the Verge: Meet dance-pop duo Capital Cities
Korina Lopez, USA TODAY 12 p.m. EDT June 22, 2013
The L.A.-based band is creating a stir with debut album 'In a Tidal Wave of Mystery.'
While making music for companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot afforded the Los Angeles-based duo reprieve from the usual emerging artist pitfalls (surviving on Ramen noodles and Taco Bell, living in group houses), Merchant, 32, and Simonian, 34, took their partnership to the next level in 2010, when they became Capital Cities. "Our songwriting and production methods are quite experimental. One of us will come up with a melody or drum pattern, then the other adds another layer," says Simonian. "But overall, I'd say that we write timeless songs produced in a fun and danceable way."
Arriving Safe and Sound: Their playful fusion of pop, rock and EDM made its way around the Web, building a loyal fan base. "We did it all ourselves the first two years; we injected our music into the blogosphere and got positive reviews, and then that led to word of mouth, and that led to us getting on the radio," Simonian says. Hit single Safe and Sound, off the duo's first full-length album, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, is perched at No. 2 on USA TODAY's alternative airplay charts.
Spreading optimism: "Safe and Sound is an ode to humanity and all living things. We want people to recognize that life can be good, things are getting better," says Simonian. In that spirit, Capital Cities are busy sharing the love on a headlining tour aptly titled Dancing With Strangers. They've got a handful of festivals on their itinerary before they wrap up in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, including Firefly, Osheaga and Summerfest.
All roads lead to music: While Merchant grew up in San Francisco, obsessing over Michael Jackson's Thriller, Simonian's family settled in Los Angeles in 1985. Born in Syria to Armenian parents, Simonian spent the first six years of his life living in Lebanon. To escape the Lebanese civil war, the family found its way to L.A. Despite their wildly different backgrounds, Simonian and Merchant shared the same single-minded goal: a career in music. "I started my first band when I was 15 and never looked back," says Simonian.