Photograph: Kyle La Mere

To say SXSW has meant a great deal to Chicago dream pop band ON AN ON might be an understatement. It was just last year that the trio of friends decided to do the band thing after watching the band Miike Snow at SXSW. Now, on their one-year anniversary, just about everyone has taken notice of the group Time Magazine named their #1 pick for new acts to check out at this year.

So what is so great about the group that NPR and Paste Magazine included at the top of their preview lists, and iTunes also plugged them as a “Best New Artist” this month?

I caught up with keyboardist Alissa Ricci to get some answers as we watched a rare set by legends The Zombies.

“We’ve been floored by the response,” Ricci said, noting that the band only played their first show last September. “To think in a year we could make it to #1 on Time Magazine’s list is crazy.” A lot of the buzz comes thanks to the widespread pickup of ON AN ON’s fuzzy art house single “Ghosts.”  

Ricci and her bandmates Ryne Estwing and Nate Eisland are no strangers to music though; all three of the 20-somethings had been part of the now defunct Chicago indie rock sextet Scattered Trees. When that project disbanded, “We realized we had such great chemistry and wanted to continue making music together,” said Ricci, who has known the guys since their college days.

ON AN ON’s debut album Give In, released in January, is a well-balanced blend of catchy synth hooks, lyrical preludes, and experimental dance structures. (You can hear a lot of these elements on their song “The Hunter.”)

“We have a great amalgamation of interests,” said Ricci. “Nate has a great pop sensibility, while Ryne has incredible bass technique. And I am a fan of sound art and design.”

Soon the rest of the world will notice, too. Up next for the band is a European tour—and hopefully some new Chicago dates later this year. Ricci (who now lives in Minneapolis) plans to return to the city in July for another reason: “I have to see Bjork at Pitchfork!”

If things keep going well for Ricci and her bandmates, someone might be saying the same about ON AN ON next year.

Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago.