Following the dissolution of Scatted Trees in 2013, several of its members quickly reemerged with a new project called ON AN ON. In a matter of weeks, they hit the studio to record what would become their debut album, Give In.
Two years and an extensive world tour behind, ON AN ON went to work on their follow-up as a fully realized entity. The road allowed the band to experiment with an expanded sound, and provided the confidence to track all their instruments simultaneously when they re-entered the studio. These sessions culminated in their sophomore album, And The Wave Has Two Sides, out July 24th via Roll Call Records.
Already we’ve heard the moody “It’s Not Over” and “Icon Love”, now they’ve shared the brooding album opener called “Behind the Gun”. The downbeat track shows a remarkable sense of restraint from the band. Each instrument moves subtly on top of the other with frontman Nate Eiesland’s soft vocals seemingly orchestrating every part to hush. Even as a sparse track, “Behind the Gun” might be the best portrayal of what the band has learned since their quick debut. They’ve become even more tactful and aware of each other, resulting in lush and entrancing music.
Listen in below.
In addition to the song, Eiesland was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new album, the new single, he even reveals a secret about their recent video game for “I Can’t Escape It”. Check it out:
You mention that And The Wave Has Two Sides is the result of the “soul searching journey” you first embarked on with your debut album, Give In. What exactly have you learned since releasing LP No. 1, musically, lyrically, and in terms of band chemistry?
Recording Give In taught us how vibe and vulnerability could be more engaging than precision and perfection. We were establishing our new creative environment by playing with the balance between what we knew and what we didn’t. We were trying to walk that tight rope and catch it on tape. Since then, we’ve been learning how much our creative momentum hinges on the limitations we’re working within, and that we can choose those limitations for ourselves. Lyrically, I think we are learning to say more with fewer words. As far as band chemistry goes, we’re continuing to discover what it means to be ON AN ON every day. We are old friends. The group’s overall relational and creative depth is influenced by the tough times as much as the amazing ones, just like any relationship I suppose. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. We’re very fortunate.
You’ve also called this album “another first record for us in a way,” which is an interesting thing to say for a band that’s sort of had two first records already when you consider Scattered Trees’ career. Do you feel like you’re constantly starting over/fresh, or is it more about finding yourself in new places in life and having that impact the work?
That’s a good question. I think both of those things are true. Although, the three of us do lean towards change and evolution, mainly because we don’t want to get stuck. We know we’ve got to keep moving, but we want to be in control of where we’re headed.
The second album continues to highlight the band’s knack for solid pop songwriting. Who are some songwriters, new and old, that you look to for inspiration and why? And how did working with producer Joe Chiccarelli help instill some of those inspirations into the music, or advance the sound in general?
There’s obviously a wealth of lessons to learn from in The Beatles’ catalog. Leonard Cohen’s honest and forthright lyrics have always hit home with me. Kurt Cobain was important to my development as a songwriter for sure. His work was so brutal but vulnerable at the same time. Nick and Molly Drake, and Jeff Lynn for sure. Oh, and Tom Petty. I could go on.
For me pop music is about trying to say it all in a few minutes or maybe even a few lines. It’s hard to do well, but I’m drawn to that challenge. Working with Joe was awesome. He’s an audiophile and could tell you what microphone you’re using in a blind test. But, he also obeys the vibe over anything else. He knows how to make things sound incredible, but he also listens beyond fidelity to the soul of what he’s hearing. It was great to have him at the helm so we could focus on doing what we were there to do and trust that he would capture it in the best way possible. He’s the real deal.
A number of new songs reference loss and the feeling of coming apart at the seams. On “Behind the Gun”, the line “I’ll be the one to come undone” especially stands out. What is the song about and how is it thematically connected to the rest of the album?
One of the themes in “Behind the Gun” is how disconnected I feel from my body sometimes. Often I get to this schizophrenic place where I’m observing what’s happening more than I’m actually living in the moment. It’s always been that way for me, and nowadays I’m pretty sure that’s the norm for a lot of people. That perspective does serve me as a writer, but every now and then I’ll start thinking about being aware of being aware of awareness itself or something, and my mind starts feeling the gravity of my body get weaker. I start losing my grip and It’s like I’m spinning away from myself somehow. I wanted “Behind the Gun” to communicate some of what that feels like. Since it’s the first track on the album it gives the listener a context for the rest of the songs. It’s an emotional bookend of sorts.
Your latest music videos use technology in interesting ways — the maze game for “I Can’t Escape It” and iPhone 6-shot “It’s Not Over”. Can you talk a little bit about how those two concepts came to fruition? How important are visuals — whether it be artwork, a music video, or stage set-up — to the band?
The maze! [Bassist] Ryne [Estwing] was the point man on that one. He worked with our friend Benjamin Miles to put together a way for fans to interact with our new songs in a light hearted way. After you pass the first level you hear a new song. If you beat the 10th level, you get to hear an additional tune as well. I’m not sure anyone knows about that yet. The “It’s Not Over” video was masterminded by Carlos Lopez Estrada, and he was so cool to work with. He worked the concept up and reached out to us about it. He was a dream to collaborate with during the whole process too.
The visual vibe is super important to what we do. What we see when we’re listening has a huge impact on how we perceive that song or that record. We do our best to create a world for people to climb into sonically and visually. When we really get there with an audience, and the music is happening, and we’re all breathing the same air in the same room something else happens. It can get pretty transcendent.