Tidal Wave

American indie pop duo Capital Cities broke onto the scene in 2013 with their stylish, catchy, decade-jumping hit “Safe and Sound.” About to release new music this fall, we caught up with vocalist and guitar player Ryan Merchant, who shares an unexpected musical connection to the South Bay.


Early Impressions

“My obsession with music started the first time I saw the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller when I was around 3 or 4 years old. It was the perfect mix of dance, storytelling and sound, and I knew then that I wanted to write and perform music. It took the next 25 years of my life to learn how to do this decently and make a career of it. Those years involved many lessons on multiple instruments, lots of bad songwriting, playing in an ‘80s cover band and a few years working as a jingle writer.”

The South Bay Connection

“When I was in my 20s, my good friend and I formed the unique ‘80s cover band called Neurotic City. We would produce super-modern, electronic versions of ‘80s classics and perform them with live guitar and live vocals. Almost all of our shows were in the South Bay, at places like Sangria and Harry O’s, which no longer exists. A lifeguard friend of mine would throw massive parties during the summer. I have very fond memories of this period, and it taught me a lot about what makes a good song and how to entertain a crowd effectively.”

Decade Dreaming

“I think I have a soft spot for the 1970s. The music of that era was so incredibly well written, and the sonic quality was on another level. It also seems like people knew how to have a good time in a less calculated way, and I often wish I could go back and attend a raging 1970s party in the Hollywood Hills.”

Inspired Artistry

“I just saw Sting in concert at The Hollywood Bowl, and I would say he is someone I look up to as far as a style is concerned. I love people that are super low-key but truly extraordinary. I think he embodies that spirit.”

My Style Evolution

“I love simplicity in all aspects of life: clothing, music, food and design. Clutter and ‘busyness’ drive me crazy. So I would say my personal style is simple and classic, with a hint of uniqueness. When you are interviewed on camera and photographed all the time, you do become more conscious of how you come across visually. For a while I experimented with looks that screamed ‘musician’ but then realized that it doesn’t matter that much and you just need to feel good in what you are wearing. You can be the coolest-looking person in music, but if your music isn’t great it won’t get you very far. So I try to focus on making good music.”

The Essentials

“I have two essential items. On a daily basis I wear a Buck Mason T-shirt in one of their many colors. They are made in the USA and are so well designed. During colder months I like to wear a scarf made by my good friend Stevie Howell. Her designs are incredibly unique and can make your simple outfit look very interesting.”

What’s Next?

“We have a new single called ‘Vowels’ coming out in September and will begin touring again in October. It’s very exciting because we haven’t put out new music since 2013!”