Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian Takes Us Inside Their Music and New EP ‘Swimming Pool Summer’
If your first single is the multi-platinum behemoth “Safe and Sound,” where do you go from there? Well, if you’re Capital Cities, you just get quirkier and catchier every step of the way. After taking some time off from recording, Capital Cities come roaring back with their breezy, exotic, and bizarre new EP “Swimming Pool Summer.” Entertainment Voice had a chance to catch up with one half of this dynamic duo, Sebu Simonian, who had plenty to say about healthy eating habits, being a young father and the difference between jingles and songs.
Your last release was your 2013 debut “In a Tidal Wave of Sound.” What has the band been up to since then?
I had two kids during that time so my personal life changed completely. As far as the band, we did a lot of touring after the first album. Since we’ve been a little bit more settled after all that touring we’ve been working on more music. We finished up the EP which just came out today, and hopefully we’ll wrap up the full-length and release that soon as well.
Speaking of touring, I know you guys were on the “Prismatic World Tour” with Katy Perry. What was that like?
That was really cool because we got to play in front of a lot of young parents in my age demographic.
Your new EP is called “Swimming Pool Summer.” Does that describe the band’s mentality right now?
We try to juxtapose extreme situations in our music and our lyrics. So a “Swimming Pool Summer” would be a great summer if you have a swimming pool, but if you don’t have a pool then you’re sort of screwed and depressed. We try to touch on that in the music and the songs on this EP.
Is it always fun for you guys in the studio? Is it always a “Swimming Pool Summer” sort of vibe?
Unfortunately not. Studio time is dungeon time. Instead of sunblock, we get writer’s block.
You worked with Rick Ross on the track “Girl Friday.” Tell us about that.
Rick Ross was a fan before we even had our first album out. He actually wanted to sign us, but it didn’t work out. We stayed in touch with text messages and then four years later I sent him the demo to “Girl Friday” out of the blue. And he sent it back to me with a verse on it. And there you have it… the track was done.
You name drop “La Dolce Vita” in the title track off the EP. Does cinema inspire you?
Yes, I like it when our songs can make you visualize the story with scenes and characters. I like it when our music can be described as being cinematic.
What are some of your favorite movies to draw inspiration from?
Our music falls somewhere between “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Do you often draw inspiration from other art forms?
I think so. I’m a fan of illustrations and I’m a fan of architecture. I think somehow, indirectly, my music gets affected by that.
You guys had your start writing jingles together. Did writing jingles affect the way you write songs?
Definitely, simply because of all the practice I got. The more you write, the better you get at it.
Capital Cities, for the most part, are a duo. With two guys doing the writing and recording, what freedoms and challenges do you face?
It’s always challenging to write whether you’re alone or with a partner or with multiple partners. I think writing with one other person is the optimal collaborative environment. Two heads are better than one, and threes a crowd. So as long as there’s creative chemistry it should all be good. And in our case, so far, so good.
You guys like to put weird, unusual stuff in your pop songs, like unexpected sounds or strange lyrics. Where does that quirkiness come from?
I’m not sure. I think it’s just a desire to not take things too seriously. Sometimes, music that comes out these days, the artists are just taking themselves a little too seriously. I think what we try to do is to be humorous, and sometimes that gets translated as quirkiness. So, it’s really about trying to have fun with the music and experimenting and not being too precious.
OK, so take me back to your debut EP. Your lead single “Safe and Sound” becomes a huge hit. Did that come completely out of the blue?
No, actually. We wrote that song a long time ago as a jingle demo, and it got rejected. Then we spent two years producing that song, because we felt like it had something special. We recorded like seven different versions of it. Then we released it independently and then we signed to Capitol and they released it. So, it was quite a long process, and the song’s success climbed very gradually that entire time.
But did you expect the huge reception that it got? All the accolades and multi-platinum sales?
Maybe not at the beginning, but as we worked at it and kept going, we saw a gradual climb and it became more and more of a reality and possibility. And of course, we’re very blessed that the planets aligned the way they did.
You guys have your own label, Lazy Hooks. Where did that name come from?
It’s just an idea. We were focusing on jingle writing at that time, and we started the production company, Lazy Hooks. It felt like it was kind of a slogan for us: if it’s a good hook, it shouldn’t have to work so hard. So, our hooks are lazy hooks.
Is the label working with any other bands right now?
We’re so focused on our own music that we, unfortunately, don’t have enough resources to work with other bands. At least not under our label. But you never know, maybe.
You have tons of festival dates coming up this summer: Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful, Billboard Hot 100, and Forecastle. Any in particular that you’re looking forward to?
Not one in particular, no, I think they’re all amazing festivals. We’re looking forward to all of them. I think Rick Ross might be showing up at the Billboard festival, so I’m hoping we can connect with him and have him jump on stage and rap on the song he’s featured on – “Girl Friday.”
Finally, anything you’d like to say directly to your fans before they catch you on the road this summer?
Um… The best source of your omega-3s are flax seeds. Eat locally, eat seasonal.
“Swimming Pool Summer” is available on Apple Music July 7.