Summer Stars: Capital Cities
Our annual Summer Stars series features a variety of groups making the rounds on the festival circuit. Today we feature Capital Cities. We've also checked in with The Motet, Twiddle, Darkside, Washed Out and St. Paul & The Broken Bones .
When asked to describe a Capital Cities performance, the bandâ€™s co-founder Ryan Merchant is quick to say that itâ€™s â€śa tasteful blend of live instrumentation and electronic elements, lots of dancing and matching satin jackets.â€ť
He initially met collaborator Sebu Simonian in 2008 via a Craigslist ad when they were both working as jingle writers in Los Angeles. Then, in 2010, they decided to join forces in the writing department and start an indie-electro band, settling on their name during â€śa desperate brainstorming session chatting online,â€ť Simonian says. â€śWe practiced writing catchy melodies and got better at it,â€ť Merchant adds of how their jingle-writing careers informed their new sound.
Since playing SXSW and releasing their debut album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery last spring, the composers have been traveling nonstop, playing what
Merchant describes as â€śfunky, eclectic and playfulâ€ť music and Simonian has dubbed â€śalternative electro funk.â€ť Merchant says that itâ€™s been â€śdifficult at times because we hang out with TSA too often, but also fun on account of the new audiences we get to play for almost every day.â€ť But a highlight was meeting Rod Temperton, who wrote several Michael Jackson songs (â€śThriller,â€ť â€śRock With Youâ€ť), in Paris who â€śgave us a bunch of insight into the songwriting process.â€ť
Capital Cities released their first EP independently in 2011, which included their catchy, synthy hit song â€śSafe And Soundâ€ť that went viral on the Internet and began getting airplay in Peru. This inspired the group to travel to South America to tour for their newfound audience.
â€śPerforming an impromptu acoustic set in front of 300 fans at Loverâ€™s Park in Lima, Peru on our first trip outside of the U.S.,â€ť is one of Simonianâ€™s favorite
musical moments to date. Following their success abroad, Capital Cities self-funded a promotional campaign and appeared on the airwaves stateside. Capitol Records soon partnered with their indie label Lazy Hooks, and the rest is history. â€śSafe And Soundâ€ť went multi-platinum in several countries and has held spots on the Billboard Hot 100 and alternative radio charts, while the songâ€™s video mash-up of people dancing from different eras and cultures received Grammy and VMA nominations.
In addition to already touring four continents, Simonian notes that they played almost 200 shows in 2013, which â€śwas a whirlwindâ€”fruitful and inspiring,â€ť while Merchant says that â€ścoffee and our brainsâ€ť have helped the creation process as well as everyday life experiences. Along with Daft Punk, Pink
Floyd and Michael Jackson, they also draw musical inspiration from Jeff Buckley, Air, Joni Mitchell and Shania Twain.
â€śSome songs take a week to write and some take many years,â€ť he says of the duoâ€™s songwriting and development process. â€śRegardless of how
long it takes, they are all developed from the layering of idea on top of idea until we bothâ€”Sebu and Iâ€”are satisfied with the result.â€ť
Simonian adds: â€śWe collaborated in a recording studio for about three years, writing and producing about 15 songs until we felt we had enough to put out an album. We invited some awesome musicians to record on it, and they are now part of the live band.â€ť Bassist Manny Quintero, trumpeter Spencer Ludwig, guitarist Nick Merwin and drummer Channing Holmes round out Capital Cities in the live setting.
The group is â€ślooking forward to our massive arena tour opening for Katy Perry,â€ť on the first leg of her summer tour, says Merchant, as well as â€śnonstop touring and more music videos.â€ť