Abigail Morris on forming the band, releasing their sophomore single ‘Sinner’, and having to move their Glasgow gig due to demand
When you ask your friend attending music school who the best guitarist they know is and they say Emily Roberts, you’d better be ready to ask her to join your band. At least, that’s the moral that could be taken from Abigail Morris’ story of the formation of The Last Dinner Party. A band also comprised of Aurora Nischevi (keys/vocals), Lizzie Mayland (vocals/guitar) and Georgia Davies (bass) that, with just two singles out – one less than a month old – has already supported Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, and played to thousands at Glastonbury Festival.
When Morris talks about the genesis of the band, she tends to split the timeline into three parts. There’s before COVID when she was dragging her piano around London, playing original pieces and getting to know Davies and Mayland, culminating in their first iteration. Then, there’s COVID itself, a period when enforced lockdowns meant rehearsals on loop. And finally, there’s the last couple of years, the first of these spent bursting onto London’s live music scene. The second, getting signed to Island records and recording their first album with legendary producer James Ford.
‘Oh, my God. He’s a joy,’ she says about working with him on their sophomore single ‘Sinner’. ‘He’s the kindest man in music, the most generous with his time and talents.’ Ford’s production credits include Arctic Monkeys, Blur and Depeche Mode, so the band were understandably intimidated, ‘but he really just set us at ease and made us feel confident; made us feel capable, which I think is a real gift that a producer can give to a young band. He’s not there to put his stamp on it and make it a James Ford record. He was there to help us be the best version of ourselves.
‘Sinner’ started with a sample, a backbeat that Lizzy [who wrote the song] found and put together,’ says Morris. Mayland has called the song ‘a story of self-acceptance, and the longing for the past and present self to become one.’ It will sit alongside their first single ‘Nothing Matters’ and more on their debut LP, the name and release date of which ‘I don’t think I can tell you,’ says Morris sheepishly. ‘It’s next year, it’s next year.’
She says that the band is ‘like a symbiotic creativity machine,’ when asked about the songwriting process, ‘‘Nothing matters’, as an example, was quite a slow, soft ballad. And then, when everyone else got their hands on it, it turned into this kind of big, bombastic, beautiful thing, which is so exciting.’
Fittingly for a band whose live shows have a folkloric, stuff-of-legend quality owing to their decadent, maximalist outfits and David Bowie-esque farewell monologues, the months since their first gig in November 2021 have not been without surreal moments. They’ve been snubbed by Mick Jagger – ‘I’m glad you brought that up, actually. Make sure you get that in there, I’m never letting it go’ – had to change their name from The Dinner Party due to a streaming mix-up – Kamasi Washington has this supergroup called Dinner Party. When they got announced for Coachella, we got loads of messages. And then our tour dates ended up on their Spotify’ – and now, dates for their own tour are selling out in under two hours.
For the uninitiated, ‘The Last Dinner Party’ is actually a pretty good description of what a live show feels like. ‘[The conceit is that] every show [is] the last show we’ll ever do,’ says Morris. ‘Most of the songs were written before we came up with the name but thematically, they’re about different aspects on this scale of human emotion from grief to ecstasy to rage. I feel like those are the things that you should experience at a good dinner party, if the conversation is right enough.’
Their stop at the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, on 9th October, has even had to be upscaled to SWG3 due to demand. ‘[King Tut’s] is a venue that I’ve been to and that I love so much so it’s weird to not be doing it, but it’s a real honour to have so many people wanting to come to a city that I really cherish and have visited so often. It’s very, very special it’s the one that’s being upgraded.’
The band has been on the road since July, supported by friends Picture Parlour, and will continue through November and December when they support Hozier on his international European tour. Their ascent has been, from the outside, a sudden one. So much so that they have had to dispel accusations of being industry plants (although as The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins put it, ‘If this is what it means to be an industry plant, I think the industry should keep on planting stuff’), but it’s clear from talking to Morris that this is a project born out of creative ambition that shows no signs of slowing down.
‘We’re experimenting with different ways of writing,’ she says, looking to the future. ‘Because I feel like if you’re doing the same method, you will eventually just end up with the same music and it gets boring for yourself. So it’s really nice to be challenged… We’re on the path to hopefully becoming self-sufficient, in terms of producing our own work.’
Catch The Last Dinner Party in Glasgow, at SWG3 on October 9th and supporting Hozier at the OVO Hydro on December 11th. All dates at thelastdinnerparty.co.uk. Sinner is out now.