Take A Seat at The Last Dinner Party

Take A Seat at The Last Dinner Party

Feb 05, 2024

When I saw The Last Dinner Party play their first New York City show last November, I was admittedly shocked. It was the third time I’d been to the storied Bowery Ballroom that week, and I assumed I knew what to expect. It’d likely be another viewing of girls with guitars singing about heartbreak with a band that pulled the sadness in an indie pop slant, pouring their hearts out about some asshole that didn’t deserve their time, let alone a subdued tear on a guitar verse. I thought I would see the customary eyes-closed gentle affectation I’ve become used to as someone who frequents (and to be fair, really fucking enjoys) a femme-fronted indie rock show. What I witnessed, however, was something completely different.

Raw, visceral, wild and also delicate — my brain was delighted and a little confused to discover that The Last Dinner Party exists somewhere between Bowie, Kate Bush and a post jilted lovers Fleetwood Mac. The stage became a ceremony and the band, donning a mixture of clothes that could only be described as modern, angsty Marie Antoinette (the Sofia Coppola version) played their songs as if they were conducting a ritual you happened upon at midnight on a moonlit field. By the time I heard the refrain “And you can hold me like he held her/ And I will fuck you as nothing matters” insisted confidently over their slow-building, echoing, cathartic track “Nothing Matters,” I was ready to sign the dotted line for whatever cult these well-dressed beings were hosting. There was something so sweet and also sinful in the energy emanating from the stage that night in Manhattan, and the band's debut album, Prelude To Ecstasy, offers more of the same.

The London-based five-piece, comprised of Abigail Morris, Lizzie Mayland, Emily Roberts, Georgia Davies and Aurora Nishevci has had their sound defined as “baroque pop.” But, I had to wonder... was the sound I heard from the stage that night an attempt to hit an over-the-top, theatrical genre on the head, or was The Last Dinner Party's sound just what happens when you take bold, brave creatives raised on Tumblr and give them all the music they can get their hands on? Speaking to Abigail Morris (lead vocalist) and Emily Roberts (lead guitarist) from their homes in London, I decided to find out for PAPER.

At your show at Bowery Ballroom, I was expecting to see a typical post-punk, indie rock band, and what I experienced was really delightful and unexpected. Without sharing my own assumptions, I'm curious, where do you feel like your sound has come from?

Emily: It's different for all of us really, like individually. I think instrumentally I like Queen and David Bowie. And St. Vincent, guitar-wise. It's unconventional in a good way. We're pushing boundaries with guitar music.

Abigail: Our entire sound and visual world is a really good example of a product of a band being raised on the internet. We're really a shining example of the results of what happens when you absorb all your tastes — maybe not all — but a huge portion of your personal artistic tastes through the internet. I was on Tumblr, and people bring up things our aesthetic and talk about how it's obviously inspired by Rococo fashion, or the New Romantic or Jane Austen, when really it's not like I picked up a book on the French Resistance and read it. I was on Tumblr and I saw Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. It's a copy of a copy and magpieing different movements. We're a product of internet influence, but also our parents played us Queen and Bowie and all of that. It sounds modern because it's a result of being churned out of the machine of being chronically online and regurgitating what you saw in your formative teenage years.

The energy of your live performance feels like a ceremony, a ritual — of course, a party. Is that intentional? Do you have assumptions about why it feels that way?

Abigail: We thought about the world we wanted to create. We wanted to create a sense of community and freedom. Those kinds of feelings led to this primal, ritualistic live experience. It's because we're on stage setting that example. For all of us, when we're on stage, it's really cathartic, very passionate and very unabashed and not held-back in what we're doing and how we're moving and being a bit frenzied. It's good that the crowd feel the same way.

You've talked about wanting to be the band you wanted to see and hear when you were 15, 16 years old then making that band a reality. What were some of the gaps you wanted to fill?

Abigail: We've been lucky to have swelled up from a well of other female-fronted acts. When we grew up their were incredible female artists to look up to, and I don't want to say we're doing anything new. I just think we wanted to change the novelty of a powerful woman — that being something you have to comment on. The caveating, praising the idea or someone saying "Oh, a whole female band, how interesting." We'd rather be part of the movement that hopefully leads towards a world where we're just a band and we just look like a band and it's not a shocking thing to see women and non-binary people at the front of rock and roll.

Your songs don't shy aware from going to darker corners of the inner world of women. What do you think gives you the courage to dig up those emotions and amplify them so confidently?

Abigail: I think it's less bravery than just shamelessness [laughs]. Personally, from a lyric perspective, they always say write what you know. What I know is the feminine struggle with one's mother and you know, experiencing unrequited love. So that's what I write about. Since we're five-piece, the bolstering effect of four other people around you to support what you say makes you feel safe enough to say it in front of the whole world. It's kind of weird, because it doesn't feel that scary sharing something so intimate with the world.

I know much of the album was performed live before you created the final tracks. Why was it important for you to have the live experience of the songs before the final recordings?

Emily: It's good to have the same energy that we bring live. We wouldn't want to change it too much, because that's what people resonated with. I think [producer] James Ford didn't want to put his stamp on it too much. It was like he was letting it be what it is, refining it and letting it be its best self. We're proud of what the live situation became and wanted that to be represented in the album.

What's something people get wrong about you or an assumption they make about five females in a band?

Abigail: Our periods aren't synced up. We have different cycles, okay!

Perfect response. So, you've already opened for the likes of Florence And The Machine, played around the globe. What's next on your manifestation list?

Emily: Our glam rock era.

Abigail: More. We're gonna double down on the platforms. I don't know. Get a life achievement award at the Grammys in the next year, retire at 28 and start a family [laughs]. I'm getting broody, I think that's where I'm at right now.

Emily: We need our moms to form a band as well, 'cause they're all in a group chat together.

Now we're getting into the good stuff. What's going down in the mom group chat?

Emily: We're not allowed in. They've got free reign.

Abigail: It's a closed chat... maybe like memes?'

When everyone has the opportunity to listen to Prelude To Ecstasy live, what world do you hope they experience? What do you hope you've created?

Abigail: None of my business what people take away from this record because, you know, I don't write to make people feel a certain way on purpose. Obviously, we're not so cynical that we're like, "I don't give a fuck about my fans, and it's just my music." You have to make music from a place of utter sincerity and not try and anticipate how people are going to feel. So maybe the takeaway is just be sincere and follow your gut because that's just what we're doing. The collateral is that we have an amazing fan base and a really wonderful audience. It's nice to watch that happen.

Photography: Maggie Friedman