In 2011, the Capital Cities' debut EP was released and got a ton of airplay … in Peru. Catching wind of the band through the blogosphere, a station in Lima took notice of the band's upbeat, electro-pop single, “Safe and Sound,” and immediately put it in heavy rotation. Shortly thereafter, Capital Cities had built such a strong cult following that they decided to make the trip to South America even though the most success they'd had in their home country was making music for television commercials.
The project started with Simonian producing two of Merchant's songs. Quickly, they developed great chemistry, and in 2008 formed Lazy Hooks, a production company that composed music for commercials, which was a byproduct of an internship Merchant completed while attending the Los Angeles School of Recording.
“Taking an internship at 27 was pretty humbling, but in hindsight, it was one of the best experiences I could have asked for,” Merchant said. As more of their compositions were accepted as background music for ads, the company quickly became their full-time job. “We're stuck on these chairs all day long,” Simonian said, pointing at the plush leather chairs in the control room.
Spending more time in the studio on a daily basis gave the duo an outlet to create their personal music, a brand of electro-pop. “We try to make our music accessible and something people can grab onto lyrically and melodically, but have something that's a bit different and unexpected,” Merchant said.
Though they still use the Lazy Hooks name for production projects, the duo wanted a separate name for their band. After much debate, they decided on Capital Cities. “It had a really cool sound to it and had a universal appeal to it and conjures up so many different images that fit what we are doing,” Simonian said.
Playing in Lima was an eye-opening experience. Despite having never been to Peru before, the duo played to nearly packed rooms, including a standing-room-only audience of nearly a thousand people. “We had to explain to them that they were far and away the biggest crowd we've played to,” Simonian said.
Giving away “Safe and Sound” and a cover of Madonna's “Holiday” as free downloads recently has allowed Capital Cities to build a fanbase in the States, and they saw the sales increase for their self-titled EP, which they released in June. “It's great to see that we're getting this response and to know that people are supporting us to go through the process of legally downloading the songs,” Merchant said. They recently were named 98.7's artist of the month, and “Safe and Sound” has been licensed for films and television.
Hey, Peru heard it first.
Capital Cities will be playing at the Viper Room on January 30.