First City Festival Profile: Meet Capital Cities

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 6:11 pm

by Adam Joseph

Meet Capital Cities' Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian. Like many good relationships these days, the pair has Craigslist to thank for their initial connection after Merchant responded to an ad Simonian posted offering production services.

“We just started collaborating and [Merchant] immediately found the opportunity to do some work for commercials and asked me to help so we did that for about three years before deciding to started the band in 2010," Simonian says.

Now that Capital Cities consumes all their time, the pair has abandoned the world of jingle writing completely but Simonian says it's not completely out of the question that they'll return to that world some day.

“Creating music is something that requires inspiration whether it’s for a commercial or for a band,” he says. “Even when we’re commissioned to write a song, it’s still an artistic, entertaining idea that requires reflection and deep thought.”

This past June, Capital Cities released its full-length debut, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery. Simonian and Merchant mixed and produced the record entirely themselves.

“I’ve been producing since I was 16 years old, almost 18 years ago,” says Simonian, who has his own recording studio in Burbank. “You basically end up doing exactly what you want to do. You have full creative control and the artistic expression is absolute.”

The record's first single “Safe and Sound”—a straightforward, infectious dance track—reached No. 9 on the Billboard Charts but it's the stuff that hasn't reached any of the mainstream charts that truly represents the outfit's best work. When the duo was writing "Farrah Faucet Hair," the most experimental tune on the record, they consciously chose to throw out all the rules.

Strangely, Simonian and Merchant’s voices aren’t even included on the song. Instead, they enlisted several special guests including NPR's Frank Tavares and Outkast’s Andre 3000.

“It showcases a lot of fun production novelties,” Simonian says. “It was just an attempt to be a little quirky and experimental.”
“I think we’ll continue to write and produce as we always have and hope that the music that comes out will sound fresh and new,” Simonian says. “We have a lot of material stored in our slushy brains somewhere and hopefully it’ll come out when the time is right.”