Words by Jonathan Stout
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s No Thank You describe themselves on their Bandcamp page as “contemporary adult indie rock and roll.” On one hand, it makes sense. The band’s execution is often restrained, slowly building until reaching a climactic release. Although their arrangements sometimes echo a possible pop punk influence, the listener never feels the urge to pause and consider if they’re too old to be listening to it.
To put it simply, there’s a maturity to their music. However, their definition sells them short. Let’s be honest: nothing under the umbrella of “adult contemporary” ever screamed “FUN!” and that’s where the band starts to crack the shell of their self-appointed genre. Although there is a maturity to their compositions, there is also a youthful energy and sense of wonder. It’s hard not to nod your head to the intricate drum intro of track one on Embroidered Foliage, “Saturn Return”, and then ultimately rock out completely to it’s powerful outro. Any fan of early Pedro the Lion, or the days before the “emo” genre became a bad word, will find much to embrace on the album’s title track or “Tracing.” Any fans of Waxahatchee’s early albums who are disinterested in their new country/folk direction will easily have that void filled by the No Thank You, particularly with the songs “Letter Writing Contest” or “Enough.”
It’s not until after you take in the hard-hitting strength of the album that you can circle back and realize that their genre description is likely tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Even more importantly, the genre becomes irrelevant, because you’re already playing the album again and sending the album link to everyone you know.
Off Shelf: The band is very tight and your parts compliment each other very well. Do you all have a long history of playing together, perhaps in different music projects before this, or has it been a shorter period of playing together?
Kaytee Della Monica: A long history indeed! Evan and Nick have been playing music together since they were in high school. I actually met them when I joined their band Airports. when I was 16 or 17 (I think they were 18 or 19). We met in our friend’s garage in New Jersey for our first practice and I still remember the keyboard part I learned that day.
OS: I’ve read that this and your previous album deal with grief and practicing self care. The opening track of Embroidered Foliage, “Saturn Return,” repeats the powerful line: “It’s time to stop wasting time hating yourself.” What suggestions would you make to others who are struggling to love or forgive themselves?
KDM: I think prioritizing yourself and your mental health is the biggest leap forward. I am certainly not healed, but for me therapy was a huge help in my self discovery and recovery. It gave me a completely fresh perspective and insight that I wouldn’t have been able to come to on my own. I learned how to be honest and patient with myself, all while being introspective and analytical. I would encourage people to replace the word “god” with their own name and recite the serenity prayer to themselves.
OS: How are you navigating your lives and the future of the band during the pandemic?
KDM: It’s definitely tricky. We have been keeping pods between our households and each other. I think managing regular testing and following safety protocol to the best of our ability is all we can do. Luckily, we can keep working on writing music as long as we stay safe.
OS: Have you done any live streaming events since the onset of the pandemic? If not, is that something you would consider if in-person shows continue to be problematic?
KDM: I was doing livestream events on instagram early in the pandemic. We will definitely be doing more in the future now that the record is out. I think there’s no question that we will continue to perform however we can safely until live shows can exist again.
OS: What is your song writing process? Do you primarily compose with the band handling arrangement duties or are the songs composed with all of the band members together?
KDM: I generally write the stems of songs by myself (guitar and vocals) and then bring them to the band to flesh out. From time to time I will come to the guys with something incomplete and we will figure out the structure and everything else together.
OS: What song writing themes inspire you the most? Do you ever get stuck in a rut writing about the same things? How do you break free from that?
KDM: I think most of my songs are thematically a stream of consciousness relating to my own introspection. While the songs come across as being about love, grief, reminiscence, what have you, it really is a means of therapy for me. I figure out a lot about myself and my experiences when I concentrate on articulating what I am feeling artfully. I often write songs about the same things, but I don’t really mind that. Sometimes I can break free from it by just posing a challenge to myself to write about a different subject or from a different perspective than my own.
OS: It’s definitely a weird time for a band to release a new album, as the promo cycle (which usually includes a release show/tour) has changed. Though you just released a new album, has the pandemic given you time to write more new material, or have you channeled your creative energy elsewhere?
KDM: We have been writing more songs which has been extremely refreshing and an amazing outlet during this weird time. I’ve been interested in writing things different from No Thank You’s typical sound as well. I bought a new computer that I have yet to use, but I want to start making electronic music.
OS: What song(s) are you most proud of on Embroidered Foliage? Why?
KDM: This is a tough question. I’ve been asked a lot what my “favorite” song is, but pride is a different beast. I am extremely proud of this entire record and the work and creativity we all put into it. If I had to pick one song, I would say Leo Moon. It was very hard for me to write the lyrics to that song and it was exponentially harder to perform them. Saying the words to that song out loud was an intense barrier for me to overcome and I’m proud that I made it over the hurdle.
OS: Your lyrics often touch upon deeply personal themes. Did it take you a while to feel comfortable publicly singing about your life and feelings so explicitly or did it come naturally?
KDM: It came incredibly naturally. My dad would tell me “you’re 99% perfect if it weren’t for your mouth.” For better or for worse, I have no problem sharing my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. While a lot of what I sing about is personal and I do tend to be a relatively private person, I have no problem sharing my feelings and my experiences. My favorite music is what I connect with emotionally and being able to do the same for someone else is extremely rewarding for me.
OS: When live music safely returns, what do you think the music industry will look like? What changes would you like/hope to see?
KDM: I think that both musicians and listeners are so desperate to experience live shows again that it will be a very exciting time to be in a band. That being said, I hope that the competitive and capitalistic nature of the industry dissipates. We have all had to rely so heavily on social media, even before the pandemic, and now that the internet has been our only source of interaction with listeners it’s hard to discount its importance. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of labels and booking agents then look to those social media numbers to influence their decisions on whether or not it is worth it for them to spend their time and money on artists. They either see dollar signs or don’t, and I don’t know any musicians, myself included, that aren’t guilty of feeling somewhat inadequate at one point or another because of it. I want us to keep making and playing music because we love to and to be less concerned with the numbers. I think that makes for better music anyway.