Capital Cities to bring fun to Detroit
Written by Vicki L. Kroll | |
Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant know it when they hear it. Listen to Capital Cities’ “Farrah Fawcett Hair.”

Capital cities is Sebu Simonian, left, and Ryan Merchant. Photo by Jake Hagopian
Capital cities is Sebu Simonian, left, and Ryan Merchant. Photo by Jake Hagopian

“You know it when you see it/ You know it when it’s there/ Like Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’/ Like Farrah Fawcett hair/ It’s good s***.”

André 3000 of OutKast adds his wordplay to the track, and NPR’s Frank Tavares reads a list of things that make the cut: “Solar energy/ Nutella/ Democracy/ My voice/ Enjoying ceviche in Peru and seeing a double rainbow/ While listening to ‘Bitches Brew’ as recorded by Miles Davis.”

“We both love the trumpet and Miles Davis’ style and kind of more progressive production approaches are what interest us,” Simonian said. “And, of course, our trumpeter Spencer Ludwig is a huge fan of Miles Davis, so we thought it would be nice to give him a shout-out.”

Trumpet solos are featured on Capital Cities’ international smash “Safe and Sound.”

“That was actually a song that [Merchant and I] wrote as a one-off before we started the band, but we liked it so much and our friends liked it so much that we felt like we had something special, not only with the song, but with our collaborative chemistry,” Simonian said during a call from Allentown, Pa., en route to a show in Rhode Island.

The two singer-songwriters met thanks to Simonian’s ad offering production skills on Craigslist.

“When we got together, the collaborative production was instant, and we found opportunities to write together a lot, including music for TV commercials,” Simonian said. “We kept writing and eventually had enough material to put out an album.”

That debut, June’s “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” borrows a line from “Safe and Sound” for its title.

And it has that cool, catchy dance music that’s retro yet modern.

“I think somehow the mix of influences naturally resulted in this sound because we like the great songwriters of every decade, but we like it when they’re interesting and quirky and kind of a little off the beaten path in terms of production style, but the most important thing is still to have timeless and catchy melodies and lyrics,” Simonian said.

“We like the late Beatles and Pink Floyd. And then from the ’70s era, we like Stevie Wonder and the Bee Gees, and from the ’80s, we like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode, Hall & Oates. And from the ’90s, we like a lot of the British influences like Oasis and Blur and Suede and Radiohead. And then singer-songwriters like Jeff Buckley,” he said. “Somehow, these influences have led to what is now Capital Cities.”

The group specializes in grabbing attention; Lazy Hooks is the name of the band’s record label.

“I think the idea is that if the hook is really good, it shouldn’t have to work so hard,” Simonian said. “So if you write a good hook, you don’t have to worry about promoting it because it will sell itself.”

Capital Cities — Simonian, Merchant, Ludwig, guitarist Nick Merwin, bassist Manny Quintero and drummer Channing Holmes — will co-headline with Fitz & The Tantrums on Nov. 17 at the Fillmore Detroit. Tickets range from $20-$35. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

“Music is an artistic experience and it can inspire a lot of emotions and, at the same time, it’s entertainment,” Simonian said. “So I would like our listeners to experience all kinds of things — fun, art, just good music and dancing.”