Cub Sport have returned with an intoxicating and brooding 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’, both of which were released in 2022. Nelson notes that the first two singles were chosen to hint at the record’s wider 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 me”, which he wrote “about a euphoric but complicated time” – when he and keyboard player Sam Netterfield, before coming out as queer in 2017, were forced to keep their relationship a secret. Now 32, filtering the experiences of his youth through a new lens and even celebrating the intimacy and vulnerability he and Netterfield shared in the shadows, Nelson says a song like ‘Keep Me Safe’ “feels very powerful and validating to my younger me”.
These cathartic meditations on Nelson’s coming of age, breaking free from spiritual shackles and learning to embrace his truth aren’t particularly rare in Cub Sports’ catalog – their last album, 2020’s ‘Like Nirvana’, is largely framed around them. Although Nelson sometimes worries that he “harps too much on my past,” these stories are so integral to his character that the past is inescapable in his quest to be as authentic as possible with his art. “I think as more time goes by,” he elaborates, “I feel more comfortable and confident in who I am, and it’s easier to share more of what happened back then because I feel feel free to talk about it.”
The songwriting process, Nelson adds, is also pretty cathartic, as he’s able to “rework that whole period [of my life] with the perspective that it was nothing I needed to be ashamed of”. On previous Cub Sport records, he’s addressed the trauma born of his struggles with both queerness and religion, but now, he says, “I want to go back and fill in those voids [to turn my past into] something that is beautiful that is also worth celebrating.”
‘Keep Me Safe’ arrives alongside a video directed by Berlin-based filmmaker Adam Munnings. It was largely inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Julietthat combines its concept of “forbidden love” with a key lyric in the Cub Sports single: “I just want to die in our heaven.”
Aesthetically, it’s choppy, leaping from lo-fi film footage to crisp, theatrical cinematography and then bits of retro-toned home video and strobe-bent performance footage. This kind of visual chaos, Nelson says, reflects the song’s themes: “It starts with more of a ‘real life’ feeling [with Sam and I] in a car, and I’m sure for a lot of queer people, or anyone who’s been in a secret relationship—especially when you’re living with your parents—a lot of what goes down in cars, it’s like one place you got. So it starts off in that kind of world, and as the video progresses, it gets a little more surreal and dreamy. And I think that’s the kind 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:
‘Jesus At The Gay Bar’, available for pre-order here, will be released independently on April 7 — the same day that practicing Christians will celebrate Good Friday this year (a release date locked in long before the title was). The album’s title comes from a poem by Jay Hulmepublished in his 2021 book The backwater sermonswhich depicts Jesus Christ visiting a gay bar and being approached by a boy who is “begging[s] to be healed”, only to be told that “there is nothing in your heart that ever needs to be healed”.
That poem, Nelson says, struck him to the core: “It fundamentally reframes the idea of who and what Jesus is, and his [perceived] the perspective is on homosexuals. And after spending 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 sharpening the optimism that blossomed in its wake. “My vision for [‘Like Nirvana’] was kind of what this album ended up being,” he explains.
“I would like to [album] to feel light and festive, but I don’t think I was there yet. There were so many roadblocks and things I had to acknowledge to myself before I could have these kinds of moments. So it’s really cool for me to listen to these new songs and feel like I’ve captured some joy – it’s something new for me and my process.”