A tale of Capital Cities

Patricia Esteves (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - American indie-pop duo Capital Cities dished out its brand of music — and dance moves to Filipino fans who trooped to the Ayala Malls over the weekend to see members Ryan Merchant and Sebu Siminian perform live.

The Grammy-nominated band kept the audience up their feet — grooving and dancing to their hit song Safe and Sound.

At the special show organized by the Ayala Malls, Ryan and Sebu told the crowd to take off their shirts and wave it to the air — a gesture that the fans willingly did.

At one point in one of the shows, the duo taught the audience some simple dance moves, which the fans gamely followed, all in the spirit of fun.

Capital Cities is not your “usual” angstsy indie band dishing out world-weary music. The members, who are past their teenage years, are jovial, friendly musicians whose music teems with good vibes and positivity.

The band’s most successful hit to date is Safe and Sound, whose catchy melody and sweet, uplifting lyrics made it popular in some countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Ryan and Sebu, who breezed into town last Friday, said they’re very grateful to their Filipino fans for embracing their music.

On Twitter and Facebook, Ryan and Sebu said they have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from their Filipino fans about how much they love their songs and asking them if they could visit the country one day. They’ve never expected that the song could be a hit, in a country as far as the Philippines.              

“It’s amazing how the Internet has made the world small, how fast the song can travel to other parts of the world and be liked. We never really imagined that we could have loyal and supportive fans here. We feel very grateful. We never really thought that Safe and Sound will be much loved here,” Ryan told entertainment writers at the presscon on Friday.

They shared that 2013 has been a good year for them — breaking out in the mainstream scene, having a No. 1 hit and touring the world to perform for their fans.

“2013 has been wonderfully amazing, we released our debut album and started our world tour, we visited all parts of the world and it’s fun to play to people who are excited to hear your music,” Sebu said.

Ryan said two of the most memorable shows they’ve had were in Mexico and Warsaw, Poland.

“We didn’t expect that in Mexico, there would be like thousands of people. Our song Safe and Sound has been on the top of the iTunes there and during our show, the crowd was very participative, when we asked them to take off their shirts and wave it to the air, they did so. It’s the same in Warsaw. It’s so nice to see people do what you tell them to do,” Ryan said.

“We’ve had a good time performing in countries we never thought we could visit. We’ve had good moments there but we expect the best moments here in Manila. This is the highlight of our concert tour,” Sebu said.

Judging by their four shows last weekend, the duo truly had a blast.

Safe and Sound has racked up 52 million hits on YouTube, and shot to the top spot in the Billboard chart for alternative songs and the German singles chart in 2013.

The music video of Safe and Sound won the Best in Visual Effects at the MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards. The video for the song also earned the duo a 2013 Grammy nomination. The follow-up single Kangaroo Court recently topped the US Alternative Songs list.

Contrary to other people’s perceptions, Capital Cities was not an overnight success, Ryan and Sebu said.

They met in 2008 on Craigslist and worked as jingle writers first. After two years of composing music for commercials and advertising campaigns, they decided to form a band in 2010.

They released an EP independently in 2011 that included Safe and Sound. It took them two years to release their debut album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery on June 4, 2013, with the song Safe and Sound conquering music charts.

Ryan and Sebu told the press that writing jingles have helped hone their songwriting talents and led them to find that one hit single that will captivate people all over the world.

“ I think writing jingles was very instrumental in our growth as songwriters and musicians because it improved our skills in writing songs, to find the right melody and lyrics that will be a hit song,” they said.

In every step of their journey, they also made sure they were involved, even in the production of their MTV’s.

“We’re definitely very hands-on. In Kangaroo Court, we had the vision and idea of how we would like the MTV to be, in fact, we co-directed that video. We try to make statements with our video that will leave a mark on our fans,” said Sebu.

For the Safe and Sound MTV, Ryan and Sebu took up dancing lessons and rigorously trained under a choreographer. In the video, the song compiles a mash-up of the past 100 years of dance set in an old Broadway studio.

“We did a lot of dancing in the video — ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s dances. We had idea of what kind of dancing we should do. Sebu even hurt his leg while taking the dancing lessons, but he got well just in time for the music video,” Merchant said.

They said they see themselves in the business for a long time and thankful that their relationship as co-partners in Capital Cities gets better in time.

“Ryan and I have similar tastes in music. We’ve come to a point where in writing songs, we constantly work out and thresh out our differences. We throw rules in songwriting, our songs break all the rules, just like in our single Farah Fawcett air. We accept each other’s ideas. It is our goal to touch people with our songs,” Sebu said.

They are working out on their next album and look forward to performing before their Filipino fans again.

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