How Capital Cities Went From Jingle Writers to 
Radio-Hit Makers

Categories: Bands We Like

Eliot Lee Hazel
As they sit in a conference room at Capitol Records, Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant can barely hide their smiles. The next day, they'll play KROQ's Weenie Roast before zipping up the freeway to Mountain View for BFD.

In less than two years, Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant have gone from hearing their instrumental compositions on commercials to hearing their hit song, the spunky pop anthem "Safe and Sound," on radio stations all over the world.

Having first met through a Craigslist ad in 2008, Simonian and Merchant have built a partnership that has allowed them to become full-time musicians at a time when it's difficult to sustain a career. Initially known as Lazy Hooks, the duo were writing jingles for commercials--campaigns for Honda, Muscle Milk and Walmart. Fusing upbeat dance-pop music with elements of hip-hop, the duo found a niche as writers and eventually used this experience to begin working on an eclectic non-jingle project, Capital Cities.

"The work we did on the commercials honed our craftsmanship," Simonian says. "Since we had to work on a wide variety of genres, we were able to learn what it means to produce music in different styles and how to do it quickly."

Releasing their self-titled EP under Lazy Hooks in 2011, Simonian and Merchant's songs caught on with a wide audience, just not where they expected. Radio stations in Peru of all places picked up their music, "Safe and Sound" in particular. Embarking to that country on a mini tour, they were stunned when their first performance there pulled in a thousand people.

After several shows in South America, Capital Cities returned to Los Angeles to bring that momentum stateside. Having success abroad is one thing, but hearing a prominent local station playing their song was surreal. "The first time I heard 'Safe and Sound' on the radio was on KCRW of all places," Simonian recalls. "I think it was Nic Harcourt's final show on that station, and it was one of the last songs he played. I had a nervous breakdown because it was a very exciting moment. [The station] never played it again after that."

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