INTERVIEW – RYAN MERCHANT OF CAPITAL CITIES
Craigslist can be a dangerous place, as evidenced by the triple-murder orchestrated on the classified ads site by an Ohio man, that made national headlines. On the flip-side, Craigslist can connect talented people who go on to collaborate to make great music, as evidenced by Ryan Merchant finding Sebu Simonian, who went on to form the indie electro pop duo, Capital Cities.
Formed in 2008, the LA based duo are sure to be one of the biggest breakout bands of 2013, with the upcoming release of their debut LP, ‘In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,’ scheduled to drop on June 4 via Capital Records. The release date comes almost exactly two years after the release of their self-titled EP.
Ryan Merchant phoned the CleveRock Music Portal hotline on April 22 to discuss the new album, the duo’s current “Dancing with Strangers” tour, and all things Capital Cities.
The band’s unique sound draws from elements of all genres. It’s difficult to classify their sound. Merchant explains:
“We draw from tons of influences. Sebu and I listen to lots of music every day, and probably have for the past 30 years of our lives. Some of the more prominent influences I say would be Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, so many other things. We try and pull elements of so many different kinds of music; we pull a lot from hip-hop, even though I personally don’t even listen to a lot of hip-hop. I mean, I appreciate it. Somehow it has infused its way into our music.”
‘In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,’ was produced by Ryan and Sebu at their own recording studio, Stereo Train, located in Burbank, CA. The record will feature the previously released “Kangaroo Court” as well as the duo’s hit single, “Safe and Sound,” among a couple of other tunes that appeared on their EP or have made their way around the web.
Capital Cities – “Kangaroo Court”:
While some artists are upset at the ease of access to material before it is officially released, Merchant says it’s a good thing for Capital Cities.
“The reason any of our tracks are floating around is because we have already released them, like ‘Kangaroo Court,’ we put out on our own probably a year ago just as a single. On our debut album we are pulling together all the songs from our EP, but then we added, I think, seven brand new songs that people have never heard that we are basically compiling into our debut album. But as far as our music being out there before our music drops, I think having your stuff out there is a good thing and it allows people to share it and, if there is a video of you performing your song live, it’s only going to make people more excited for the time when the actual recorded version is released. It’s a good thing.”
Merchant, who had an internship writing jingles prior to Capital Cities, and Simonian, who possesses a bachelors degree in music, put forth a true team effort when composing songs:
“Typically it involves one of us coming up with some kind of beat. And, by beat, I mean some actual kind of drum beat. We’ll load up some samples and come up with some tempos for the basic beat. Then come up with some chords and bass line and have some sort of chord progression structure. Then we’ll start messing around with vocals and different melodies,” Merchant explains. “Once we have a basic structure of the song and know what the basic parts are, we spend a lot of time writing the lyrics. That’s probably one of the more basic aspects of writing a song, two different people trying to write something. We’re both extremely critical so every single sentence has to be something we both approve of and feel strongly about.”
The music of Capital Cities quickly drew interest from record labels, with Ryan and Sebu eventually signing to Capital Records. But the guys found an unlikely fan in hip-hop mogul Rick Ross! Merchant says of their run in with the legend,
“It was a very interesting meeting. He somehow became aware of our music, particularly ‘Kangaroo Court,’ and he happened to be in Burbank and our manager called us up and said that we needed to go and meet Rick Ross, because he may possibly want to collaborate with us, so we went over to the studio and we met him and Swizz Beats ended up coming by, and we hung out in the studio and he played our songs incredibly loud. Definitely the loudest I’ve ever heard them before.”
Ross is just one of many fans the band has collected as of late, and they are gaining more each night on their “Dancing with Strangers” tour, an all out dance party with Capital Cities infectious tunes. Sebu and Ryan stop in Cleveland on Tuesday, May 14, with three accompanying musicians to kick the party up a notch.
“Our hope is that people come out to the show and have a great time; as the name suggests, dancing with strangers,” Merchant said.
[box_light]Capital Cities perform live in concert at House of Blues Cleveland on Tuesday, May 14. Complete show and ticket info can be found, HERE! Keep a look out for their debut LP, ‘In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,’ due out June 4.[/box_light]