Calgary rock act Free the Cynics manage to find positives in pandemic, release new album Diogenes

Bigger sound? Check. Eclectic songs? Check. Fun and mischief? Double check. 

Calgary band Free the Cynics are firing on all cylinders as they release their latest album – the sixth, which is dubbed Diogenes — and the sound is bigger than ever, according to lead singer Rich Paxton. 

“The new album is definitely a bit of a change for us. It’s a lot bigger sound-wise,” he explains, adding that guitarist Alex Klassen produced it in his brand-new, downtown Calgary studio. 

It’s hard not to address the elephant in the room known as COVID-19, but while the pandemic has held many back in the arts and entertainment scene, it had its advantages for the band, and that contributed to the new sound. 

“We had a lot more time to work on it without the constraints of time and money. It’s still distinctively Free the Cynics and still an eclectic album from song to song, but it’s for sure more of a single piece of work, rather than a collection of songs put together, which was probably true of the last two EPs.”

That doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t had its obvious downsides, but Paxton says the lockdown gave the band more time to complete the album that was originally planned to be released early summer. 

“We had all this extra time without the stress of those deadlines, so we worked hard on making the album as good as we possibly could with no pressure. It meant that we could take a lot more time over the little details, which was a plus. Of course, we’d rather it (the pandemic) wasn’t happening, but we took the positives out of it in terms of the timing.” 

In terms of influences, Free the Cynics are self-professed to have been “pretty obsessed” with IDLES for the past year or so and while it’s not glaringly obvious on the album, it gave the band a common bond to build upon. And of course, they all have their outside writing influences. 

“Writing wise, there’s a bit of everything from the political landscape at the moment, to owning up to bad choices and behaviour that affects the people close to you, to fun songs about getting up to mischief and one from the perspective of Diogenes himself.”

Diogenes is named after a Greek philosopher who the band considers to be “the first rock and roll star,” and who was commonly known as Diogenes the Cynic. In fact, Paxton recommends people look up the famed philosopher. 

“He was a true one-of-a-kind, and more rock and roll than Keith Richards mainlining heroin while making love to Courtney Love at Whisky a Go Go during a mass brawl,” Paxton says. 

Like the rest of the world, the band didn’t know when they would be able to perform again and are excited to hit the stage for the upcoming album release at Dickens on Nov. 13, which is already sold out. 

It’s actually going to be the band’s second live performance since lockdown restrictions were eased. Their first, a Live Nation event at The Wildhorse tent in September, was a blast, even if it wasn’t ideal. 

“It was definitely a little odd with the seated crowd and the rules in place. We are a band that feeds off the crowd a lot, so that is going to take some getting used to,” he says, but adds that venues being open is the important part. 

“Getting onstage was a great feeling, we definitely had some nerves as it was a last-minute show and we had to cram in a lot of the new stuff so it was gig-ready, but it ended up being a really great show.” 

Excited for the upcoming album release – even if they can’t “feel the sweat of the crowd – Paxton says perhaps the COVID-19 restrictions mean that fans will take in a lot more of the small details of the songs that they may have missed before when dancing around.  

“It’s tough not playing, I definitely felt a lot more irritable than normal knowing nothing was coming up. I think a lot of bands have felt that way. It’s been a real reminder to me how important live shows are to our well-being, so we’re going to play an absolute stormer for everyone.” 

After that, the band will perform at Broken City on Dec. 19 and they’re already writing their next album tentatively planned for next year. 

Free the Cynics’ album release party for Diogenes hits the Dickens stage Nov. 13.

Krista Sylvester is a local freelancer writer and journalist with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for whiskey.