Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian has been hard at work on his first solo album, which he hopes to release later this year. But “Introvert (Call Me Crazy),” a collaboration with System of a Down’s Serj Tankian and Armenian rapper Misho that’s premiering exclusively below, stands on its own.
Simonian tells Billboard the team-up was “pretty random.” Misho, who recently moved to Los Angeles, actually sent the beat to Tankian, who wrote two rap verses over it and then sent it on to Simonian, to add vocals and a chorus. “I sent it back to them and they liked it, so we decided to make it a three-way collaboration,” Simonian says. “I wanted to call it ‘Call Me Crazy,’ but Misho said, ‘It’s got to be called ‘Introvert.’ That’s the core topic. So we made it ‘Introvert (Call Me Crazy).'”
Misho’s verses are rapped in Armenian, but Simonian, who was born in Syria and raised in Lebanon before his family moved to the U.S. when he was seven years old, says that some of the song’s meaning gets lost in translation. “If you translate it to English there’s a lot lost,” Simonian explains. “He’s basically talking about being kind of an introvert and interacting with people. He’s a very poetic rapper; He uses a lot of twists and turns. You have to be an Armenian rap fan to really appreciate the twists he does with the language.” it’s not lost on Simonian that the song comes out at a time when much of the populace is, in fact, practicing its own kind of introversion in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m actually looking forward to how people might react to the song and possibly use it as a soundtrack to the current situation, being physically introverted, isolated in a real way,” acknowledges Simonian, who’s being “very strict about” social distancing with his own family.
“Introvert (Call Me Crazy)” is intended as a standalone release, but it follows other singles Simonian has been releasing — including “Have You Ever Hurt Somebody” and “The Secret is Out,” with more slated for the coming months. Some of those tracks will eventually be collected into an album tentatively titled Many Faces, which he’s still in the process of recording, with 16 songs “in various degrees of completion” and more probably coming before there’s an actual release.
“The timeline isn’t really clear for me,” Simonian says. “My strategy is constantly evolving and changing. The songs are there and the singles are certainly gonna be coming out, back to back, over the next few months. We’ll see which songs get the best responses and then kind of upstream them to a full-length and fill up the rest of the album with a few more songs that are almost done.”
And as the singles so far indicate, the sonic results will be diverse. “My previous bands, the latest being Capital Cities, had a sound and we knew what the genre was and how to market ourselves,” explains Simonian — who, by the way, has grown back his trademark beard after shaving it off in the “Have You Ever Hurt Somebody” video. “But as a solo artist, especially since I’m collaborating with so many different people, my sound is all over the place. I like experimental, dark hip-hop stuff and dense pop. I love jazz and world music. I dabble in Armenian music — in fact, I’m doing collaboration with a group of young singers from Armenia, covering this old, classical Armenian folk song. It’s exciting to do a wide variety of things right now and not have any rules, and the singles system is good for that.”
Capital Cities still lives, though Simonian and Ryan Merchant are keeping the group on an open-ended hiatus after touring to promote 2018’s Solarize album. The duo did have some shows planned for the summer, but all are canceled or in jeopardy at the moment.
“Capital Cities is taking a break so we can both focus on some of the side projects that have been shelved for so many years,” Simonian says. “Half the songs I’ve done are very old ones that I was not able to fit into the Capital Cities style. I think down the line we’ll reconvene and do a third album but we’re not committing to a time frame for that yet. We’re both pretty busy with our own stuff.”