ON AN ON aren't in the love song business
Reinvention is as important to a musician’s craft as intimacy with one’s instrument is. As the field of songwriting changes, it requires a sense of adaptability to navigate the pitfalls of a creative career.
The ability to rebound and reinvent oneself makes for a resilient and prolific musician. Such is the case for Nate Eiesland, the figurehead behind Chicago’s genre-bending ON AN ON, an indie three-piece that’s a reincarnation of Eiesland’s previous work with Scattered Trees.
When Scattered Trees broke up in August of last year, Eiesland and bandmates Alissa Ricci and Ryne Estwing were in the formative stages of recording Scattered Trees’ latest work. With studio time already booked, the three forged ahead with the intent of abandoning inhibition and creating something that sounded just as raw as themselves.
“In the studio, we were trying to capture these moments of reality and vulnerability — not just executing everything perfectly but trying to catch on tape something that was a little more human and flawed,” Eiesland said.
It’s a radical departure from the typically articulated and precise movement that a band uses in the studio, when time is of the essence and when time really is money. But the cathartic sound of Give In, ON AN ON’s debut on Roll Call Records, is the result of actually giving in rather than giving up.
“We’re just really trying to be animals, sonically, just total instinct,” Eiesland said. “That’s what we want to go for. Just like, ‘Is that exciting to you? Let’s explore that.’ It’s really like not having any loyalty to any image or sound.”
That in itself is a move away from Eiesland’s work with Scattered Trees, which developed a loyal fan base that’s come to love Eiesland’s writing as much as his work with his bands.
When Scattered Trees started a Pledge Music crowdsourcing campaign to fund its ill-fated record, Eiesland opted to return the contributions and instead sourced the remaining two-thirds of ON AN ON’s production costs himself rather than subject his fans to something he wasn’t sure they’d get behind.
“It’s definitely something that when it came to people supporting it, we had to be up front,” Eiesland said. “We had to carry it ourselves because we didn’t want to assume that people would like what they did or push any sense of loyalty.”
That sense of self-awareness and modesty makes Eiesland a character that seems more aware of the end result of his music, rather than the requirements it takes to produce it. His devotion to ON AN ON is tangible, from the record to his enthusiasm, but it’s really his craft as a whole that he’s most concerned with preserving.
“There’s a loyal fan base there for Scattered Trees and me as a writer, and that’s just overall really humbling,” Eiesland said. “I’m just really grateful for people to even just be interested in the art that we’re making. You gotta be happy about that.”