Local quartet release ambitious new album that finds them more confident, focussed and dynamic than ever before.
High at work?
“Not right now,” Rich Paxton says with a laugh.
It’s not an entirely out-of-leftfield question nor one that he seems surprised or shocked by on this Wednesday mid-afternoon.
Likely it’s one he’ll be answering for some time to come — be it a verbal check or perhaps by being asked to piss into a cup — considering it’s the title of the first single from his local band Free the Cynic’s sensational new six-song EP Post-Iconica.
In fact, he’s already answering for it to a different pair of bosses.
“The inlaws aren’t delighted about that one,” the frontman says somewhat guiltily.
Well, they can rest assured that unless things change dramatically it’s doubtful he’ll be answering in the affirmative.
The song — a brilliant thundering, chiming, raging and empowering anthem of disaffected white-collar ennui — was actually inspired by a job he had a few years ago, the first that the Scotland native held after a two-year wait to get his work visa after arriving in his new home.
“It was awful. I was photocopying all day every day for a bunch of lawyers and it was like I’d gone cold inside,” he says, noting that while he was grateful to have the work, “I definitely didn’t respect the job in terms of getting to bed and recovering and that kind of stuff.”
He is, again, in a much better space right now, thanks to his new gig and thanks to the fact that things are going remarkably well on the musical side of his life.
Free the Cynics are riding an artistic high right now as evidenced by Post-Iconica, which they’ll celebrate Friday, July 21 with a show at the Nite Owl.
Released by the fledgling Zen Palace Records label, it finds the four-piece — Paxton, guitarist Erik Juergens, bassist Brad Wedekind and drummer Joey DeCosse — taking a pretty bold leap forward from the last EP, 2015’s Showtunes From the Basement.
It’s a huge, swaggering thing of melodic-rock beauty that never seems to question its purpose or path.
Part of that is Paxton is more comfortable in the current band configuration — all of the others came on post-Basement — and a large part of it is that the new album was produced like its predecessor at local Sound Priory Recording Studio by Kirill Telichev, who “gets them” and who Steve Lillywhite’s the shit out of things.
“I think the music is a little more ambitious on this one,” the artist says pointing to the dynamics of the album.
“We’re still writing from a kind of live point of view, but I think Kirill managed to rein some of that in and give us a more focussed sound on the record.”
Musically it helps, too, that while Free the Cynics have their own defined sound, they’re swimming in a pretty large pool.
From the jazz boogie of opener Let It Burn to the soothing Britpoppier charm of Wine and Debris, Post-Iconica goes weirdly, wonderfully off in all directions while still remaining grounded in what and who they are.
“I think that’s something of a blessing and a curse. I like that we have such a variety of songs on there, and I think it just comes down to the way we write,” Paxton says, acknowledging each band member has a wide variety of influences to draw upon and they each bring in their ideas, suppress nothing and “if it works, it works.
“But I think people sometimes struggle to put us in a pigeonhole, which I’m happy with.”
Already the Cynics are getting some attention, with campus spins for High at Work and some love from Matt Berry at X92.9.
And they’re planning on touring the album hard, hopefully heading overseas to Paxton’s homeland and the rest of the U.K., with the thought that maybe, just maybe this rock ’n’ roll thing might become a full-time gig, the only work he does, the only job he needs.
“It’s always been the dream, right?” he says. “So I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being ambitious and trying to set your sights high.”
Which is where they are.
Free the Cynics release their new EP Post-Iconica Friday, July 21 at the Nite Owl.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.