It’s the eve of the long-awaited release of the Last Dinner Party’s debut album, but lead singer Abigail Morris is thinking about the Brixton-born band’s first single, “Nothing Matters.”
Released in April of last year, the anthemic tune — complete with Kate Bush-esque vocals, an earworm hook and a killer guitar solo — is on Morris’ mind because of the group’s recent performances on the late-night show circuit. In the aforementioned chorus, Morris sings “And I will fuck you / Like nothing matters,” and thus was faced with the challenge of devising a non-explicit version fit for television.
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“It’s ‘I will have you,’ which is like, bullshit,” Morris tells Variety from her London flat. “There’s no good word to fit in there. I was like, ‘Why can’t we find a word?’ And it’s because there’s something so powerful about a woman saying ‘I will fuck you,’ about being active rather than passive in sex. I didn’t really think about how confident and secure that sounds as a sexual person, so it’s really interesting to think about that line in retrospect. It’s important to hear women in that position.”
Like many of the songs on the Last Dinner Party’s debut, “Prelude to Ecstasy,” out today (Feb. 2), “Nothing Matters” started out as a simple piano demo Morris had written. But after bringing it to the rest of the band — consisting of Lizzie Mayland on guitar, Emily Roberts on lead guitar and flute, Georgia Davies on bass and Aurora Nishevci on keys — the song transformed into an indie-rock banger which has grown to dominate alternative radio airwaves at home and in the U.S., in addition to over 26 million streams on Spotify.
“I had no intention of it being like how it ended up, which is just a testament to this band,” Morris says. “I wouldn’t have thought to take it to that place.”
The Last Dinner Party met at university — Morris, Davies and Mayland at King’s College while Roberts and Nishevci attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama — and came together through London’s vibrant music scene. Their individual backgrounds melded together in a “magical, alchemic way,” as Morris puts it: she and Mayland had grown up in choir, Roberts is a trained jazz guitarist, Nishevci a composer and Davies a garage-rock band vet. But, right as they started rehearsing as a group, COVID-19 struck. Though frustrating, Mayland calls it “a good gestation period” to really come into their own as a group before going public.
Once the Last Dinner Party started playing gigs in late 2021, the band’s star rose quickly. “We did the independent venue circuit in London, and kept stepping up the capacity and people kept coming,” Mayland says. “It went from about six people, just our mates, to a full room.”
The band caught the eye of powerhouse management firm Q Prime, who also look after Metallica and Muse, and scored a slot opening for the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park in July 2022 — all before releasing any music. Once the band announced its signing to Island Records and dropped “Nothing Matters” in April 2023, certain corners of the internet felt the Last Dinner Party had come out of nowhere and labeled them an “industry plant.” The oft-used term signifies an artist who presents as independent or self-made, but in reality has connections in high places. Morris hasn’t let the backlash bother her.
“We all had friends who were in bands in that scene in London — I feel like that’s the only connections we had,” Morris says. “Like, ‘Oh, my mate’s in a band, so he can suggest us to play at this pub or we could open for this guy’s band that we know.’ And I think it’s so funny — it is kind of old-fashioned, which is why I think people were like, ‘Something must be going on!’ No, that’s literally how the music industry works.”
She continues, “I watched the Oasis documentary [‘Supersonic’] last night, and I was like, ‘Oh my god,’ because it’s a year after their first gig and they’re releasing their debut album. They weren’t industry plants, and neither are we.”
Does the criticism have something to do with the fact that the Last Dinner Party is a band made up of women and non-binary people? Morris thinks so.
“A lot of people are acting like we’re the first people to do this, which is so not true because there are so many other female and non-binary-led bands in London, and before us. It’s just people don’t know about it in the mainstream,” she says. “I think that’s where this comes from, people not realizing that there’s more where we came from.”
Perhaps the haters simply need to see the Last Dinner Party live to believe the hype. On stage, the band is like a Renaissance painting come to life as Morris flits about in a corseted dress while delivering a powerhouse vocal performance and Roberts shreds on the guitar in sky-high heels. The music on “Prelude to Ecstasy” matches this baroque vision, complete with string instruments and swinging choruses. Produced by Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine collaborator James Ford, all 12 tracks were recorded live as opposed to each band member laying down tracks, which Mayland says was essential to capturing the group’s musical essence.
“He didn’t want us to sound like robots,” they say. “He was like, ‘I want to keep the humanity and keep the energy.’ That’s what makes recorded music feel alive, especially our kind of rock music with live strings and stuff. The humanity of us not being computerized brings so much love to it.”
Industry plant claims aside, the Last Dinner Party is certainly a sign of the times that a new era of indie-rock is upon us — one that Morris hopes is far more equitable than its last heyday in the early 2000s.
“It’s just nice to feel like we’re part of a larger movement toward bands again and to women and non-binary people being the norm at the front,” she says. “It’s a shame that people point out often that a novel, interesting thing about us is that there’s no men. It would be nice if we could be part of a move that changes what a band looks like in the cultural imagination, where people think of a band and they don’t just think ‘four guys with guitars,’ they think a band that looks like us.”
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