Best of What’s Next: ON AN ON

Music Features

Hometown: Chicago, Minneapolis
Members: Nate Eiesland (vocals, guitars) , Alissa Ricci (keys, vocals), Ryne Estwing (bass)
Album: Give In
For Fans Of: Beach House, Yellow Ostrich, Cults

In less than a year, a trio of musicians found themselves releasing an album as a new band after their old one decided to call it quits.

ON AN ON had nothing weeks before they hit the studio. No songs, no demos, no name, not even a vision of their own sound. What they did have was pre-booked recording time, and they were faced with a decision: Do they eat the monetary loss or try to write an album and record in one month’s time?

But before this pre-studio panic, vocalist and guitarist Nate Eiesland, keyboardist and vocalist Alissa Ricci and bassist Ryne Estwing were part of Chicago-based indie-popsters Scattered Trees, a band they shared with brothers Baron and Jason Harper. The Harpers decided they wanted to “do other things” and the quintet was finished in March 2012 according to Ricci. It wasn’t the best timing, as the band had already booked studio time to record their follow up to 2011’s Sympathy, but the trio decided they might as well use the booked time for that April, mere weeks away.

“The three of us wanted to progress and do some risky things musically so the choice was pretty clear to start over with a clean slate,” Eiesland explains. “It was more exciting for us. It was risky because we just jumped ship on something that was working, but ultimately we just followed our guts.”

The band was certainly taking a giant risk, but its members say they never doubted themselves. In fact the process, which should have been daunting for the fresh new trio, was actually quite cathartic.

“It was always full steam ahead,” Estwing proudly admits. Eiesland immediately added, “We were all super productive and firing on all cylinders. We explored so much musically and experimenting that it felt so good. I felt that this was what we were all looking for as musicians all along.”

Unsurprisingly, all three are proud they were able to pull off their debut. “We formed ourselves in the studio,” Ricci notes. “Any sort of demos or ideas that have been floating around or being workshopped were re-imagined and realized in the studio. We were confident that we had enough to start with and then when we were in the studio we could explore and experiment. There was no preconceived notion about what the instrumentation needed to sound like. That was so exciting to us. We had no doubts.”

But all of that just puts ON AN ON’s story up through the end of April 2012. Over the course of the year they would be thrown into a world they never could have imagined, especially not so quickly.

“The release of the first single ‘Ghosts’ and how much response it got on Hype Machine was when we knew we had something. It hit number one at one point and then it kind of stuck around in the top 10. Then the site clears the stats every two weeks and it climbed right back up. It just kept staying at this level of continued buzz.”

That was in August, only four months after forming the band, writing and recording the album. Eiesland was quick to note, “We definitely imagined this to be a much slower burn.”

As a blossoming band, they had already hit so many check points, but luckily each milestone was happening one right after another.

By then they were playing shows and getting positive (and some negative) responses from old fans of Scattered Trees as well as people who had no clue who they were. All of it was leading up to the release of Give In in January of this year. The trio was blown away by the reception. On the day of the release, they were playing a show in Phoenix, far away from their hometowns of Chicago and Minneapolis, where they could throw a release party. In fact, they weren’t even headlining that night. That didn’t stop legions of fans from coming up and congratulating them. One fan said he already listened to the album twice that day—it was his favorite album in a long time.

Not bad for a band that barely existed 10 months before.

ON AN ON knows the ride isn’t over yet. Since releasing the album in January, they have played SXSW and toured Europe. The three musicians definitely deserve a break, but they don’t see one coming in the foreseeable future. All they want to do is keep going.

“Any other band we had been in before, we had been working a long, long, long time and touring and losing money forever. We may still be losing money, but it feels like there’s an end to that soon,” said Eiesland. “A point where we can be lucky enough to just make art and be career artists. We did not expect whatever level of attention we have now. So whatever happens is just amazing.”

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