The Last Dinner Party on Comparisons, Hype, and Their Debut Single “Nothing Matters” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Last Dinner Party on Comparisons, Hype, and Their Debut Single “Nothing Matters”

Taking it to the Max

May 24, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Picture this: An emerging band creates a collection of exceptional songs that quickly capture the attention of industry professionals. Soon, offers start rolling in, and after securing management and a record deal, the label, who have undoubtedly recognized the band’s enormous potential, begin the process of supporting their development in order to help them achieve that potential. This would appear to be a pretty straight-forward arrangement and has been the modus operandi of the music industry since its inception. There are no dark arts at play, no conspiracies, sometimes it can be as simple as believing in the music.

Enter The Last Dinner Party (formerly The Dinner Party), a band with a lineup consisting of Abigail Morris on vocals, Georgia Davies on bass, Lizzie Mayland on guitar, Aurora Nishevci on keys, and Emily Roberts on lead guitar. Their live performances started attracting buzz pretty from the get-go, as rumors spread about an exciting emerging new band. One person who caught wind of the hype was Lou Smith, aka the South London scene’s unofficial videographer. Smith’s YouTube channel is a veritable treasure trove of emerging bands from the area, and he was on hand to capture The Dinner Party’s third-ever gig. It was a pivotal moment that changed the trajectory of the band’s career forever.

I sit down for a chat with bassist Georgia Davies and lead singer Abigail Morris as they enjoy a pint and talk excitedly about The Last Dinner Party’s serendipitous beginnings. “We met in college doing A-levels,” explains Davies. “But we really began bonding after going to gigs in South London and seeing bands at the likes of the Brixton Windmill. It’s such a vibrant scene, and we felt totally inspired by the music that was being made. We definitely wanted to be part of that in some way.”

They began writing and practicing, and within a few months, started playing live. That’s when Lou Smith filmed their third-ever gig. Morris gushes, “He’s our hero! He’s the reason we’re here.” Davies chimes in, “We were a new band without any representation. After that video went online, our email inbox started blowing up! We were getting correspondence from labels, managers, PRs—all of them referencing this one video they’d seen on YouTube.”

“Yeah, it was mad,” Morris exclaims. “The emails all read ‘RE: Lou Smith video.’ We have so much to thank him for. And he does it because he loves it; he’s providing such a great service to the scene. He’s always filming artists, and every time he uploads a video, I find a great new band.”

The Last Dinner Party changed their name recently to avoid confusion with U.S. musician Kamasi Washington’s Dinner Party project. When I suggest the addition of the prefix “The Last” to their original name has created a deeper and more evocative image, conjuring up a sense of doomed grandeur and faded sepia-tinged glamour, Davies and Morris agree. Davies explains that the original name was inspired by the idea of a huge debauched dinner party where people came together to celebrate with a hedonistic banquet.

The band admit they weren’t initially aware of the art installation named “The Dinner Party” by U.S. artist Judy Chicago. “I could say we’re really clever and we named ourselves after it,” Davies laughs, “but we only found out about it later.” The Dinner Party is a remarkable mixed-media installation in the Brooklyn museum that, according to the artist “symbolizes the history of women in civilization,” and was designed to correct their omission from the historical record. “We are glad to have found it as it’s an incredible piece of work, and certainly fits in with our ethos,” adds Davies.

Until April the band had yet to release any studio music, but their live performances, striking image, and live videos suggested the excitement they were generating was certainly justified. Morris emphasizes the importance of proving themselves as a live unit before releasing anything, stating, “We definitely wanted to build up interest and really concentrate on playing live. And we started to get great feedback.”

Davies adds, “Having people get excited waiting for our first single after seeing us live has been amazing. To be honest, when we were going to gigs ourselves, we saw black midi do that, just playing live before releasing anything.” Morris echoes the sentiment, expressing equal admiration for black midi. “Yeah, there was always a sort of whisper on the wind, like, ‘Have you seen this amazing band black midi yet?’ Before anything had been released. This made people want to catch them live and that gave them the freedom to do whatever the fuck they wanted.”

All new bands face the double-edged sword of journalistic comparison, and The Last Dinner Party are no exception. Some heavyweight names have been bandied about, comparing their sound to everything from Kate Bush and David Bowie to Sparks and, more recently, Marina. Someone even wrote on YouTube that one of their compositions, the beautiful “On Your Side,” had replaced “Starman” as their favorite ever song. “I saw that comment, I was like, ‘WTF! That’s mad!’” says a clearly astonished Morris. “It’s obviously a huge compliment, although I have mixed feelings about comparisons. I’ve always been a huge music fan and was brought up surrounded by music like Bowie, Kate Bush, and Queen, so we’d be lying if we said we weren’t influenced or inspired by such great artists. However, we didn’t set out to sound like the next Kate Bush or Marina and the Diamonds. We want to sound like The Last Dinner Party.”

Davies acknowledges the usefulness of musical reference points for writers. “I can see why writers like to use comparisons, but the variety of them shows that people haven’t been able to pigeonhole us into one particular style or genre, which is a good thing.” Meanwhile, Morris expresses her incredulity at the comparison by some made with ABBA, on the band’s soaring debut single “Nothing Matters.” “I mean, don’t get me wrong, ABBA are legends, but really? I just can’t hear that, at all,” she says with a laugh.

And speaking of legends, it has been widely reported that the band have already shared the stage with greats such as Nick Cave and The Rolling Stones. Something that must have been mind-blowing, given that the band only began gigging in 2021. “Well, sharing a stage with Nick Cave is pushing it a bit,” revealed Morris. “The truth is we played on a little stage, which just happened to be at the same festival. Nick Cave was actually on the huge stage about three hours later. But we did share the same air with the great man. We are huge fans, and we went to his book signing just to get closer to him.”

As for The Stones gig, the reports of The Last Dinner Party supporting them are again something of an exaggeration, as Davies explains. “The Stones gig was surreal, but again, we were just the first act on a big bill that included Courtney Barnett and Sam Fender. I think they wanted someone small and unknown to start the day. Our manager asked if we’d be up for it, and we thought they were joking and were like, ‘Fuck off, as if that’s going to happen.’ I don’t think we’ve fully processed it yet, but when the time came, I was proud of us because I thought we’d all be having meltdowns or hiding in the toilets. But we stayed calm and collected at least until we came off stage and then we screamed our heads off, ha ha ha.”

Morris adds, “Yeah, it’s not like we hung out with Mick and Keith. We didn’t see them, they were in their own Rolling Stones bubble. They shipped in played their set and rolled out [cue Morris adopting a Bob Dylan drawl] ‘like a Rolling Stone.’”

The conversation turns to their recently released debut single, “Nothing Matters,” which seems like the perfect track to introduce the band’s oeuvre—it’s dark, dramatic, passionate, and poetic, complete with a huge chorus. It seemed like an obvious pick for a first release. Although Davies was initially unsure if it would work as a debut, she can now see that it was the right choice. Morris adds, “It’s not 100% indicative of every song we have in our set or the genre, because, well, there isn’t one really. It does showcase our maximalist approach.”

As does the accompanying video, depicting a lavish dinner party in an Art Deco mansion, gravesides, bathtubs, blood, and shredded bedding. It conjures up the spirit of the Romantic poets while hinting at the decaying dissolute opulence of pre-war Berlin. “Oh, I like your Berlin reference, we haven’t heard that one before,” says Davies. “The imagery and the way we present ourselves as a band are a natural extension of our interests and music. I studied English Lit at uni, which is how we first met, and as well as being a pretentious dickhead, I was always interested in the Romantic poets,” she laughs. “But yeah, mixing up historical fashion, making it contemporary, is really interesting and fun.”

They also had a significant say in the video’s production. “We worked on a 60-page mood board with ideas about how we’d like the video to look and presented it to our label at a meeting,” Morris explains. “They seemed a bit surprised, saying, ‘You do realize a lot of bands would just hand this kind of thing over to the label’s creative team?’ We were like, ‘What, really? We can’t do that!’ So when we do meet we give something that almost resembles a TED talk about the aesthetics.”

Whilst “Nothing Matters” provides a snapshot of The Last Dinner Party’s formidable abilities, they have plenty more where that came from. Their live set includes gems such as “Mirror,” “Caeser on the TV,” “On Your Side,” and “Feminine Urge,” all show-stoppers in their own right. However, the band can’t confirm if any of these songs will appear on any future debut album. “Things are happening, but we can’t say anything as yet,” Morris explains. “You’ll have to wait and see! But we can say there’s more new music coming this year. We have a busy time ahead with headline tours and festivals, and of course, we’d love to perform in the States. Maybe this year, maybe next year?”

Morris also laughs and adds, “I’d love to perform on Saturday Night Live and appear in a skit too.”

The band’s schedule is pretty much full-on, and when I ask how their “maximalist ethos” could translate to the stage, they laugh. “We’d keep the show basic,” Morris explains, with her tongue partly in her cheek. “We’d arrive on stage on horses and have a huge string section, projectors, maybe a film interlude halfway through. Oh and 17 costume changes, and perhaps a musical fountain that plays in time to the music like an aquatic ballet. But just for one song, I mean. We wouldn’t want to appear too ostentatious.”

As we wrap up our chat, I can’t resist asking the obvious question, who would be their dream dinner party guests? Davies quickly responds with, “Virginia Woolf. She’s my all-time favorite writer and her work has played a huge role in inspiring what I’m doing now.” And Morris? She laughs and replies, “Well, it’s gotta be Caligula…and his horse, of course.”

www.thelastdinnerparty.co.uk

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