"This is me, running in the opposite direction of what I was doing before," Nathan Lawr says emphatically, addressing his ass-shaking, Afrobeat-inspired Minotaurs album, The Thing. The statement is unmistakably clear, rendered confidently by someone with nothing to lose.
Over the past decade, Lawr became a Romeo of underground folk-rock, writing of interpersonal affairs with his heart on his sleeve. That's how the Guelph, ON-based artist operates ― logic, passion, joy, and rage, all simmering to the surface. That vibe has also emanated from Lawr as a percussionist for Feist, Royal City, Sea Snakes, FemBots, Jim Guthrie, and countless others; he matches skill with feel as a drummer like few of his contemporaries.
Yet even as Lawr infused recent records with more musical flavours, something was missing. "I was stuck in this 'singer-songwriter' thing and I don't even know how I got there," he says. "The chords and words weren't quite enough to hold my interest ― I felt like I needed something else." Working with producer/percussionist Don Kerr and building a new, eight-piece Minotaurs band, Lawr drew heavily from Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, writing socially conscious lyrics and marrying them with tastefully spirited funk. "I call it a protest record mostly because I'm sick of love songs but also because I don't think there's any protest music now," he says of The Thing. "It's a fine line to address those things without being preachy and pretentious but I try to tackle them just to put my own mind at ease."