INTERVIEW: Capital Cities on their "very modern" collaboration with André 3000

Oct 8, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Ever wonder just how Capital Cities met? Or how exactly they were able to get André 3000 to collaborate on a track about Farrah Fawcett's hair? Well, we were able to ask them all about it — and much more.

Capital Cities

Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian are anything but a missed connection.

"We [had] really good musical chemistry," Merchant recalls. "Maybe this could lead to something big."

All it took was one ad on Craigslist to not only collaborate on a jingle or two, but eventually pair up to tour the nation as the electronic-infused pop duo known as Capital Cities.

The two were meant to be.

"We have a lot of overlap in the things we do well," Merchant says. "We both write melodies, write lyrics, play multiple instruments and produce. We also each have a mind for business and promotion, which is an important skill in this age of music industry."

And then came along the hit single "Safe and Sound" off their album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery. The track would catapult them to success.

"We strive to write music that is somewhat familiar, but also has twists that keep it novel," Merchant says. "You can accomplish this in various ways like adding trumpet, using interesting chord progressions or writing lyrical phrases people have not heard before — yet they get stuck in your head."

The next track that would receive more than 2 million plays on YouTube and counting? "Kangaroo Court," also off their debut album. The video not only features two recognizable names — Glee's Darren Criss and Raising Hope's Shannon Woodward — but Merchant and Simonian also had a hand in creating the concept of the video, looping in director Carlos Estrada to help execute the idea.

And Estrada is just one example of Capital Cities' successful collaborations. In fact, one track on the album "Farrah Fawcett Hair" features once-OutKast member André 3000. And, fun fact, they have actually never met him in person. So, how did they get him on the album?

"It was very modern," Merchant says. "He recorded in Atlanta, and we communicated over the phone."

"One thing that was great about him was his humility; he was totally open to our suggestions and wanted to make sure we were happy with the end result more than anything."

And any track that has André 3000 singing about "infants with baby breath yawn in your face" is "good s***."

"We wanted the album to reflect our diverse musical interests and not follow too many rules," Merchant says. "Music is meant to be fun and surprising."

As are their live shows.

According to Merchant, "[Attendees] should expect to dance their a**es off and be taken on a journey with many twists and turns."

While Merchant and Simonian's go-to move is the Charleston — "It's a simple dance and looks classy and fun," Merchant says — that doesn't mean the dancing stops there. They've even created one of their own, called the Capital Cities Shuffle:

Itching to catch Capital Cities live? They're currently on tour with Fitz And The Tantrums and will perform at various music festivals, including the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 26 and the True Music Festival in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Dec. 14.

"At the end of the day," Merchant says, "we just write music that appeals to us and hope that others dig it."


Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?

Rod Temperton. He wrote "Thriller," "Rock With You" and "Off The Wall."

Ultimate goal for the Album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery?

To not copy "Safe and Sound" 12 times.

Would you ever cover a Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga track?

Probably not. We like to cover songs that are popular, but somewhat off the radar.

What's onE thing you are and aren't looking forward to WHEN touring?

Not looking forward to eating unhealthy food more often. Looking forward to meeting people in every city we play.

Capital Cities tour dates:


12-13: Festival Corona Capital 2013, Mexico City, Mexico
20: The National, Richmond, Virginia
22: Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel Providence, Rhode Island
23: Roseland Ballroom, New York, New York
25: The Dome at Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, Connecticut
26-27: Life is Beautiful Festival 2013, Las Vegas, Nevada
28: House of Blues, Boston, Massachusetts
29: Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park, New York
30: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
31: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.


1: The Electric Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, California
4: Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia
5: The Orange Peel, Asheville, North Carolina
6: Amos' Southend, Charlotte, North Carolina
7: Marathon Music Works, Nashville, Tennessee
10: Coastline Festival 2013, West Palm Beach, Florida
13: Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
14: Madison Theater, Covington, Kentucky
15: House of Blues, Cleveland, Ohio
16: Egyptian Room, Old National Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana
17: The Fillmore Detroit, Detroit, Michigan
19: Stephens Auditorium, Iowa State Center, Ames, Iowa
20: University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Champaign, Illinois
21: Myth, Maplewood, Minnesota
22: The Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois
23: The Rave/Eagles Club, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


12: Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Virginia
14: True Music Festival 2013, Phoenix, Arizona

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