Words: Heather Collier
“You are cordially invited” are the words ringing in my ears as I enter what appears to be another packed out venue. As my eyes adjust and the fog begins to lift, it’s as if The Craft (1996) is suddenly set in Stoke Newington.
There’s a whiff of Catholic guilt in the air as fans begin to file in; their heads adorned with wilting flower crowns as they embrace others draped in rosary beads, Antoinette-style corsets, and white Renaissance gowns – except the band themselves have swapped out their usual vampiric Joan-of-Arc-wench-core for what can only be described as a Texan intergalactic fantasy – with the white Gogo boots to match.
The British five-piece The Last Dinner Party were formed in London in 2021 after their friendship circles collided at university. Seemingly the lovechild of Bram Stoker and Angela Carter, Abigail Morris is their unflinching lead vocalist, accompanied by the brilliant Georgia Davies (bass), Lizzie Mayland (guitar), Aurora Nishevci (keys), and Emily Roberts (lead guitar).
The quintet performed their first gig post-covid in November 2021 at The George Tavern and have been on the UK gig circuit ever since, most recently with two sold-out headline shows at EartH in Hackney.
Snapped up by Island Records, the band went on to release their debut single ‘Nothing Matters’ in April of this year, followed by a second single ‘Sinner’ in June, and ‘My Lady of Mercy’ earlier this month, all of which were produced by James Ford, known for his work with The Last Shadow Puppets, Arctic Monkeys, Blur and Gorillaz.
Despite having a slender discography, The Last Dinner Party appear to have built a cult following overnight, amassing an eye-watering 800,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
With an impressive string of performances at Glastonbury, Latitude, Reading and Leeds, and support act positions for Florence and The Machine, First Aid Kit, and Lana Del Rey under their belt, it’s no surprise that they’re on course to be rock’s next big thing.
Their versatility, wit and raw talent alone are enough to shake off any industry plant and nepotism rumours; their theatricality and sound being compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Warpaint and ABBA, with the band citing David Bowie as their leading influence.
Refusing to be pinned down to one specific genre, the group have taken notes from the glam-rock and whimsy of the 70’s and 80’s, topping things off with an eclectic mix of traditional Albanian folk and slasher flick guitar from the early 2010s.
Playful, and willing to experiment with different songwriting methods, the group have developed their own secret mythology, a coded folklore of feminist magic realism with sex and religion at its core. Their lyrics are intimate and liberating in a way that feels like the manic, heart-shaped scribblings found on the back of a door in the girls’ bathroom.
Once inside our chosen cubicle, we become part of a séance – communicating with the ‘dead’ and untangling the memories and revenge plots from nights out of the past – all whilst trying not to spill our vodka soda. Who’s Chris? And why does Hannah think he’s an arsehole? Enraged, we reply with a drunken hieroglyphic, a concoction of lipstick and eyeliner that loosely resembles “FUCK CHRIS”, all in the hope that one day Hannah will walk into that pub again and know that we’ve got her back.
The Last Dinner Party provide us with that same female comradery, offering a platform for feminine rage and sexual liberation in a way that Wet Leg could only dream of. Their music scratches an itch for the girls who desperately want to feel empowered – but cast love spells on their ex when no one is looking.
‘Nothing Matters’ paints a grisly portrait of love within a consumerist culture, one of grease, bloodshed, and getaway cars, whilst ‘Sinner’ taps into the innocence of childhood, a time that wasn’t tainted by sex.
‘I wish I knew you, before it felt like a sin’ Morris sings before spinning and writhing around the stage in a dream-like haze. Growling the lyrics into the microphone, she unleashes a heated and abrasive performance.
‘My Lady of Mercy’ leans into the falsetto of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, with the piano succumbing to a frenzied, operatic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ overhaul as it unmasks the tie between one simple notion: to dominate and be dominated.
“This is sacred ground”, croons Morris as she circles her bandmates, revealing that the name of the band was conceived in The Shacklewell Arms, just a few streets away.
“It’s good to be home,” she says, glancing down at her blood red boots.
With their first U.S. tour and debut album around the corner, it’s clear that this is a group who aren’t stumbling around in the dark, they know exactly who they are.
Whatever you might be led to believe, The Last Dinner Party aren’t going anywhere.