THE FREE-LANCE STAR
BACK TO
CAPITAL CITIES
October 30th, 2014, 2:27 pm
SAFE, SOUND AND READY TO DANCE
BY JESSE SCOTT / FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

A few years back, the name “Capital Cities” didn’t carry much significance for the California-bred duo of Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian.

“In the beginning, it had no meaning … we were just brainstorming and stumbled across it as we were working with different phrases,” reflected Merchant. “Ultimately, now, when we hear ‘Capital Cities,’ we subconsciously think of fun and sophistication.”

And now, when anyone hears Capital Cities mentioned, it’s synonymous with a good time. The upbeat dance-alternative band will rock the nation’s capital on Saturday, with a sold-out show at the 9:30 Club.

“First off, in D.C., it’s going to be a big, big dance party,” said Merchant. “It’s going to be an inclusive, participatory experience where the audience is made to feel comfortable. We’ve added some really cool production elements to this tour … a new light show, and we’ve added some more upbeat, different arrangements of songs off our album.”

Despite today’s creeper-filled online world, Merchant and Simonian’s successful relationship started on Craigslist. The duo formed Capital Cities in 2010 and released its first full-length album, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” in June 2013.

The album’s title is a lyric from Capital Cities’ breakout hit “Safe and Sound.” Much like the rest of the immaculately produced début album, “Safe and Sound” transcends genres by including hypnotic EDM beats, pleasant rock elements and poppy vocals.

The peppy and optimistic dance single went multi-platinum and has shot the band to a new level of notoriety. Recently, Capital Cities wrapped up a U.S. tour with another cross-genre star, Katy Perry.

“It was pretty surreal to open for someone of that magnitude,” said Merchant. “The first shows were rough … we didn’t quite know what we were getting into. We were in a large arena with people there less specifically to see us. But we recalibrated and changed things up, and by the end of it, it was really fun. We got to watch her show, learn from that and see what it’s like to be on that level.”

The global infatuation with Capital Cities started long before any association to Ms. Perry. To date, the band has hit virtually every continent, playing in front of tens of thousands of fans at the world’s biggest festivals. But one experience really hit home as the band’s “we made it” moment.

“Playing Coachella was very symbolic for us,” said Merchant. “We grew up going to Coachella … it was our festival. It was so meaningful and validating to get booked for it. We got a really good set time and it went really, really well, plus we got to hang out and see our friends.”

Luckily, Merchant and Simonian are good friends with each other. Where some artists find disharmony with fame, Capital Cities just keeps growing stronger.

“We spend a lot of time together,” said Merchant. “And it’s interesting, it’s not just music anymore. We’re running a company together. Once you get to a certain level, it’s not just sitting in the studio. We’re making bigger financial decisions, hiring employees and selecting merchandise. But the main thing is that when we get in the studio and start writing, that synergy just happens. That’s what it’s all about.”