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9th October 2023

The Last Dinner Party: “It’s the album we wanted to hear as teenagers”

With two new singles under their belt, The Mancunion sat down with The Last Dinner Party to discuss their recent surge in popularity
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The Last Dinner Party: “It’s the album we wanted to hear as teenagers”
Raph_PH @ Wikimedia Commons

Generating buzz is no easy feat. Yet The Last Dinner Party have sparked an impressive volume of press and discourse with just two singles, ‘Sinner’ and ‘Nothing Matters’. Only forming in 2021, the band’s meteoric rise has been electrified by critical attention; they’ve already garnered a profile piece by Rolling Stone and wrangled a support slot for The Rolling Stones. Having taken London’s gig scene by storm, the band are inviting the rest of the music world to its elaborate, immoderate dinner party. Sonically and stylistically the band have crafted a distinct identity: think Rococo aesthetics set to hyper-hedonistic rock-pop. With the band’s debut album in the works, I sat down with lead guitarist Emily Roberts to discuss their summer of success, and their irresistibly eccentric live performances.

“We want [our performances] to be decadent and like a debaucherous dinner party,” Roberts told me, “like we’re creating a world.” Their live sets draw together elements of classic rock (plenty of guitar solos and head-banging) with a more theatrical approach; the band’s clothing becoming their costumes as they dramatise each song. With cherub iconography and outfits that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sofia Coppola film, the band’s stage presence seems as cooly assured as their songwriting. Their visual appeal has drawn comparisons to Kate Bush, harnessing a deliberate ‘Wuthering Heights’ type of mystique. Roberts assured me that they all have their own individual styles, but as some of the band’s members met before university, it’s perhaps no wonder that their tastes have coalesced in such a dynamic, seamless way.

Musically, Roberts highlighted that they all have different skills and backgrounds. Prior to The Last Dinner Party, she’d been in five bands – including a Queen tribute band – and done a stint on the West End, playing guitar. Aurora Nischevci (on keys and vocals) has classical music training and arranged the orchestral parts of the set, which Roberts said will form the intro track on the album. Abigal Morris’ vocals and command of the audience help to harness the frenetic, emphatic energy of their songs. The band’s talents form a creative mosaic, lending depth to their songwriting and resonating with their fanbase.

I asked Roberts how different it is trying to construct an album as opposed to a setlist. She responded that the hope is that listeners will see it “as a whole piece of art” and listen to it in one. In the streaming age, putting out an album is no longer the ‘meat-on-the-bones’ of the music industry. Most fans will have encountered the band through uploads of festival sets or live on stage. In releasing their debut album, The Last Dinner Party will hope to bond together their work as one recognisable and coherent body.

“It’s the album that we wanted to hear as teenagers. It’s euphoric, happy and sad at the same time,” Roberts remarked. The band’s current singles lean into the timelessness of hard emotions. ‘Nothing Matters’ repeats the refrain “I will f*ck you, like nothing matters” over glittering rock instrumentals, whilst ‘Sinner’ plays on themes of religion and rebellion in a tribute to “the altar of lust”. These singles entered a music landscape already reshaped by pop-rock, female-authored albums such as Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour. Teenagehood is a perennial concern for 20-something artists, a nostalgia Roberts identifies as at the heart of The Last Dinner Party.

She went on to describe the band as “nostalgic”, both in their music and their approach to gigging. The band’s popularity grew over a year of gigging in London before they signed to Island Records last year. “We wanted to do things by word of mouth,” Roberts remarked, “like ‘Have you heard of this band? They haven’t got an album out yet, you have to go to a gig if you want to hear it’.” 

In doing so, The Last Dinner Party evoke the cultural landscape of the last century, before reliance on streams and TikTok. It is inescapable that the band has now moved away from their homegrown, grassroots efforts, having signed with a major label. In doing so, they have received some criticism in corners of the press, suggesting that they are perhaps ‘industry plants’ or ‘phonies’. Similar accusations were levelled at Wet Leg, another female band in a male-dominated industry. Defenders of the band point to the hard work gigging around London that it has taken to get to this point, as well as the harsher pressure on female artists to ‘prove’ themselves.

Roberts told me that most of the new album has already been played for crowds across the country. Their music is indebted to the shimmering icons of the 70s and 80s, like David Bowie (“he never fails to be creative,” Roberts was keen to say) and Queen, for their melodic guitar solos. Lizzie Mayland, on vocals and guitar, listened to a lot of ABBA growing up, whose influence can be found in the instrumentals of songs such as ‘Nothing Matters’. The band have already supported a number of modern icons, such as The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park and Florence and the Machine. Of Florence, Roberts had only the highest of praise, highlighting how friendly and chatty she had been in giving the band advice. 

Having played Glastonbury this year, it’s hard not to bring up the lack of women and non-binary representation in festival line-ups. Roberts told me “It shouldn’t be this rarity […] it would be nice for it not to be the first thing that people notice [but we’re] happy that we’re part of that push to have more female bands in line-ups.” Part of The Last Dinner Party’s appeal is undoubtedly the pushback against staid male rock which they support, championing a defiantly female flavour of pop-rock. 

Having made a splash on major stages such as Glastonbury and Hyde Park, it seems likely that their debut album will only propel them to more extravagant heights. 

Words by Izzy Langhamer


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