Often called a cosmic rite of passage by astrologers, Saturn’s transit is said to have a huge impact as it returns to the same place in the sky it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth. Signifying entry to into adulthood, the phenomenon is occurs between the ages of 27 and 31, undoubtedly a fraught time for many. But Kaytee Della Monica, lead vocalist/guitarist of Philadelphia-based indie rock band No Thank You, sees the return of Saturn as a different kind of alarm clock. “It’s time to stop wasting time hating yourself,” she sings against energetic, escalating guitar chords on “Saturn Return,” the opening track of No Thank You’s third full-length album Embroidered Foliage. Della Monica was going through her own Saturn return when she wrote the LP, and this process of self-growth and shedding the past is portrayed in different ways throughout the albums ten relatable songs.
Astrology pops up again on the last song, “Leo Moon,” which is about Della Monica’s process of accepting flaws that she associates with her moon sign. “I am unusual, but that’s what the stars dealt me,” she sings in the laidback, catchy track. “Don’t want to rely on someone else to learn to love myself.”
Della Monica’s interest in astrology is rooted in its practice as a tool for understanding. “I don’t like the idea of using your birth chart as an excuse for being a shitty person, but I think it brought to light things I didn’t necessarily have that perspective on, and it helped me to grow and change,” she says. Whether filtered through the lens of the planets or everyday life, much of the album — which also features bassist Evan Bernard and drummer Nick Holdorf — deals with personal evolution and self-love, particularly at the end of a relationship.
Della Monica is still processing some of the grief that informed the band’s previous album, 2018 sophomore effort All it Takes to Ruin It All, written in the wake of her father’s death. But on Embroidered Foliage, she more closely examines the ways her anxiety around death plays into self-destructive tendencies, like becoming involved in an intense (and unhealthy) relationship.
The slow, somber title track was partly inspired a gift from her ex and her day job as a jewelry specialist at an auction house, where she came across a painting by an artist known as the Master of Embroidered Foliage. “There were a lot of ties with this imagery and the words, but I saw it as a whole when they were selling the painting,” she says. “It really struck me, and I just decided that Embroidered Foliage would be the perfect title for the record. It was definitely an ‘aha’ moment.”
The guitar riffs are reminiscent of ’90s pop punk, evoking a sense of nostalgia that fits the overall theme of learning from the past. Della Monica remembers listening to a lot of Placebo when she wrote it, which is evident in the dissonance and distortion that, to her, convey rage and self-loathing. The album Without You I’m Nothing in particular captured the persona she wanted to convey: “small and meek mixed with loud and strong and aggressive and powerful.” Indie rock band Pedro the Lion was another major influence, particularly the album Control, which similarly centers on facing your downfalls and dark side.
Della Monica also credits her band members for creating the album’s emotive sound. “Nick is very emotional in his drum playing and really honed in on my intent without really having to try, which was great, and Evan is kind of the master of tone,” she says. “He records a lot of bands — people respect him for his ability to embody the feeling people are trying to convey with tone, and I think he really nailed it with the right amp, the right guitar, and the right soundscape.”
During the recording process at Big Mama’s Recording Studio in Philadelphia, Della Monica made an effort to hand over more of the album to Bernard, who also produced it, than she had in the past, and rather than recording live, they recorded each track individually. Her goals were to be more specific lyrically than in the past and write more dynamic guitar parts.
No Thank You plan to stretch themselves even further as a band on their next LP, which they’re already working on. “We’ve been in talks of making a little bit of a pop thing that I really wanted to just explore and do for fun,” says Della Monica. “We’re looking to do more stuff because we’re tired of sitting around at home, so we thought we’d might as well buy some weird pop music apps and use them.”
The process of making Embroidered Foliage helped Della Monica process and solidify her growth as both a person and an artist. Her band name, which initially reflected her tendency to close people off and be negative, no longer defines her music like it used to. “Songwriting for me is very much a cathartic experience, and it’s very much self-discovery,” she says. “My perspective has grown and changed, and I think writing music really helps me to do that. I hope it’s changed for the better and that I’ve become a more rounded and well-equipped human being.”
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