Safe & Sound: Capital Cities in the Capital City

Capital Cities burst on to the music scene with their catchy song, “Safe and Sound,” in 2011. The song quickly went viral, even though it was self-released by the band, without record label support. Capital (with an “a”) Cities soon signed with Capitol (with an “o”) Records and in June of this year, they released their debut album, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery.”

The duo, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, got together via Craigslist (as you’ll read below) and started making music together right away. They put a band together for touring and started to wow audiences around the country—and the world—with their energetic blend of indie pop and dance rhythms. Concerts are known to be a huge dance party, with the band sometimes hopping off the stage and joining in the action.

With the dance theme in mind, Capital Cities made a video for “Safe and Sound” that features a medley of dance styles from the past century. It was innovative enough to win this year’s VMA for Best Visual Effects.
In preparation for their two-night stand at 9:30 Club in October (including Halloween night), the band’s Sebu Simonian talked to On Tap about their history and future.

On Tap: How did it feel to win the VMA? Were you guys able to make the ceremony?

Sebu Simonian: Unfortunately, we had another gig obligation, so we couldn’t attend the awards show, but we are thrilled that Grady Hall and his amazing team at Motion Theory and Mirada out of Los Angeles got the credit they deserve.

OT: “Safe and Sound” has sold over a million units. It’s been on the charts for many weeks, and it’s in the top 10. Why do you think it has resonated so much with people?
SS: It’s got melodic hooks, a danceable beat and a positive message.

OT: How did Capital Cities come about? Is it true you guys met on Craigslist and collaborated on advertisements before the band? What made you decide to put that on the back burner and move the band to the front?
SS: Yes, Ryan and I met on Craigslist while we were both looking for musical collaborators. Our career as composers for TV commercials was put on hold when we became too busy with Capital Cities.
OT: Who did you listen to that made you want to make music yourselves?
SS: Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Jeff Buckley, AIR.
OT: Your song “Farrah Fawcett Hair” seems to be the ultimate expression of mashup culture, since it features André 3000, vocalist Shemika Secrest, NPR voice Frank Tavares, and Capital Cities fans. How did that insanely awesome mix happen?
SS: We looked at this song as an opportunity to experiment openly and haphazardly. Any quirky idea that came to mind, we tried. And they worked.

OT: Have you guys played with Fitz and the Tantrums before? Thoughts on the upcoming tour with them?
SS: We have played a number of festival dates with Fitz. They are one of our favorite bands. They are nice, fun people. We’re looking forward to spending time with them on the road, on and off the stage.

OT: What’re your plans for your next album?
SS: We have a handful of raw demos for some new songs that may end up on our second album. But it’ll be a while before we find the time to actually work on them. Right now we are focused on touring our debut album and working on more music videos.

OT: Have you played DC before? Are you looking forward to your double-header at 9:30 Club?
SS: We played the DC101 Chili Cook Off earlier this year. It was a blast. Can’t wait to play the legendary 9:30 Club this time around.