The Last Dinner Party: “We wanted our debut album to be a mission statement”

They’re the band everyone is talking about, they’ve scored the biggest debut album in years, and they’re just getting started. THE LAST DINNER PARTY really are that band.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Jennifer McCord.

The Last Dinner Party have an unofficial mantra that’s helped guide them through a dizzying twelve months: Don’t dwell on it. Chill out. Carry on.

It’s the morning after it was made public that the band won the BBC’s Sound Of 2024 crown, but they’ve yet to celebrate. “I didn’t even know it was being announced; did anyone else?” asks Georgia Davies, who found out at the end of last year when Florence + The Machine broke the news in front of a camera crew. “We don’t really know what’s going on most of the time,” she admits.

Between then and now, The Last Dinner Party have made their US television debut and shared Graham Norton’s sofa with Paul Mescal, while debut single ‘Nothing Matters’ has twirled its way back into the UK Singles Chart, ten months after it was first released. It follows on from massive support stints with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Hozier, while The Last Dinner Party have also become the first guitar band to ever win The BRITs Rising Star award.

“It’s hard to have a grasp on what’s massive and what isn’t as massive,” says Aurora Nishevci, with Abigail Morris adding: “We have no concept of scale, but that’s a good thing. If we knew how important or career-changing something is, it would maybe change how we felt about it. This way, we can enjoy every moment and then move on to the next thing.”

“I feel like if we sat down and tried to process everything that’s happened since ‘Nothing Matters’, it would be disastrous,” says Georgia. “Right now, we have an Alice In Wonderland sense of scale and time. Everything feels warped and whimsical. We just try to take things as they come rather than looking too far into the future or focusing on the past.”

“There’s nothing there that interests me,” adds Abigail. “It’s more about playing shows post-album and trying to find time to write more,” says Aurora. “We’ve worked hard to get here though. We haven’t just done it on a whim.”

“It’s quite overwhelming to have so many people so excited”

Aurora Nishevci

The Last Dinner Party seem eager to move into a space where every move isn’t scrutinised, and fair enough. As soon as that mammoth, empowering debut single ‘Nothing Matters’ was released, everyone rushed to social media to share their opinion on the group. Despite spending years playing shows together in grotty London venues after meeting at university and getting discovered by a DIY live recording uploaded to YouTube, a vocal corner of the Internet seems convinced there’s something inauthentic about the group.

“If you don’t like our music or our vibes, that’s okay! But it’s not fine to accuse us of not writing these songs or existing as a band in our own right. None of us have famous or industry parents either, shock horror,” the band wrote on social media when the industry plant accusations first surfaced. As CMAT elegantly put it: “A lot of supposedly smart peoples’ definition of industry plant is ‘someone who is signed to a record label and is also a woman’.”

But there’s also been so much excitement that actually releasing music has felt terrifying. “We obviously interacted with people at shows for two years and were constantly asked when the music was. By the time we got to ‘Nothing Matters’, everything had become a bit buzzy,” says Lizzie Mayland. “There was this expectation that we didn’t have when we were recording it. I’m so proud of that song, and I’m glad people liked it, but I hid under my duvet for two days because I didn’t want to be perceived.”

“It’s quite overwhelming to have so many people so excited about something,” explains Aurora, with The Last Dinner Party comfortably the most exciting new band in Britain. The perks? “Bitches, lots of champagne and preparing to go off the rails,” smirks Abigail, though the band are more likely to be requesting ginger shots and tissues today to deal with the collective cold they’ve picked up over a refreshing Christmas break.

“I was starting to feel normal about everything until I saw you guys,” she tells the rest of the group. There are still moments when they need to check in with each other that this is actually happening, and they haven’t fallen asleep during a university lecture and imagined the whole Dinner Party. “The whole experience has been crazy, and I think we’d go mad without each other,” Lizzie explains. “The band is somewhere to put all the pride without it feeling egotistical. It’s also just fun to share these experiences.”

“We just keep being offered opportunities that we never would have thought to dream of. And we keep saying yes to them because it’s unbelievable,” they continue. “We’re just riding this wave of people being very interested.”

“I’m looking forward to the day where we’re not a hype, buzz band,” says Abigail. “Hopefully, by the time we get to album three or four, we’ll be more established and respected, so things will feel calmer. We’ll just be able to do our own thing without there being this hype, which I don’t think is particularly useful or interesting.”

“It can’t last, either,” adds Lizzie. “If we have continued success, we can ask for things like writing time, and we can hopefully have more of a hand in shaping our own career, rather than just saying yes to everything and hoping for the best.”

“Maybe we’ll be free to not worry about silly things as well,” says Aurora, apologising for just how ambiguous that sounds. 

“I’m looking forward to the day where we’re not a hype, buzz band”

Abigail Morris

The first step towards longevity comes with debut album ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’. A lush, elegant record that isn’t afraid of drama or getting rowdy, it brings together orchestral flourishes, twinkling folk and menacing rock to create something that practically vibrates with excitement.

Recorded over a year ago with Arctic Monkeys’ go-to producer James Ford (“A genius who made the whole process fun and so rewarding”), ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ sees The Last Dinner Party “push into every avenue that we wanted to” as they lay the foundations for whatever comes next.

It was created before The Last Dinner Party had released a single song because it felt like the smart thing to do, says Abigail. “No one expected anything from us so we could make what we wanted to make, instead of pushing out one song then scrambling to keep up. It meant we had something to stand behind as well.”

“We wanted to make a debut album,” Abigail continues. “There wasn’t one specific sound or vision we were after. We just…followed the garden path of each song and planted roses along the way,” she says with a faux grandiosity that earns playful groans from the rest of the band. “We wanted it to be a mission statement. The opening of what we’re going to do.” 

“We all have such individual influences as well. Aurora did classical composition. I did a degree in jazz and was in a Queen tribute band, so everyone has their own thing they bring to the table,” says Emily Roberts. “We obviously have bands we all love, but it’s the fact we’re five individuals that makes us special, rather than a collective vision.”

“We just followed the garden path of each song and planted roses along the way”

Abigail Morris

As for the lyrics, Abigail trawled her diaries for inspiration because “it’s good to write about what you know. There’s no clear goal when I’m writing songs, and I don’t think about how people are going to connect to it. It just comes out I guess,” she continues.

“You explore your own experience and the extremes of emotion,” adds Aurora, sensing her friend is starting to tie herself in knots.

Abigail is also quick to point out that she isn’t the only person who’s written songs for ‘Prelude’. Aurora wrote the Albanian-language track ‘Gjuha’ about the shame she felt for not being able to speak her mother tongue, while Lizzie wrestles with self-acceptance, guilt and anger on ‘Sinner’. Throughout the album, the band explores belonging, wanting it, not having it and trying to create it for yourself. “That’s probably our age,” says Lizzie. “Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is trying to find that sense of belonging in yourself rather than externally.” 

Elsewhere, ‘Feminine Urge’ was written “very specifically about a woman’s relationship to her mother,” says Abigail. “It’s about feminine generational trauma, my feelings about being a woman and that beautiful, horrible realisation that your mother is also a human who’s mortal, fallible and in pain,” while closing track ‘Mirror’ is the oldest song on the record. Originally written when Abigail was 17, it started off about romance but soon became about the relationship between an artist and their audience. “You know that speech from Chicago, ‘I’m a star, and the audience loves me. And I love them. And they love me for loving them, and I love them for loving me. And we love each other, and that’s because none of us got enough love in our childhoods. And that’s showbiz, kid’? That’s that song, just with a guitar solo from Emily.”

As celebratory as it sounds, “There is a lot of pain in the album,” Abigail admits. “It’s about the extremes of ecstasy, so there’s euphoria, joy, love and celebration, but it’s also about the extreme pain and suffering people go through, and it never shies away from either.” 

Speaking to the BBC after handing The Last Dinner Party the crown for Sound Of 2024, Florence Welch said: “I think the nuances of femininity almost always get lost in rock, but when I saw The Last Dinner Party playing in their dresses and their chiffon while being so fierce and ferocious, I was like, ‘This is it’.”

“We didn’t sit down and say how cool it would be to wear dresses and play guitar. It’s just natural,” explains Abigail. “It’s a natural extension of who we are as people rather than a conscious tactic. Rock’n’roll is pink, anyway.”

“Dressing like this just feels right to me. In other bands I’ve been in, I felt like I had to dress a certain way as a woman playing guitar, but with The Last Dinner Party, I’ve realised that I don’t. I can do whatever I want,” says Emily.

“I did a degree in jazz and was in a Queen tribute band; everyone has their own thing they bring to the table”

Emily Roberts

Wanting to add to the sense of theatre, early Last Dinner Party shows came with a voluntary dress code, from Greek myths and fairytales to the language of flowers. “The gigs that had the biggest impact on us were always the ones that had a sense of occasion and created that nice, communal feeling. Giving fans a dress code for our gigs was designed to encourage that.,” says Abigail.

“When we first moved to London, I loved dressing up just to go to the Windmill. There’s nothing like sitting in a dive bar in a ballgown, and we wanted to continue that tradition of ‘why the fuck not’ basically,” adds Georgia.

However, the band are going to retire those specific dress codes. “Quite beautifully, our fans have embraced it and made it their own. It’s amazing we’ve created a space where people feel safe to wear whatever they want and experiment with self-expression,” says Abigail.

Most of The Last Dinner Party have been in bands before, but nothing with any sense of ambition or ownership. “Doing this has been my dream for pretty much forever,” said Abigail, with this group coming together through  “sheer persistence” and mutual excitement. 

“As soon as I heard the first demo that Abi sent over, I fell in love. It wasn’t like anything I’d heard before, and I knew I wanted to be involved,” Lizzie explains. “It always felt like The Last Dinner Party was going to go somewhere, and I wanted to see where that was.”

Still, the five-piece had to do battle with uncooperative schedules, the cost of rehearsal spaces and the endless possibilities that being a band presented them with. “For ages, we’d be at rehearsal but not really know where to start or where to go,” says Aurora. The answer was to book a gig. “That forced us to get ready,” says Lizzie.

The band’s earliest ambition was to play The Windmill in Brixton because “it was this glorious space that had birthed so many iconic bands, and it just seemed like an amazing world we wanted to be part of. We played it as our second gig,” Abigail grins, with The Last Dinner Party over-achievers from the off. From there, the band have taken in Moth Club, The Roundhouse and venues across Europe and North America. 

“There’s nothing like sitting in a dive bar in a ballgown”

Georgia Davies

As dizzying as things have got with their career and the noise around them, the band have always had that live show to fall back on. “There’s no comparison, really. Winning awards is nice, and we’re very lucky and honoured, but it’s not what drives us or gives us meaning. Writing songs together, then playing them live, that’s the heart of this band,” says Abigail. “It would be really sad if all you wanted was awards,” adds Aurora.

“The awards just mean that, hopefully, the crowds will be bigger,” says Lizzie, who sees them as the best possible marketing. “The likes of The BRITs and the BBC Sound Of have thrust us onto this massive stage,” they continue, with The Last Dinner Party confident in their ability to shine in that spotlight. “It means more people will hear the music, come to the shows and have that shared experience with us. Standing on a stage, looking people in the eye and knowing I see them and they see me, that’s still the only thing that feels tangible,” they continue. As Abigail told the crowd at The Roundhouse the evening before ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ was released, “We’re so proud we filled this room with people like you.”

In chorus, every member of The Last Dinner Party except one replies with a defiant “no” when asked if they have anything to prove with this album. “Maybe it’d be nice to prove that our boyfriends don’t play our instruments,” Aurora says with a smirk.

“We were very lucky to be able to record it before any of this scrutiny was on us,” says Lizzie. “It would feel very different if we were trying to retroactively live up to the expectations that have been set, but we love this album. I’m maybe a little bit nervous about it coming out, but I’m mostly just excited for people to come to the shows and know all the words.”

“We’d love for this band to represent a sense of community, and I just hope ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ impacts people in the way that we all know music can,” says Georgia.

“Seeing female and non-binary musicians on stage is not something that was super common when we were growing up, so we wanted to be that band for others,” she continues. “It would be nice to prove to others that you don’t have to be the token non-man in a band; you can be all of it. The accolades are nice, but hearing from fans that a song has inspired them to pick up a bass or learn piano makes me so much more emotional than anything else.”

“It’s also important for young men to see a band like this,” says Abigail. Last summer, after playing a festival, she was approached by two little boys who were so stoked after watching Emily and Lizzie play guitars onstage.

“It was the first time I realised that it was really important for us to not only be role models for female and non-binary people who want to see themselves onstage and be inspired to do their own thing, but also for young men to see women and non-binary people in a position of power and success and not be angry about it. Instead of misogyny and resentment, we want to help raise a new generation of men who are just excited about bands like us.”

For those on the outside, though, the question remains: ‘Why this band?’

“It’s not something we think about,” says Abi. “We didn’t start The Last Dinner Party thinking about what we could do to make people like us. A lot of it is luck and very good timing. We’ve come along during a renaissance of live music, at a time where there’s a real excitement around female and non-binary-led bands and theatrical, maximalist expression. We’ve always just done what we loved and made sense to us; it just happened to coincide with this cultural turn. There’s no magic formula. It’s just luck,” she adds before smirking. “And good music.”

Taken from the March 2024 issue of Dork. The Last Dinner Party’s debut album ‘Prelude To Ecstasy’ is out now.


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