Although British rock band The Last Dinner Party scored a top 10 alternative hit with their debut single, for the five women that comprise the group, they’d been preparing for this moment for years. Just before beginning university in 2020, lead singer Abigail Morris, bassist Georgia Davies and vocalist/guitarist Lizzie Mayland crossed paths and became fast friends, bonding over musical interests. (Morris and Davies attended King’s College London; Mayland at Goldsmiths.) “We would go to gigs all the time, researching and thinking about starting a band,” Morris explains. “We were very intellectual about it for a long time.”
They soon recruited lead guitarist Emily Roberts and vocalist/keyboardist Aurora Nischevi, both of whom were involved in the local music circuit. The five began writing music together at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, though their first release wouldn’t come for nearly three years — but the wait paid off. “Nothing Matters,” the cinematic alt-rock debut single that arrived in April has become a force at radio, reaching a new high of No. 8 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Airplay chart dated Sept. 23.
While fleshing out its sound, the group built a fan base by testing its material in pubs and small venues around London. “In the age of TikTok, people thought unless you have a song go viral, there’s no way of generating a following,” Morris says. “Ours just felt like a more natural thing. We had much more of a jumping off point from playing shows to seven people who don’t give a f–k to [then] playing much larger shows.”
As the band’s stature in the local scene grew, it wasn’t long before it gained traction in the industry, too: after Q Prime’s Tara Richardson heard about The Last Dinner Party through an audio engineer that worked with the act in the studio, she received four “very impressive” demos, she says. Subsequently, she saw the band perform live in early 2022, and almost immediately, she signed the act to the management firm. By May, the group had scored a record deal with Island. “It’s just so refreshing to see young, strong women,” Richardson says. “They’re not arrogant; they’re not out to prove themselves. They’re just doing what they do, and if you don’t like it, they’re completely fine with it.”
By the start of 2023, with a team in place, the group prepared to officially launch its recording career with “Nothing Matters.” “We built a reputation around the London live circuit and had a bit of buzz around our first release,” says Davies. “This wasn’t a dress rehearsal.” Adds Morris: “You only get one debut.”
With a swelling bridge and a cheeky hook, “Nothing Matters” originally began as a “slow, sad ballad” that Morris wrote about a then-current romantic relationship. “I very rarely write love songs — I only write about heartbreak,” she says with a laugh. “It’s just easier and more dramatic. [But] I was with my boyfriend at the time and I was very happy.” Davies remembers the bandmates then “throwing everything at” the simple piano ballad in the studio, playing around with guitar solos, horn sections and vocal tones. “It was really a song that became itself once it was in the hands of the band,” Davies says. “It was one completely different thing when it first started and it needed to be played live and have everyone’s input.”
The song officially arrived on April 19, and was paired with a Pride & Prejudice-coded music video that delivered dark academia with an edgy girl-band twist. “It captures the spirit of what we’re doing now,” Morris says. “ ‘Nothing Matters’ has that maximalist, tortuous freedom that we have and want for the rest of the record.” By the summer, “Nothing Matters” had become a radio hit: in early July, it debuted on Adult Alternative Airplay; the following month, it did so on Rock & Alternative Airplay.
Since the breakthrough hit arrived, The Last Dinner Party has grown its touring platform well beyond the pubs from their early days, supporting Florence + the Machine and Hozier on separate runs and performing at major festivals including Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds. The band will soon embark on a 10-stop U.K. headlining tour, followed by five dates in the U.S. It’ll have two other singles in tow for the trek: The bouncy pop-rock “Sinner” dropped in late June, and its next release, which the band calls a “left turn,” is due to arrive by the end of September.
With a debut album expected sometime in 2024, The Last Dinner Party’s members seem completely in sync: Morris and Davies finishing each other’s sentences multiple times during our interview, including when discussing what keeps the band’s emotional bond so strong. “I think what’s missing in a lot of artists [is] a commitment to themselves because they want to seem cool or ironic,” says Davies. “I want people to see our sincerity and be themselves too.”
“We advise them, but at the end of the day, they know what they’re doing,” says Richardson. “They have mood boards — everything has already been discussed. Excuse the French, but they’re not f–king around.”
A version of this story will appear in the Sept. 23, 2023 issue of Billboard.