Photo: Aaron Awad
Photo: Aaron Awad

Essentials… with Nathan Lawr

Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped get through through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.

Nathan Lawr is one of the unsung heroes of the Canadian indie rock renaissance, having served as the drummer-of-choice for artists including Feist and FemBots, while also being a key collaborator in the 1990s Guelph, Ontario scene that spawned the Constantines, Jim Guthrie, Royal City, and Sea Snakes.

In 2000, he began releasing acclaimed albums of self-penned folk songs, but made a dramatic turn a decade later in forming Minotaurs, a politically-charged, Afrobeat-inspired, group that on any given night numbered eight to 10 players on stage. It was an intense period for Lawr that found him taking on the roles of bandleader and producer, and although Minotaurs continue to be a going concern—the band released its latest album Higher Power in March 2020—the urge to establish himself as a more traditional singer-songwriter never faded.

It’s resulted in Apocalypse Marshmallow, Lawr’s first solo album since 2013’s Chance Encounter—eight songs that were truly eight years in the making. The extra time and care has indeed produced Lawr’s finest solo collection, one that boldly displays even more dimensions of his seemingly limitless musical range, from indie rock swagger to meditative balladry.

To see an artist reach this point of self-actualization—no matter how long it’s taken—is always a remarkable thing to behold, and Nathan Lawr’s Apocalypse Marshmallow deserves to be regarded as the beginning of a new chapter in his career. Like so many other members of his generation of indie rock lifers, Nathan Lawr’s best work is just starting to be revealed. Apocalypse Marshmallow is available from Bandcamp


Essential Album: Kelly McMichael, Waves (Self-released, 2021)

Kelly’s music is such a wonderful mix of the familiar and the unknown. The songs twist and turn and are at once comforting and mysterious. I love the hooks, the lyrics, and most of all her one-of-a-kind velvety voice.

Essential Book: Gregory Corso, Long Live Man (New Directions, 1962)

This is a visceral and funny book of poems from one of the founders of the Beat movement. I love his rhythms and images, and they’ve provided such great inspiration for my own songs. He was a friend of and influence on Patti Smith, what else can I say?

Essential TV: Loki (Disney+, 2021)

I’m not gonna lie, I was a comic book kid. I loved the X-Men with all my heart. I have a lot of time for the Marvel stuff and I really don't care what anyone thinks. The Loki show is dynamite. It really captures the vibe of the ‘80s-era comics I grew up on. I get that Marvel stuff is sensational and lame but that doesn't mean I can't like it! I like some hi-brow stuff too, but they don't need to be mutually exclusive.

Essential Movie: Suspiria (2018)

When it comes to films, I love horror and scary stuff, and I finally got around to watching Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria. It’s super creepy and gorgeous, with tons of interesting cinematic references and a great Thom Yorke soundtrack to boot.

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