Afrobeat Band Minotaurs Rushed to Finish 'AUM' Before A Grant Expired

Afrobeat Band Minotaurs Rushed to Finish 'AUM' Before A Grant Expired
Photo: Noelle O'Brien
According to Nathan Lawr, the latest album from his band Minotaurs, AUM (out now on Static Clang) was birthed from a mix of inspiration and necessity. Released just 14 months after their third LP, Weird Waves, the six-track LP from the Guelph, ON Afrobeat-inspired indie outfit was recorded swiftly due to an expiring grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.
"I had applied for [the grant] while finishing Weird Waves," Lawr tells Exclaim! "It had to be done by last May. I could have gotten an extension, but I like the idea of doing two records in one year. I also like the idea of doing what I had to do to make that happen."
In addition to getting AUM (an acronym that commonly stands for Assets Under Management) ready in time to collect on the endowment, Lawr also had to overcome the challenge of shepherding his eight-piece Minotaurs band back into the studio.
"It is a royal pain in the ass to organize eight dudes, and some days I wonder what the whole point of it is and if I have the energy to keep doing it," says Lawr. "Usually I'm about four months in advance trying to get things nailed down or else everyone gets too busy and it gets impossible."
In response, Nathan decided to work out the songs beforehand in order to cut down time in the studio, bringing in Stuart Bogie — a multi-instrumentalist session player who started his career with Brooklyn Afrobeat legends Antibalas — to help with pre-production. "We got him to come up and hang with us for a weekend in this little cabin just outside of Guelph and basically workshopped and worked on the tunes," says Lawr. "It gave us the chance to work with what we had without the pressure of the studio environment, the pressure of time and all the various pressures that come from working in a studio."
In support on the new album, Lawr and his band plan on heading out for just a handful of GTA-based shows, something, according to Lawr, was also born from a sort of necessity. "I don't know why but no one wants to book us. Part of the reason is that there's eight of us so that can sometimes be a stumbling block. Because unless we're getting a thousand bucks a night, we can't afford to do that. It used to be, when you go on tour, and even if you weren't making a lot of money from the show, you were selling a lot of merch or you were selling a lot of CDs in the record stores, so that would subsidize your traveling; now that's not the case."
But despite the many challenges Lawr and his band have faced throughout the years, he says that the current vibe surrounding his Minotaurs band mates is as positive as he's even seen. "I don't think I've ever been in such a high-functioning band where the morale's so high. We're having such a good time playing the music, and when people come to see us usually it's a great time. It does get a little frustrating now and again. But it is what it is."