L.A. synth-pop duo Capital Cities are embracing a D.I.Y. approach for the follow-up to their 2013 debut, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, which featured the Number Eight smash “Safe and Sound.” While Mystery was recorded in a proper studio in Burbank, their forthcoming material is emerging from more home-brewed scenarios.
“We’re not huge fans of going into big, expensive studios,” says vocalist/keyboardist Ryan Merchant. “They’re stressful. We come from a mindset where it’s important to have good gear so you can capture things well, but less is more sometimes.”
Since breaking out with “Safe and Sound,” Merchant and bandmate Sebu Simonian honed their skills working in bedroom settings and sending files back and forth. Production-wise, they say their forthcoming material retains their trademark mix of propulsive electronic beats and analog synths, with the addition of vibraphone and flamenco guitar.
This month, funky breakup jam “Vowels” will arrive as a teaser for their latest EP, which hits in late October, and their second full-length pegged for early 2017. Co-produced by Sermstyle (Pitbull, Flo Rida), the single featuring a chorus unburdened by consonants which came from a session with songwriter Brett McLaughlin.
“I was dating this girl and things were not going great,” says Merchant. “The day I wrote it, I called up this girl and asked her plainly ‘What’s going on between us?’ Unfortunately, the relationship ended after that. The song literally came two hours after having this painful conversation. It’s about having so many things on your mind that you’re unable to express in words.”
Simonian, who recently became a dad and a vegan (“I’m polishing a cover of the Smiths’ ‘Meat is Murder,'” he says) is also proud of “And Break Free,” a song cowritten with songwriter Kevin Bard (Fitz & the Tantrums, We the Kings). “It’s a poppy, epic song about breaking free and letting go,” he says.
The group also say a Rick Ross collaboration is in negotiations for the near future.
“It’s just a matter of finding the right time and the right piece of music to make it happen,” says Simonian. “At the moment there’s this one song that he’s interested in rapping over. We also have a wish list of people we’ll be reaching out to shortly. We’re crossing our fingers that they’ll say yes. We haven’t done any of this reaching out yet, but I will tell you that top of the list is Annie Lennox.”
What’s left to do is finding the right production for “a full repertoire” of songs, he adds.
“‘Do we want an uptempo dance song or a ballad?'” he says. “You can go in a million directions. That’s the focus over the next few months. If we’re able to get in a room and play a bunch of songs live acoustic on piano and guitar, all of the chords are there.”