It’s a Friday afternoon and L.A. duo Capital Cities are on their way to San Diego to play a show for a radio statiom. Later that night they’ll head back up the 405 and team with fellow up-and-comer Robert DeLong for a warehouse party in downtown L.A. put on by the Soho House.
Two shows and over 300 miles logged become part of a day’s work when you have a breakout hit, as Capital Cities do with the infectious “Safe and Sound,” a song that merges high-energy dance beats with unbridled optimism and joy.
As the song has climbed the Billboard alternative charts, where it currently sits at number 11, the duo of Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian have had plenty of highlight moments, including unexpected success in surprising places. “A lot of the excitement that we found with ‘Safe and Sound’ was when we discovered it was being played on the radio outside of the States,” Simonian tells Rolling Stone. “One of the first big cities that started playing us regularly was Lima, Peru. We kind of lucked out by having an exotic place like Lima play us all over the radio, and that afforded us the ability to go out and play some shows.”
Despite the rigorous demands of both international touring and being a hot party band at the moment, Merchant and Simonian have been hard at work on their debut album. “We’ve been working nonstop for probably the past month or so,” Merchant says. “I think the release date is early June, and we’re actually almost finished with it.”
The duo are being coy about details at the moment, but there will be guests. “There’s going to be a prominent hip-hop feature on our album,” Merchant says.
For a hint of the collaboration, they suggest looking to Gorillaz. “We’ve definitely been interested in the sonic characteristic of having a rapper coming in and breaking up the song,” Merchant says. “I think the best example of that would be the work the Gorillaz do. When Damon Albarn has hip-hop features they’re always very tasteful, and it sounds cool.”
The band’s appreciation for hip-hop is reciprocal, as the group has already earned at least one well-known fan in the rap world. “Rick Ross wants to work on a track with us at one point,” Merchant says. “We actually had a funny time where Rick Ross was in town, he was in Burbank, and asked us to come over to his studio. We went over and he was there working on tracks with DJ Khaled and Swiss Beatz, and we showed him some of our music. He was bumping our song louder than we had ever heard it in our entire lives, like to the point where our eardrums were practically bleeding.”
With the album nearly done, Capital Cities will have some time before the release date, and they intend to continue the momentum with a tour that will start near the end of April. One thing Capital Cities want to do at their shows is have fun, something they demonstrated at the Soho House gig by dressing up in matching yellow suits, leading the crowd in the “Capital Cities Shuffle” and throwing in covers of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Stayin’ Alive.”
“There are some epic, crowd-pleasing moments,” Simonian says. “We have a song called ‘I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,’ and that always gets a good crowd chant. We’re trying out some choreographed dance moves onstage, and that’s always a fun time.”
Merchant does have a dream tour in mind for Capital Cities. “I would love to tour with Phoenix. I’ve been a huge fan of Phoenix since their first album, and I love French bands for some reason. A lot of my favorite music is from France – Air, Daft Punk,” he says. “I actually met Thomas Mars randomly at Heathrow Airport before they were really big and I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, you’re the lead singer for Phoenix.’ And he was shocked that I actually knew who he was.”