello what is this…
T: I guess we did a lot of musical theatre but even with it and that’s where I guess I met the most gay people but so many people there were closeted as well. It was just like a community of confused homophobic gay people. It wasn’t supportive it was like everyone was trying to tear each other everyday it was so weird… I feel like I never really had much of a queer community that I fell into until recently and it’s exciting that young queer people now will have so many more places where they can fit in.
S: I wonder how much that would of changed my time lime if had been in this generation now.
T: We both would have come out so much earlier there would have been so much less to fear about coming out.
EC: Did you guys every have a desire to leave Brisbane?
S: I defiantly thought about it.
T: Like literally10 years ago when we had just finished school we were like should we move to London or something and then started getting into uni courses and then…
S: …it just like set a whole bunch of things in motion.
T: It’s kind of been a weird journey to get to where we are but now looking back at it all I can see it all happened to give us time to learn who we are ourselves because I feel like regardless of my sexuality or our relationships I don’t think I was ready to be in a relationship I just had so much stuff to do on my own before I could feel like this. Like it was like a weird time but it was good because I feel like now we have a better understanding of both sides and that world and that kind of helps us understand what other people are going through because I think that was one thing with queer role models when we were growing up. It was such a seperate world because it wasn’t applicable to me, I admired it but I was like how cold I get there.
“I think you might have said you were in love with me and you wanted to be with me.”
EC: If you guys think of someone you had to look up to when you were younger?
S: Somehow I picked that Wentworth Miller was gay and I would just like troll articles and stuff about him just to hopefully find the word gay. And that was about it….and I would just take anything I could to get any indication of people that were gay and successful.
T: I cant really think of any I had I think I was just so scared of it when I was younger that I kind of just ran in the opposite direction and wouldn’t allow myself to look to anybody. But then Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear and Johnny Pearce from The Drums…
S: … and Frank Ocean.
T: Yeah I think as the indie musicians started coming out as gay I was like ok this is someone I could definitely relate to and it was something that I want to do and I saw the way that they helped people to feel accepted and that’s the thing and I think that had a lot to do with us coming out as well. Because I think it was Ed Droste’s post after the Orland attack that I as like wow it’s amazing the platform and voice he has and I guess we started to realise that we sort of had an opportunity to do that too and since we’ve started doing it i’ts so cool the amount of people that have said that we’ve inspired them.
S: We literally get hundreds of messages just everyday. People who haven’t committed suicide because of our music and just for being ourselves.
T: Yeah it’s crazy because since we’ve released it (BATS) the topic of vulnerability and the power of it have come up a lot and it…
S: … and it wasn’t like a conscious decision.
T: Yeah because when I was writing BATS I had remembered thinking that I’m going to have to change so much of this before releasing it because I was putting so much on the line and before releasing it I was obviously already out and everyone knew that. They wanted to know stuff about me and it was there… so it was good to leave the album in its purest form and put it out there and it was a freeing feeling allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
S: I feel like a lot of people didn’t understand us because we didn’t understand ourselves and it was very clear how confused we were and I think it really changed everything and the way people perceived us. I feel like there’s a lot of power in coming out and people understand exactly where we were coming from.
“And then I guess it took years for us to work through all of our internalised homophobia and working through all the religious stuff we had from every angle growing up.”
EC: Do you guys have many tattoos?
T: Sam gave me that one, these are our dogs Missy and Evie and thats our house that we used to live in and a dolphin.
EC: So you’re like a complete artists Sam, you’re a triple threat, painter, diver, gymnast and artist.
S: Oh wow! Today marks our 4th week of no meat, we’re still having seafood.
EC: What triggered that?
S: We tried it a coupe of times. A few weeks at a time and it’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. For the environment and animal rights.
T: I’ve always felt quite guilty I’ve always liked eating meat and the taste of it…but always felt guilty.
S: It’s balanced. We pretty much only have meat, salads and vegetables at the moment.
EC: Eating healthy and exercising gives yourself a better opportunity with excelling in other areas in your life. Is that something you guys have tried to incorporate in your life?
S: Tim is a huge runner.
T: I’ve been running not like a crazy amounts but just like constantly just like 4 to 6 kms. I used to run everyday and then I got really sick earlier this year. Running and pilates and it definitely helps everything. I think you just feel a little bit better about yourself as well which makes a big difference.
S: We walk our two dogs as much as we can.
“I think our feelings for each other were getting deeper and deeper.”
EC: If you guys had to choose one artist out of SZA, Solange and Frank Ocean who would it be?
S: They’re past albums were phenomenal.
T: They’re actually three of our favourite artists but I think I would choose Frank he is my number one like across everything.
S: It would be hard to choose but it would be Frank.
If Frank hadn’t come out do you think someone your music would of reached where it’s reached today?
T: I don’t know, yeah I think Frank’s album Blond influenced BATS quite a lot. It came out halfway through writing BATS and I think the style of production and his voice and everything I found it all very inspiring.
S: It also came out just after we got together and we would listen to it from start to finish everyday single day when we were freshly together. It will always be very special to us.
EC: On the subject of role models, if you guys were going to give some advice to adolescents today who right be struggling with coming to terms with who they are because maybe they’re aren’t in a safe environment, what is a piece of advice or encouragement that you would offer?
S: I guess something we always say is to wait until you feel comfortable, like don’t rush it and just do it when you feel safe. I guess acknowledging it to yourself, whatever it may be, whatever it is is probably the hardest. Like I didn’t say to myself out loud that I was gay for several years. It took forever, it was a huge step for me and I think that was a catalyst for a lot of things to come after and I guess it’s hard but trying to accept yourself first even if other people don’t.
T: And I think in the lead up to feeling comfortable with coming out I think it’s so important to find people who you can connect with and who you share common ground with and if you feel like there’s no-one in your life you can talk about it with then finding whether it is musical artists, watching movies or reading books or like anything that helps you identify with a community and help you develop your own understanding of what your feeling rather than trying to fit what your feeling and experiencing into this other world that you’ve been placed into but don’t necessarily fit into.
EC: If you guys were going to graffiti something on the back of a toilet door, what would it be?
S: If you can’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love yourself!
EC: Do you guys have drag names?
S: Ciara Alpha Mary.
T: I don’t officially have one, I’m still working on mine. EddieDaniels.
EC: That’s so Australian, EddieDaniels from Windsor.
EC: I feel like now young artists are really embracing femininity and wearing makeup and heels like in your video O’Lord. There’s a lot younger kids wearing earrings and make up etc… using this mode of self expression to protest – for example in the states, like a “fuck you Trump we’re here”. Is that something you want to incorporate into your image going forward. Being visible and challenging masculinity?
S: Yeah we’ve shot another film clip the other night and that’s definitely something we’re pretty excited about and that our aesthetic should be less gender specific.
EC: Would you guys rock an EL CHAMP crop top?
S: I’ve got a little bit of work to do before rocking a crop top, I would do it, but after a few more glory bowls. I definitely would though!
EC: Ciara Alpha Mary definitely would.