Ryan Merchant of Capital Cities discusses rising success, Andre 3000 and new record

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMay 2, 2013 

Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities

The adage "better late than never" certainly comes to mind when talking about the recent success of Los Angeles electro-pop duo Capital Cities.

Nearly two years ago, bandmates Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian released their self-titled debut EP, a five-track recording that included "Safe and Sound," a catchy song that, not unlike the album, itself went largely unnoticed.

Until now.

The song is in heavy rotation on rock radio stations across the country, hit No. 4 on this week's Billboard rock airplay chart and has risen to no. 11 on its Heatseekers Songs chart, one reserved for singles from new or developing acts.

The success of the song may have caught many off-guard but not Merchant or Simonian.

"It's a little strange since it's been out for so long ... but we always thought that song was something special," Merchant said. "I really thought about the song as being about how it sometimes seems like the world is falling down around us and everything seems in chaos yet we always find a way to retain this hopefulness."

The band was scheduled to perform May 2 at The New Brookland Tavern in Columbia, but the show was indefinitely postponed earlier this week, according to the venue's Facebook page.

In this interview, Merchant discusses the new album, working with Andre 3000 of Outkast, and remixes.

Question. Your first record is due out June 11. What should fans of the EP expect?

Answer. There are 12 songs on record and they are all, I think, very unique and different. We were just talking the other day about how every song on the record has its own personality and its own story. It's almost all new material but there is a song on the EP called "I Sold My Bed But Not My Stereo" that we recorded and re-worked and produced a brand new version of that is a more high-energy.

Q. Do you have a favorite song off the new album?

A. There is one song called "Farrah Fawcett Hair" and it's a song about all of the things in life that are just undeniable good like that iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett and you see it and think, "Whoa, she has great hair." Or Michael Jackson's "Thriller." It's a song that celebrates little things like that.

Q. I hear there are a couple of notable cameos on that track.

A. Yeah, we got the guy from NPR who does all of the reads about the various foundations and organizations that sponsor each show. We approached him about doing it and he agreed. On the track, he lists all of these awesome things and he gets to Andre 3000 and Andre 3000 has a verse on the track.

Q. What was it like working with Andre 3000?

A. It was amazing. We sent him the track and asked if he'd be interested, he liked it and sent us something back and we went back and forth and had this great conversation about the song. He was just a really cool, down-to-earth guy to work with.

Q. Since the success "Safe and Sound", the songs has been remixed dozens of times, how do you feel about the remixes?

A. I love it. It's really fun to hear how different people change it around and rework the harmonies and restructure the song. We're super picky about the remixes that we put out there because we get a lot of remixes that we don't like but for the most part, it's awesome to hear what people do with it.

Q. Do you have a favorite?

A. Yeah, actually, there's one by a group called Cash Cash that is just really kind of heavy dance kind of thing and it just makes the song sound so massive. We'll just drop it at the end of a show and get out into the audience and dance around with them. It's a really great remix. The production of it is so good that I wish we'd thought of it. (laughs) But it wouldn't work on radio.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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