Capital Cities' 'Safe and Sound' a smash hit
Aidin Vaziri
Published 11:16 pm, Thursday, November 28, 2013

Roundly ignored when it was originally released two years ago, Capital Cities' breakthrough single, "Safe and Sound," took a circuitous route to becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. The Los Angeles electro-pop duo, made up of Sebu Simonian and San Francisco native Ryan Merchant, has spent the past few months chasing the song around the world while promoting its full-length debut, "In a Tidal Wave of Mystery." The group caps its whirlwind year with an appearance Friday at Live 105's Not So Silent Night concert at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Merchant talked with The Chronicle.

Q: "Safe and Sound" has almost 5 million views on YouTube. How much of the credit goes to the trumpet?

A: I think the trumpet was a smart production decision on our part. We reproduced that song eight or nine times. That particular melodic line was laid by a synth in the early versions, and it felt a little bit light. It didn't have this epic vibe we'd been going for. When we finally decided to bring in a trumpet player, it took off.

Q: It took two years for the song to catch on - did you think it would never happen?

A: We always kept hope alive with that song. We had some interesting early radio success with it in Lima, Peru. It became a hit there before it became a hit anywhere else. So we got to go there and play, and that experience gave us confidence that, given a chance to compete on the radio, it would do well.

Q: You guys met on Craigslist. Were you at all concerned that one of you might get robbed?

A: In Los Angeles, it's a pretty common way for bands to come together. I found Sebu's ad up there, so I checked out his work and really liked what I heard. We came together and started working and had an immediate musical chemistry.

Q: You're playing at Not So Silent Night with Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age and Kings of Leon. How are you going to stand out on a bill like that?

A: We just do our particular thing, and at this point we've honed an interesting live show. I think we kind of have found this space where we want to write stuff that is interesting and sophisticated but also know how to have a good time onstage and let loose. I think that's what people will take away from the show. {sbox}