By Benjamin Smith, Second Year History
“The buzziest indie band”, “the most hyped band in London right now”, and “London’s hip clique’s little secret”, are just some examples of the immense praise and hype heaped onto The Last Dinner Party as they released their debut single, Nothing Matters, just a couple of weeks ago. The band seem on one hand shocked, as singer Abigail says she was “shocked” by the reception to the single, and bassist Georgia claims their recent success was a “fluke”, yet also it becomes clear as we spoke that the band did not accidentally fall into this success.
“We’re trying really hard, we really care”, emphasises guitarist Lizzie, and this is at the core of the band’s success. The idea of “trying really hard” is something all the members agreed on and pervades all elements of the band’s work. Their live shows, which played a huge role in gaining them the buzz and hype prior to their first release, are part theatre, part gig; with the band often putting out ‘dress codes’ on their social media for the audience and above all prioritising fun while on stage.
While the band emerged from a London live music scene which has produced countless highly praised bands in the recent years, and which the band bonded over in their inception, they point out how many gigs they’ve been to “where bands are trying to be cool and mysterious” and this is exactly what they want to avoid. “We didn’t want to just be, you know, standing there delivering the music”, instead the band opt for a theatrical and ostentatious delivery that “the songs deserve.”
The band attribute much of their success to these live shows, as they explain why they took so long to release their first single. “We wanted the excitement and the interest to build up around having a really good live show”, “rather than putting something out and then kind of hoping people will find it.” This strategy more than paid off, as Georgia explains how this “old-school and romantic” way of building momentum meant that “people were dm-ing us every day like please, please, please release the music”. This also serves as a slight rebuttal to the idea that popped up in the habitually unpleasant corners of twitter in the wake of 'Nothing Matters' that unsurprisingly accused a new, hyped and successful all-female band of being ‘industry plants’ or ‘nepo-babies’ (seen this one before?). The band seem unconcerned by this, replying in a tweet, and their origins are far from glamorous. “We met at Freshers week”, and “bonded over going to gigs.” Abigail, Georgia and Lizzie all went to Kings, while the other members of the band went to Guildhall School of Music, which “added a huge dimension to the band”, and the band was conceived over the course of many gigs and some drunken nights.
All the members laughed as Lizzie brought up “the manifesto”. Abigail explained that “at the very beginning, Georgia and I got really drunk on a night out, um, and went and bought a notebook and sat down in a pub and like wrote our manifesto and were like very serious about it, and it's covered in like, wine stains and, and blood.” While they wouldn’t share the specific contents of this document, it is obvious that the band has a very clear direction both musically and aesthetically, and in particular the interplay between these two elements. “From the start, I’d say it was literally fifty-fifty, sound and visuals,” explains Abigail, as Georgia adds that they “wanted the music to honour the visuals as well as the visuals to honour the music.”
The influences they draw from in this regard are varied but some are immediately obvious. They mention a possible dream of working with Sofia Coppola one day and when I point out the similarities between her work and the 'Nothing Matters' video, I’m met with an assured “good” and “well spotted”, from Abigail and Georgia. Other inspirations are slightly more abstract, as Lizzie says she is just inspired by general storytelling and Abigail outlines her “pretentious love of the romantic poets and the ideas of the sublime”, stemming from her studying English literature, and Chloe Sevigny also merits a mention as a point of inspiration. What is also present however is a definite focus on internal influences. Abigail describes herself as a “very avid diary keeper”, and attributes much of her lyricism to this, and writing “stuff that’s very intimate, very personal, very honest.”
And unsurprisingly, given the extent of their live experience, all of the elements they mentioned as important were bursting forth in their live performance. Playing to a festival crowd at Strange Brew who, while generally positive, had not offered much more than a lukewarm reception to the previous bands playing. The Last Dinner Party cut through the ambivalent atmosphere immediately however as they take the stage, confident as the instrumental begins to 'Burn Alive', a menacing yet playful tune with a soaring chorus, a hallmark of their songs, which ignites the crowd. The performance lacks the self-effacing irony present in so many bands with similar trajectories - as they stressed to me: “we care”.
The setlist showed off the musical versatility of the band as well, as we saw appearances from flutes, mandolins and even a keytar. The mandolin played a central role in the most surprising element of the show - a folk song, sung in Albanian of course, about pianist Aurora’s home country. While this might seem out of place for a baroque rock band, it is woven in seamlessly, following the transcendent, building, highlight of 'Beautiful Boy' and preceding 'Sinner' - a song that begins with tender harmonised vocals from Lizzie, but then shifts into a bluesy melody, propelled by the keys and bass, and accentuated with a piercing guitar line and group vocals.
The all-important aesthetic that the band waxed lyrical about is also a constant within the performance, ingrained into every fibre of the set. The band look the part, with some members looking like they could be plucked out of 19th century paintings, resplendent in ornate dresses, with a colour palette of reds and whites. Abigail in particular dances around the stage, flamboyant and joyful, inviting the crowd into the band’s stylistic world. The lyrics further build on the band’s aesthetic, evoking images of portraits, candle wax melting, and burning romance. A far cry from those motionless, emotionless bands they decried earlier, The Last Dinner Party are having fun, and they want you to join them.
So believe the hype - that’s the message. Maybe their success has been spurred on by major label backing and a PR machine, but this is a band who care deeply about their music, their aesthetic, and putting on a show for their fans. And they deliver on all three of these fronts so maybe, just this once, this is a case where the music industry has done a good job and rewarded the right people, so let’s enjoy it while we can.
Featured image: Chuff Media
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