Jingle To Single
Time Out Music Columnist
A s electronic music becomes
a household art form, the lines separating genres are often blurred.
In the end, there are instrumental-based songs that sound like electronic
It's a pretty regular occurrence that a song comes on the radio and
the listener is unaware of how the music was created, either with instruments
or however electronic music is made.
One thing is certain about Capital Cities: they will change the way
you look at a band. They are slated to appear in Aspen and if you don't
know much about them: their debut appearance at the Belly Up on Wednesday,
May 22 might surprise you.
Capital Cities are an alternative dance group created by Ryan Merchant
and Sebu Simonian in Los Angeles, Calif. The two met on craigslist and
have a history of making commercial music together for advertising.
They are currently most known
for their single “Safe and Sound,” a song that is infectious,
joining a positive high-energy feeing with an undeniably catchy dance
Ryan Merchant grew up with a variety of instruments. He started playing
piano at 10, in seventh grade he picked up a guitar and then he played
drums in high school. In college he began singing lessons with a jazz-based
Onstage he plays keyboards and sings alongside Simonian, who also plays
keys but mainly they both sing and dance. They perform with the help
of a laptop for backing tracks, but there are five people performing
— including a live trumpeter, bass player and guitar.
“We wear matching outfits, there is a lot of dancing in our show.
It's very interactive,” Merchant told me while he was killing
time before a show recently. “Its not a show that you come and
passively watch. It's a show where you want to be involved.”
The duo did enjoy their time making commercial music, as it was a motivating
process and the pace was fast. They would literally be asked to turn
around a commercial in 24 hours.
“It's interesting to have to be creative very fast and I think
it has helped us with our Capital Cities music,” says Merchant.
“It sort of taught us how to produce in multiple styles and how
to harness a spark of creativity and really run with it, not trying
to think too much when beginning a song, and finding that first seed
Commercial music was good to them but they would rather be doing the
band thing than doing the jingles. Writing jingles gets old, Merchant
says, because a lot of time would be spent writing the same type of
music for a lot of different commercials due to the trends in commercial
Merchant and Simonian start their songs simply with either a beat, a
chord progression or with a lyric. They usually know it's worth perusing
when they both think it’s a good start for a song. But as far
as having a main inspiration, they are simply inspired to write good
“I personally couldn't
pinpoint some sort of muse that drives me to make music,” says
Merchant. “What makes it exciting is when you make a unique melody
or unique lyric or where you come up with a beat or something that just
feels like it’s fresh and you can listen to it a million times
over and you just know that you stumbled across something special. I
think that's what inspires me to keep on writing songs.”
Lately it seems Capital Cities can do no wrong, however, that is without
releasing an album. That will change on June 4 when they drop their
first, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery.” Luckily for them, everything
they have put out thus far has found an audience and they feel their
album will do the same.
“A lot of our fans are itching to hear some new music and we are
itching to give it to them,” says Merchant. “We want to
show the world that we have more to give them than just ‘Safe