Capital Cities plays this weekend's Made In America fest

Published: August 27, 2014


Who: Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Afrojack, Iggy Azalea, Sublime with Rome, Metric, Capital Cities, YG, Dr. Dog, ZZ Ward and more Saturday. Kanye West, Weezer, John Mayer, Juanes, Rise Against, Steve Aoki, Cypress Hill, Rita Ora and more Sunday.

When: Gates open at noon Saturday and Sunday

Where: L.A. Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

How much: $65-$299 general admission and VIP one-day passes; $185 two-day general admission pass

Call: 800-745-3000


As the Made In America Festival prepares to make its West Coast debut over Labor Day weekend at L.A.’s Grand Park, Capital Cities, an indie pop duo, also from Los Angeles, is ready for the expected crowd of some 50,000 music fans.

The guys, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, have only been together for six years. But with the success of their debut self-titled EP, which spawned the inescapable and catchy radio hit, “Safe and Sound,” Capital Cities has already earned the opportunity to perform in front of large audiences.

It had a prime time slot at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio in April and opened the main stage to an enthusiastic crowd at KROQ’s annual Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in May. It also just wrapped up an opening run for pop superstar Katy Perry on the first part of her Prismatic World Tour.

“It’s a great concept and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Simonian said of being part of the West Coast debut of Made In America. He and Merchant had just performed in the blazing sun at Weenie Roast and invited me into their air-conditioned trailer/dressing room for a quick chat as they cooled down. “I can’t wait to see how it goes,” he continued.

Capital Cities takes the stage Saturday alongside acts like Sublime with Rome, Metric, Mute Math, Classixx, hip-hop queen Iggy Azalea, Afrojack and headliners Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. Sunday’s lineup includes Kanye West, John Mayer, Juanes, Steve Aoki, Rise Against, Weezer, Rita Ora and more.

Made In America was founded by rapper, producer and mega-mogul Jay-Z and kicked off in Philadelphia in 2012. It has continued to boast a roster that includes several stages and a mix of musicians from the hip hop, rock, pop, EDM, R&B and pop genres. This year, the festival will take place on both coasts and be simultaneously streamed live for those unable to attend via

“It really is an interesting concept to do something like this,” Merchant said. “To have it going off on both coasts and to have it available online, these days, kids have short attention spans so you have to overload them a little bit. I think this festival is going to be a good thing.”

The past year has been huge for Capital Cities. The pair came together after Merchant answered Simonian’s Craigslist ad for a creative partner to write jingles for commercials, and the duo’s simple ditties turned into something much more lucrative. After releasing their EP in 2011, the duo signed on with Lazy Hooks, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, to self-produce their debut, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” in 2013.

“Safe and Sound,” which was included on the full length album, was already a huge hit, and “Kangaroo Court” and “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo” soon followed. Capital Cities became known for its fun and dancy sets and embarked on several U.S. jaunts, including a co-headlining tour with fellow L.A. act Fitz & the Tantrums.

The music video for “Safe and Sound,” which features a mash-up of stock film footage of the art of dancing and images of war over the past 100 years, scored Capital Cities the MTV Video Music Award for best visual effects. The guys also walked the red carpet at the 2013 Grammy Awards for the first time as “Safe and Sound” was nominated for best music video.

“That was a special night for us,” Simonian said. “It was the first time that, face to face, we got to meet our touring partner, Katy Perry. She was really nice to us and she performed that night and it was one of the best performances. It was great to be amongst other creative and talented people. We were just happy to be there in general.”

As they prepared to tour with Perry, who is known for elaborate staging, costume changes and even piping in special scents to sweeten up her shows, the guys tossed around ideas as to what they could possibly bring to the table.

“We’re bringing our own musk,” Simonian said with a laugh. “Mine is called the arm-pit, not armpit, but the Armenian pituitary gland. It’s natural so it’s going to be good. Let’s just say we’re really going to ‘warm it up.’”

“Slowly but surely, as we’re getting to play some bigger shows, we’re getting to experiment more with our live show,” Merchant adds. “We get to do that and with our music videos too, but we’re very visual and we try to get creative with all of it.”

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