Stream No Thank You’s ‘Embroidered Foliage’ and read a track-by-track breakdown
Philly's No Thank You have just released their third album, Embroidered Foliage, on Lame-O Records, and it's their loudest, biggest-sounding, and best-sounding album yet. It finds the indie/punk band really leaning into their '90s grunge tendencies, and making a stadium-sized rock record that sounds like it would've dominated alt-rock radio 25 years ago. To celebrate the album's release, vocalist/guitarist Kayee Della Monica and bassist/engineer Evan Bernard spoke to us about every song on the record. Stream the LP and read on for what they had to say...
Kaytee: Though sonically very different, this song was inspired by Placebo, specifically “Allergic (to Thoughts of Mother Earth).” I wanted the drums to sound like that song, driving and powerful. Lyrically it came to me quickly, a moment of self-reflection and admission that I needed to get my life and my mind together. I feel like going through a Saturn return gives you a chance to reevaluate yourself and learn to accept things or change things to ultimately grow into a new and improved version of yourself. That’s more or less what I had in mind while writing it.
Evan: I remember when Kaytee brought this one to the band, I thought, "This song was made for [drummer] Nick [Holdorf]. He's gonna do some busy cool emo-adjacent drum beat and it's going to be sick." Eventually when we began to jam on it -- and with some encouragement -- he did exactly that. When we jam that song, Kaytee would always play the intro riff, and the way I heard it, there should be this bed of massively heavy sustained chords under it. I got a sub-octave fuzz pedal and tried to make it sound as crushing as possible. Nick and I spent lots of time hammering out the kick pattern and placement of cymbal accents. We actually recorded the drums to this song on three separate occasions because I kept nitpicking every little nuance. I am definitely a huge pain in the ass when it comes to that stuff, but in the end I think it was worth it. I love Nick's drumming on this song. I put out an APB to Twitter when I was mixing this in the beginning of quarantine for friends to record "gang vocals" at their homes because I felt the end needed a bit of a more dramatic ending, so there are all sorts of people from all over the world who sang the part, which to me is pretty cool.
"Strange & Wonderful"
Kaytee: This song is close to my heart. It is pretty literal in reference to a relationship where I was made to feel incredibly important right before everything fell apart. It’s sort of reminiscing and romanticizing moments. It’s also full of Easter eggs specifically designed for the person it is about.
Evan: Kaytee was originally going for a slower, mellower vibe with this one. Nick and I would always play it too hard and fast at practice. Kaytee had a specific bashy kind of vision for the drums in the chorus, and I think we maybe took it too far past her original vision, but it became what it became. I also interpreted the lyrics to have a more whimsical meaning than they do, and based on that idea I wrote a bassline with a lot of movement that felt like springtime to me. The way Kaytee sings is so emotional and aggressive, I love her performance on this one.
Kaytee: "Embroidered Foliage" is likely my favorite song on the record. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to in regards to sound and vibe. I think we accomplished the emotionality that I intended - the heaviness of the guitars, the melodic nature of the bass, the cello and piano in the outro, the way the drums change midway through. It’s all exactly how I envisioned it. I think referentially I wanted it to be a combination of "Options" and "Second Best" by Pedro the Lion. I remember writing this song in my studio apartment in my bed on my acoustic guitar. I was experiencing an intense back and forth in a relationship that I wasn’t ready to admit wasn’t right for me. The imagery in the song relates to the intimacy we shared (more Easter eggs).
Evan: Kaytee wrote the bassline to this song. It's super heavy and emotional, and I think she did a great job with the melodic choices of the line. When we began to work on it, I couldn't really envision anything other than suffocating the root notes in fuzz, but this turned out much better than that. Kaytee has a really unique sense of melody and harmony when it comes to bass playing; lots of her lines in Snowhore have really interesting movement, bringing out lots of feeling in the songs. I think she successfully did that as well on this track. I really wanted to showcase the dynamics and Kaytee's vocals on this one so Nick and I kept it very sparse in the quiet parts.
Kaytee: This is a song of reminiscence. I wrote this in the aforementioned studio apartment while I felt trapped in a room full of memories that were extremely meaningful to me. For a long time it was hard for me to escape the moments I kept reliving in my head. The moments were so tender and impactful, but littered with complications that we could not overcome. I wanted it to sound like a warm but uncomfortable blanket. I think Evan did a really great job layering weird effects and reverb to accomplish that.
Evan: I love this sweet lil' song. Kaytee had all sorts of ideas for creating textures and layers for this song, as well as making it a textural bridge between "Embroidered Foliage" and "Tracing." I had a lot of fun messing with reverbs and sounds when we worked on this one. We worked with Chris Baglivo to do some interesting resolutions with the string parts to go into the song, but we ultimately settled on the strings becoming a reverb texture and droning throughout.
Kaytee: Similarly to "Eden," this song is completely about reminiscing, and further, regretting not being able to appreciate the things that were precious in retrospect. This song came together in a weird way, but the result is something I am really proud of. Nick does some wild drum stuff that I specifically remembering being really stoned and moved while watching him write. I am always in awe of his ability to convey emotions with his drumming and for this song he really hit the nail on the head for me. Plus, I really like Evan’s bass synth tone and melody. For a weird song that started out so small in my room, I am really into and proud of how it turned out.
Evan: This one stumped me in the beginning. Right from the get-go Nick and I went exploring down many avenues, eventually settling on Nick slowly adding more and more rhythmic kick drum motif as the song progresses, eventually erupting in a pseudo-island beat. Kaytee's lyrics are pretty powerful and get more intense as the song moves on, so we structured the feel of the song based on her rising intensity. When we recorded the song, playing the part on bass wasn't hitting quite right, so we used a Korg MS-20 and an Alesis Micron to create some bass textures, allowing Nick to take control of the rhythmic aspect of the song. I realize this might all sound like complete nerd shit, but this is how my brain works when we write songs.
"Letter Writing Contest"
Kaytee: My intention with a lot of the songs on this record was to make a 6 song acoustic EP dedicated to the death of this relationship, and this was the pop song addition. I wanted it to be dynamic so I added a Casio drum beat to it so that it stood apart from the rest of the songs. I wrote it as a snarky and bratty response to a long email from my ex explaining to me why our relationship wasn’t going to work for him. It pissed me off to the point that I was even angry and insulted by his grammatical errors. It ended up being written for the full length entirely in the studio. What a weird thing that turned into.
Evan: This song was a lot of fun to work on, it was pretty much a studio creation. Kaytee sent us the song to the Casio drum beat, and when we went to play it as a band it just never felt right without the Casio. In the studio we just had Nick jam over the second and third parts of the song, referencing a drum part from the first band we were all ever in together for when everything hits loudly. Of course it's very different from the drum part Nick wrote 10 years ago, but the vibe is there. Nick is an incredibly creative drummer, the drumming on this record astounds me. If you really pay attention to the drum part at the end of the song he's doing all sorts of bell hits and rim clicks throughout the beat, creating a really unique groove that to me is wholly indicative of his playing. I tried to do some Promise Ring Nothing Feels Good era "emo-groove" style stuff over it and it kind of became what it is.
"Everything or Nothing"
Kaytee: I have a hard time writing upbeat/fast songs, so this started as a challenge for myself in that way. Lyrically this song marked an end to a relationship. I was ready to throw the towel in and admit I couldn’t live up to the expectations someone had for me. Writing this was an attempt at closure and acceptance. It came very naturally musically with Evan and Nick, I don’t even remember writing it, it feels like it was always just within us.
Evan: This was one of the first songs Kaytee brought to us after we finished recording "All It Takes." It had a very clear Pedro The Lion influence, but a bit more uptempo. I'd say this one kind of came together the most naturally, ever since we started playing it it's been nearly identical. I wanted to do something harmonic on the bass as a nod to Pedro The Lion, who is ultimately probably our biggest collective influence on the band.
Kaytee: Slow Mass practiced in Evan’s basement when he was filling in on guitar for them and I was inspired while listening. I wrote the guitar to this song first, recorded it on my phone, and then went to New York for a week to complete a gemological class. While I was there I reached out to an old friend in the area to hang out and he stood me up. I was disappointed because this was typical of him, but I thought he had outgrown acting that way. I wrote the lyrics while obsessively listening to the recording over and over again about how it felt to be let down time after time by him.
Evan: This was the last song we wrote for the record. We had actually already started recording the majority of it by the time this song was written, but since we were going to re-track the drums for "Saturn Return" anyway, I was convinced we may as well track "Enough," as well as another which ultimately didn't make the album. This one came together rather quickly as well; Kaytee had a clear vision of how the song felt to her and it all kind of fell into place.
Kaytee: I wrote this song during the writing of All it Takes to Ruin It All, but it didn’t fit on that record for me. Lyrically I wanted to take a real life situation and turn it into a fictional story similar to how I interpret many of David Bazan’s lyrics on Control. It fit for me on this record because it’s really me telling myself I deserve better than I allow for myself. A bass line I wrote for another band years ago that was sort of heavy inspired me and I brought that vibe into the end and wanted to make it even more heavy and huge with a choir of harmonies. It was fun to write and record that part. We made it exactly how I envisioned it.
Evan: This was the very first song we wrote for this record. We felt necessary to leave a lot of space for Kaytee's vocals while Nick and I kind of took a back seat, adding flourishes only when necessary. She wanted the end to feel huge, and I felt like we sort of channeled Hum for it. Though neither of us grew up religious, when we were in the studio Kaytee said she wanted the vocals in the end to sound like we were in a church choir, so we spent time researching traditional chordal harmony arrangements and applied what we learned to the song. Creating that texture was a lot of fun.
Kaytee: This song is hard for me to confront. I wanted to take an honest approach to how I view myself. I tried to be more objective than negative about aspects of my personality that I am not necessarily proud of, but have learned to come to terms with. It took me years to write lyrically because I would get stuck on the words over and over again. I ended up writing the second version minute before going to the studio to record it. Every time I tried to record the vocals I would get angry with myself and cry and throw a temper tantrum. I didn’t want to finish this song; I wanted it to never exist. I am really glad Evan pushed me to finish it because I think the message to myself was important for me to hear. Everyone else likes this song, so I guess it’s for the best that it made it to the record. I think it’s a great closer to a story of learning about yourself and your worth through the perspective of the end of a relationship.
Evan: This song to me felt like our own "For Tammy Rae" by Bikini Kill. [That's] maybe my all time favorite Bikini Kill song, so when writing ["Leo Moon"] I wanted to emulate its melodic bass line. This song almost didn't make the album more than once. Kaytee did three takes of the vocals, decided she hated the song and that was it. I feel like the lyrics are super personal and revealing, which is exactly what draws me to the song and what makes Kaytee cringe when she hears it. I played this for my brother-in-law and he was absolutely floored by her vocal performance and how raw and emotional it is. It has been received incredibly well by everyone we've played it for, and I am proud of Kaytee for putting it out there.