Four Hours with The Last Dinner Party, Britain's New It Band

For Hours with the Breakout Band of 2024Jamie MacMillan

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London five-piece The Last Dinner Party has been on a rapid ascent the past six months, opening for heavyweight acts like Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, and the Rolling Stones. Now, they’re headlining their own tour as well as dotting the summer festival circuit—ushering in a fresh era of rock, one that’s queer, innovative, and a bloody good time. In March, Esquire road along for a night in New York City, shadowing the group's concert at the East Village’s Webster Hall.

4:00 p.m.—Soundcheck

A sea of heads whip towards the stage at New York City’s famed Webster Hall concert venue. It’s a chilly Tuesday in March, and singer Abigail Morris has just whispered the opening lines of “Beautiful Boy,” a stunning ballad from her band’s debut album, Prelude to Ecstacy, out now. Even in her quietest, most effortless tone, Morris’s voice is distinct and piercing—much like the musicians she shares the stage with in her band, The Last Dinner Party.

Over the past few months, The Last Dinner party has been, well, everywhere. Prelude to Ecstacy hit number one on the UK music chart the week of its release, just a couple of months after their single “Nothing Matters,” landed a spot on Billboard’s Best Songs of 2023 list. Perhaps you heard them when they opened for Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, the Rolling Stones, or Hozier. Or maybe you saw them win the Rising Star category at the 2024 Brit Awards. These days, The Last Dinner Party is headlining shows and knocking out one historic venue after the next. Where we’re standing right this second in New York City has hosted legends like Tina Turner, Sting, Aerosmith, U2, and Guns N’ Roses at pivotal moments in their rise. If this group of twenty-somethings has it their way, they’ll join the ranks of those who came before them—but first, they have important business to attend to: Soundcheck.

When Morris (right) sings, everyone listens. And when the rest of the band joins in, well, it’s full-on rapture.Emiliio Herce

The audience (a group of radio show winners who scored tickets to the pre-show run-through as well as that evening’s performance) is silent as she rehearses—listening eagerly while Morris sings a note, then tries again, occasionally pausing to discuss cues with their sound manager. When Morris sings, everyone listens. And when the rest of the band joins in, well, it’s full-on rapture. “They’re like really good,” says a surprised older man.

After soundcheck, I head to the green room. Morris greets me with a confident smile and a firm handshake. The small but mighty guitarist, Emily Roberts, gazes down at my notebook and then back at me. Aurora Nischevi, their keyboardist, curves her mouth into a grin; she looks like she wants to crack a joke but holds off. Lizzie Mayland saunters by, looking for their guitar, and utters a polite hello. Then Georgia Davies, the group’s bassist, offers an affirming nod, her long blonde hair bouncing in agreement. Despite the pre-show commotion, the group is relaxed and chatty while they unwind before the concert.


2:00 p.m.—Lunch, The Next Day

The next day, when we meet for lunch at Nami Nori, a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Williamsburg, Morris reflects on their pre-concert showcase. “That’s the second time we’ve done that,” she says between bites of sushi. Today, the band is dressed down, abandoning their glamorous yet punk costumes for a collection of jeans and lived-in T-shirts. “I’m not sure if people enjoy it,” Mayland quips, seemingly mistaking the audience’s awe-struck silence for boredom. “I feel like we should do a Q&A,” Morris offers. Her bandmates agree.

The Last Dinner Party knows the importance of a first impression. This year, their hit single “Nothing Matters” put them on the map, but now, the trick is getting people to stick around. So far, what they’re doing is working—their North American tour sold out within a month—but Morris yearns for the rush of their even earlier days—moments like their soundcheck, where they could impress unlikely listeners. “I wouldn’t go back from where we are now,” she says. “But the only thing I miss is the anxiety of showing up to a gig, and there’s five people who don’t know who you are. They don’t give a fuck, and you’ve got to prove yourself. You’ve got to fight.”

Before they were converting skeptics and dancing barefoot on stage, The Last Dinner Party was a gaggle of students who stumbled into each other’s lives when they met at university in London; Morris, Mayland, and Davies attended King’s College, while Roberts and Nischevi were enrolled in Guildhall School of Music and Drama. “I think it was fate intervening and smushing us into the same corner of sweaty student pubs,” Davies tells me. “We were mates for years before thinking we should be in a band together.”

Morris, Davies, and Mayland met before the first year of school began and bonded over their love of music. Later, they met Roberts and Nishevci through mutual friends and, in time, decided to work together. “It’s not that romantic of an origin story,” Davies jokes. “Just a classic uni-band.” Morris and Davies both studied English Literature at King’s College; before The Last Dinner Party got their record deal, Davies was pursuing a PhD in the subject, having already earned her master's. “I would love to keep studying,” she says. “I’m a big literature nerd. I will do it one day, but I’m doing this now.”


8:15 p.m.—Lining Up at Webster Hall

The show starts at 9:00 pm, and by 8:15, a line has wrapped around the city corner. There’s the usual suspects for the lower Manhattan neighborhood—twenty-somethings in baggy jeans and vintage tops, but also real adults, as in people with bills and a 401K. Parents too. I spot a few looking just as excited as the children they are chaperoning.

The crowd shakes with anticipation, or perhaps from the breeze. It’s late March, and the wind is nipping at us all. Finally, the doors open, showing Webster Hall's crimson red walls, a giant disco ball, and the second-floor wraparound balcony. As people flow in, they grab drinks, find their spots, and make themselves at home. Oh, one more thing about this crowd—there’s only one unspoken rule at The Last Dinner Party’s shows: Come in costume. I’m shocked by how many are playing along.

Though this is their first headlining tour, the band has made it a tradition to wear grandiose garb on stage. And, in turn, the audience dresses up as well. “I think I saw someone in a wedding get up,” says Mayland. “It’s this return to playfulness and childlike imagination,” Davies explains. “Not everything has to be so austere. Having a more playful approach to art and music is really important to us.”

a man and a woman on a stage with musical instruments
“I wouldn’t go back from where we are now,” Morris (center) says.Emiliio Herce

8:30 - 8:35 p.m.—The Costume Fitting

While the crowd settles in, I head backstage. Before showtime, The Last Dinner Party huddles together for their final fitting. Roberts emerges from the dressing room wearing a fluffy white dress and ornate wings, but she’s not convinced it’s appropriate. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to get my guitar on and off,” she says. Davies rounds the corner in an olive-green strapless dress, followed by Nishevci clad in a transparent black skirt and frilly white top. Later, Morris arrives in a pinstriped suit, and then Mayland saunters in, donning a similar ensemble.

Their outfits are styled by Tanner Fletcher, a New York-based designer whose work has a romantic, 17th-century flair. She’s here with them tonight, and as she checks their clothing, Morris and Davies show off a set of matching martini tattoos. The ink is still fresh from the night before. After getting Fletcher’s seal of approval, the band goes back into their dressing room—a few final moments of privacy, just the five of them, before giving themselves over to their fans.

9:00 p.m.—Show Time

The Last Dinner Party’s show is, in effect, like the best mass of your life. Witnessing the band weave through their brief but mighty catalog is a high-energy, cathartic, and damn near holy experience. About half an hour in, Morris takes a beat to announce the “weeping hour” before playing their dizzying rock anthem, “On Your Side.”

“Get it out now,” she says. “Because later it’s just dancing and sex. If you’re caught crying during those bits, you’ll be thrown out.” She’s joking, of course, but it’s that juxtaposition that makes Prelude to Ecstasy so irresistible.

The record begins with an orchestral prelude conducted by Nishevci. The track was nearly scrapped from the album per their record label’s recommendation—but the band fought to keep it on. From there, the set heads into their pulsating banger, “Burn Me Alive,” then the fantasy-driven “Caesar on a TV Screen,” and battle cry, “The Feminine Urge.” On its surface, the album plays like an experimental, baroque-inspired adventure, but beneath its bravado, you’ll find poetic references to religion, sexuality, and womanhood. Cheeky lyrics like “I wish I knew you when touch was innocent / I wish I knew you before it felt like a sin” and the now-viral line, “You can hold me like he held her, and I will fuck you like nothing matters,” are easy to miss when you’re caught up in the grandiosity of the music.

a group of people on a stage
“Get it out now,” Morris (center right) says mid-show. “Because later it’s just dancing and sex. If you’re caught crying during those bits, you’ll be thrown out.”Emiliio Herce

Like the album, the concert climaxes with “My Lady of Mercy,” which depicts a Sunday school romance. At lunch, Morris reveals that the track was inspired by her time at a Catholic boarding school. “The sex-ed consisted of a man and a woman getting married and having babies, and I remembered one day someone asked, ‘What about lesbians?’”

Speaking about her schooling in London, she says, “When I was growing up there and discovering my sexuality while being surrounded by biblical imagery, I realized that stuff is so conflated.” I was really drawn to those martyr figures like Joan of Arc and Teresa of Avellone. That’s what “My Lady of Mercy” is about. “It uses Catholic imagery to embrace her position [as a woman] and sexuality, rather than rejecting it.”

None of the band members are religious, but their concerts are a place of worship—where fans can bask in the glory of self-expression. “The way they look at us with such adoration in their eyes, you can tell they feel connected to us by seeing five genderqueer people on stage doing their thing,” says Morris.


2:30 p.m—Lunch, The Next Day

The next day, I ask if nights out and spontaneous tattoos are part of their typical touring diet. “It really depends,” says Morris. “It’s a massive energy exchange with the audience, and it’s draining in a wonderful way.” Sometimes, they enjoy going out, but most nights, they prefer to rest. “We’re not very rock and roll. We did sign some tits last night for the first time, though,” Morris adds. “They were so sweet, but I hope they don’t get those tattooed,” adds Davies.

a group of people on a stage
“It’s a massive energy exchange with the audience, and it’s draining in a wonderful way.” Emiliio Herce

So, what’s next for a band whose fans are already asking for signatures on body parts? How do you continue as if everything’s normal when your debut album tops the UK album charts, outselling records from Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Noah Kahan in your home country? They’ve found the best approach is to keep trudging ahead. The Last Dinner Party is focusing on their live show, which will make stops across America and Europe before ending on October 19th in London. Then, they’ll rest, and when the moment is right, they’ll return to the studio.

Recently, Roberts watched a YouTube review that suggested the band had room to improve. “A lot of times, they don’t say that in reviews, but it was quite nice to hear,” she says. “I always like the idea of having somewhere to go and improve. That’s always been a driving force.” The group hasn’t written much since going on tour, but they’ve already begun thinking through their next record.

Many journalists have asked about the dreaded sophomore slump (myself included), but The Last Dinner Party says they aren’t concerned with streaming numbers or the approval of industry bigwigs. Their focus is elsewhere. “The world has opened up,” says Nishevci. “So many doors and opportunities have opened to us that just weren’t possible before. I’m more excited by the possibilities than worried about following something up.”

“We’re so much more empowered now than we were when we were signed and got a management company,” Mayland adds. “We’re in such a better position where we understand how the industry works; we understand how touring works,” they continue. “It’s an exciting prospect as well to feel like we’re more in control of our business.”

It’s not easy work, the whole rockstar thing, but for The Last Dinner Party, each long night and learning curve is worth the struggle. “It is taxing, certainly,” says Morris. “But it’s also the most incredible honor and a privilege that we get to do this for a living. And it’s so fun. It’s so much fucking fun.”

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