Whether it’s Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” or one of those quirky free credit report online songs, music has the ability touch lives in a number of capacities. While the infectious melodies and lyrics of commercial jingles are often met with contempt, it takes a certain knack to captivate viewers in a matter of seconds and maintain that connection well after the 30-second air time has ended. The same goes for pop hooks: While Top-40 hits are scoffed at, it’s hard to deny their power in pop culture.
One band, Capital Cities, has married the talents required for pop hook lines with the world of indie rock. The LA-based band will come to Wilmington this Saturday, October 11 to perform alongside Pepper, New Politics, Bear Hands, SomeKindaWonderful, IAmDynamite, My Goodness, and local darlings D&D Sluggers for 98.7 Modern Rock’s Rockfest 2014. Proceeds from the concert, which previously has acted as a food drive for Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, will benefit Step Up For Soldiers—an all-volunteer nonprofit that seeks to help returning service men and women.
Capital Cities got underway in 2010; however, band members Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian met in 2007 through Craigslist (they’ve since expanded to include Manny Quintero on bass guitar, Spencer Ludwig on trumpet, Nick Merwin on guitar, and Channing Holmes on drums). “To find musicians with a similar prowess you must first find a dash of luck,” Simonian tells.
The first three years of their partnership was spent composing jingles for ad campaigns and commercials—writing for such companies as Home Depot, Honda, and Walmart. Their combined energy swept airwaves and even produced a jingle that included a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”—which was approved by Bowie himself.
“Commercial jingle writing gave us lots of experience,” Simonian informs. “Writing jingles and writing pop/indie rock tunes are similar in that they require the creation of melodies and lyrics. “
All the while the duo worked diligently on writing songs for themselves, and in 2010 they set out to try their success on the Billboard charts. Their 2011 debut single “Safe and Sound” ushered in their career with a synth-laden, electronic hook that traverses the decades from the ’80s to present day. A toe-tapping beat backdrops their crooning chorus, “I can lift you up,” before giving way to the high-energy sounds of the trumpet. The song, which jumped to No. 1 on the U.S. Alternative Songs chart, epitomizes their flair for pop and indie rock, which comes tinged with danceable optimism.
Other songs, “Kangaroo Court” and “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,” also were met with positivity. After signing with Capital Records in 2012, Capital Cities released their debut album, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” in 2013. Their previously successful single, “Safe and Sound,” served as the album’s lead track. It’s been utilized in promotional campaigns for HBO, Smart Car, Microsoft, and Mazda.
The band notably draws inspiration from the past: Simonian got his start at the age of 15 when he learned to play The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” The ’80s element to their songs comes natural, as Merchant—whose first foray into songwriting contained moody lyrics—got his start in an ’80s cover band. The experience led the lyricist, who’s been writing songs since childhood, to transition to more upbeat verses. The band even boasts a cover to the 1990 Prince-penned and Sinead O’Conner sung hit “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The rendition strays from the lamenting aesthetic of the original and favors a jazz-inspired, synth-drenched delight.
As well, their high-octane performances routinely make their way through the Las Vegas circuit. Their shows are adorned with brightly colored get-ups and feature wild antics, as they jump around the stage and fist pump. The showmanship is complemented by an undying appreciation for their fans: They make their concerts a party-going experience. The band toured alongside Katy Perry in the states for her Prismatic World Tour. “It was a good opportunity to gain arena experience and expose our music to a new crowd,” Simonian notes.
They’ll bring their vivacious energy locally this weekend. Folks can check out their music at www.capitalcitiesmusic.com.
Modern Rockfest 2014
The Cowan Street Festival Grounds, 111 Cowan St.
Featuring: Capital Cities, Pepper, New Politics, Bear Hands, SomeKindaWonderful, IAmDynamite, My Goodness, and D&D Sluggers
Saturday, October 11, 2 p.m.