One of the things I love about Wilmington is watching musicians and bands sprout out of the creative cracks of our community’s foundation: from local open mics to music education programs, to sidewalks filled with buskers, to garage parties pulsating with punk rockers. Musicians are everywhere and they seem to have an innate drive to write and play songs for Wilmingtonians.
RITA CASCIA’s Davis Alderson (guitar, vocals) says he and bandmates Taylor McDonald (drums) and Hannah Simpson (bass) don’t have an interesting “how we met” story. He’s just been writing and steadily putting together a three-piece band with rotating players here and there. He tends to demo all of the work before fleshing out intricacies of arrangement and playing through a live performance with his bandmates.
“RITA CASCIA isn’t exactly a solo project,” Alderson says, “but this weirdo drive to perform intellectually serious, joking-but-not-joking songs about ghosts and animals and vasectomies is my curse alone. . . . The folks who drum and play bass with me at the moment are way above my musical weight class, luckily, and have really been making the songs shine.”
RITA CASCIA is making its first live appearance at Gravity Records on March 8, opening for Massachusetts’ psych rock band Carinae. The band released two demo tracks on Bandcamp in January 2020 and will continue to post new material there, as well as on Instagram (@rita.cascia.band).
As live, unmastered demos, “Thylacine” and “The Specter in the Woods Behind My House” are solid rough cuts. Alderson and company are currently refining those and other tracks for a forthcoming indie-rock-punk record, dealing with themes of irrationality, despair and the generally sad emotional lives of everyday peeps.
“And a longing for the extinction of the entire human species,” Alderson adds. “But those concepts are hidden in jokes, fantasy characters, talking animals, and raunchy sex tales because I think monolithic seriousness is boring as hell—and rejection of life is boring as hell, and because it’s much more wondrous and intense and interesting to try and grasp at everything at once, good and bad.”
“The Specter in the Woods Behind My House” tells the story of a “lecherous” ghost haunting a small farming community. “Thylacine” is inspired by the extinct Australian mammal but is primarily about a guy getting eaten by swamp animals in the Outback.
“I use that story [in Thylacine] to explore the passions we allow to dictate our lives, to give them meaning, and ultimately to end them,” Alderson says.
He admits he can write dense lyrics, but Alderson is proud of the work. It’s just as important to him for the songs to be melodically tight, catchy and fun. “My strange and specific artistic vision doesn’t mean much if people don’t want to turn that shit up,” he quips.
RITA CASCIA’s moniker is born from Alderson’s own love of medieval times and Northern Renaissance art, which often includes imagery of despair, pain and torment. Alderson is interested in the lives, iconography and attributes of saints. St. Rita of Cascia, a widow and Augustinian nun named a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, is credited with various miracles.
“[St. Rita of Cascia] is said to have successfully prayed that her sons be killed by God rather than be allowed to commit a murder they were planning,” he explains. “Those types of stories, especially about the women saints, are incredibly fertile ground. I’m not exactly a believer, but there’s something about the gaunt, sweaty mystics grimacing in apparent pain and torment, gazing desperately upwards towards a few silent brushstrokes—that feels fucking real, and that recalls a lot of this project’s lyrical themes.”
While Alderson remains mum on an album title and hopes to have a release date this summer, he reveals there will be limited additional instrumentation on their debut album. Perhaps harmony vocals will appear as well, but he wants to keep the raw sound of a live-tracked record.
“Many parts of my life feel pretty unstable and hectic right now,” he says, “which I think lends a great degree of urgency to the songs that will be really special when captured on tape.”