The duo chatted backstage about their Grammy nomination and what's in store next year.

ARTICLE BY: Stephanie M. Spear

The band Capital Cities has had a stellar year. Their single “Safe and Sound” spent 20 weeks on the Billboard chart, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. You can’t turn on a pop radio station for ten minutes without hearing it. And, as the cherry on top, they were recently nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video for “Safe and Sound.” And they're just getting started. When Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian came to The Queen Latifah Show to perform “Safe and Sound” and Madonna's “Holiday” (which will air on The Queen Latifah Show's Holiday Music Special on Monday, December 23rd), I got a chance to chat with them in their dressing room.


The Los Angeles duo has “ambitiously been making music” since they were teenagers, according to Sebu, but they officially met through Craigslist (what?!) as they talked about on today’s episode of The Queen Latifah Show. After working together on jingles (including a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” approved by Bowie himself) their chemistry led to original material and they released a self-titled EP, which included “Safe and Sound,” in 2011.



Back then, they created a DIY video for the song, which included clips they pulled from YouTube juxtaposing the co-evolution of dance and war over the last 100 years. It was intended to show the “positive side to all the negative things in the world,” explained Ryan, “which is kind of the message of the song.” After the band signed to Capitol Records and re-released “Safe and Sound” on their debut LP In a Title Wave of Mystery, the label wanted the band to create a larger-budget version of the video that showcased the duo (and was a bit more G-rated). That lead to the creation of this now Grammy-nominated video below from Director Grady Hall, Motion Theory and the special effects house Mirada, showing a mashup of the evolution of dance:

When you listen to Capital Cities, it’s clear that they are strongly influenced by pop music, but they bring a fresh spin with unique melodies and danceable beats. When I asked which musicians influence and inspire their music, they rattled off a diverse list. “We both love good songwriters, first and foremost and we take cues from every decade,” Sebu informed me. “We both really like Michael Jackson, we both love The Beatles, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, just all the good songwriters ... Prince. And then from the more electronic / psychedelic side, we’ve got Air and a lot of the French Dance scene.”

As we’re nearing to the close of 2013, we reflected on some of Capital Cities’ “favorites” of the year. Both Ryan and Sebu agreed that as for music, their favorite find of the year is from Los Angeles duo Poolside called Pacific Standard Time.

The highlight moment of their year was meeting one of their idols – Rod Temperton, the songwriter responsible for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Rock With You.” Ryan gushed, “I used to watch the music video (for “Thriller”) every day so the fact that I got to meet the person that conceptualized that music was really interesting.” “Did you geek out a little?” I joked. “A lot,” Ryan admitted.

As for their career, creating the music video for their song “Kangaroo Court” was one of the highlights according to Sebu. The duo co-directed and wrote the script for the video. “Your listeners and viewers should check it out!”

And you can:

Looking towards 2014, the band has a lot on their plate already. They’ll be performing on ABC’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” with Ryan Seacrest and most of 2014 is already booked up with tour dates, including performances in Japan, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia.

Sebu’s resolution for the 2014 is to take up yoga. “I want to start off slow. Is there basic yoga?”

“I’m excited to write some new music and switch gears from the non-stop touring,” explained Ryan, “cause we’ve been playing or on tour for probably nine months. I calculated and we’ve played 170 shows this year so it’s been pretty intense. So it’s nice to switch gears and pursue things and get re-inspired for your live performance. Take a break and get your health back in order, like he says. I’ll take up yoga”

“I’m having a kid too!” blurted Sebu.

Seems like congratulations are in order all around. 2014 promises to be an exciting year for the band so keep a close eye on this duo! And don't miss Capitol Cities performing on The Queen Latifah Show Holiday Musical Special on December 23, 2013.