The Birth of a Breakout Band

Meet the trio behind the local synth-pop darling On an On.

On an On

Photo: Chris Strong; Makeup: Elena Denning and Tanya Renelt; Hair: Elena Denning
 

From left: Ryne Estwing, Alissa Ricci, and Nate Eiesland


1. “Ghosts” The eerie, distorted single off the group’s debut album, Give In, has become a fan favorite.
2. “The Hunter” This fuzzy anthem gives a sense of On an On’s pop side.
3. “Every Song” A simple drumbeat centers this sprawling, synth-heavy track.

It’s been a big year for the buzzing Chicago trio On an On, which formed in March 2012 when Nate Eiesland, Ryne Estwing, and Alissa Ricci left the six-person rock band Scattered Trees. They ditched indie-rock guitar solos for more ethereal synth pop songs that feature heavy drum lines and melancholy melodies. “It was an exorcising of the past,” says Ricci, who plays keyboard. “It paved the way for something new.”

On an On made waves at South by Southwest in March when NPR, Time, and Paste all labeled the group a top pick. This month, fresh off a European tour, the band returned to Chicago to play its biggest show yet: the massive North Coast Music Festival in Union Park.

THE BROODING BASSIST
Ryne Estwing, 28

The Rockford, Illinois, native played his first Chicago show with Eiesland at the Red Line Tap in 2005. He wrote the song “Ghosts” with Eiesland after a bad breakup. “It was about the inability to hear someone,” he says. “It was very personal.”

THE STRIKING MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST
Alissa Ricci, 28

“We’ve known each other since middle school,” says Ricci of Eiesland.They bonded in the school choir: “It was where we built the foundation of our friendship.”

THE ENIGMATIC FRONTMAN
Nate Eiesland, 29

“The Chicago scene has given us some thick skin,” says On an On’s frontman and guitarist, who grew up in central Minnesota. But the city’s demanding music scene is not the only thing that has taught Eiesland to persevere; he wrote the band’s hit single “Hunter” after his father died in 2009.
 

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