Capital Cities go from jingles to jams

May 21, 2013

Written by Stacy Nick

With such catchy hooks, it’s no wonder that Los Angeles duo Capital Cities got its start in advertising.

In 2008, Ryan Merchant answered Sebu Simonian’s ad on Craigslist for help with his production company. The duo, performing Thursday at the Aggie Theatre, worked on music for commercials for two years before creating the band in 2010.

The natural rapport they had collaborating — including a mutual love for ’80s dance music — made the transition to a band fairly seamless, Simonian said. Between the two of them, the duo have a true partnership, from co-writing to instrumentation to their signature dual-unison vocals.

Making the move from jingles to jams was equally easy.

“It’s different in that you’re more invested in your own artistic projects, but it’s the same in that it’s all music,” Simonian said. “And we were lucky that we got to do some really interesting and creative (commercial) pieces.”

The electro-pop duo’s love for artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Pink Floyd to Depeche Mode has influenced their diverse sound. On its self-titled debut EP, Capital Cities included several covers including the mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” featuring a sample from Tupac Shakur.

“That was spontaneous,” Simonian said. “We started the day with a production idea for a piece of music that sounded like ‘Breathe’ and then tried to sing ‘Breathe’ over it. It started as an impromptu cover, and then we thought of throwing in a rap and stumbled upon a verse (from Tupac) that seemed so fitting it was uncanny.”

But its their original song, “Safe and Sound,” with its synth-fueled mix of pop dance beats and horn sections — that has made the band a breakout hit. The song’s video features a series of dances from various eras, and was choreographed by Mandy Moore (“Not the singer, the amazing choreographer from ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ ” Simonian said.).

Now signed to Capitol Records, Capital Cities rereleased its first EP and will release its full-length debut, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” on June 4.Having a label has helped the band with promotion and touring but Simonian said they are still very DIY, including doing their own production work. “We’re still self-contained in that regard,” he said.