The Last Dinner Party’s Georgia Davies: “Thank You To The Naysayers”
As far as first impressions go, it’s hard to do better than The Last Dinner Party. Last April, the British quintet debuted with the seismic ‘Nothing Matters’, a masterful cut of baroque pop that gave ample steam to a runaway hype train. Since then, they’ve been drip-feeding singles and piling up accolades en route to launching their first album, Prelude to Ecstasy.
“I’ve wanted to leak it for so long,” jokes the band’s Australian-born bassist Georgia Davies. Speaking to Junkee from her North London flat, Georgia describes the release of the album as the end of a first chapter: “We started as a band, we got signed to a label, we made the album, we’ve been working away trying to get everything together to get to release day and it feels like after that, a second chapter will begin.”
Preparing The Feast
Prelude to Ecstasy is as assured a debut album as you’ll find — it’s cohesive, paced well and is sequenced to carry its momentum over 12 tracks. After an operatic introduction, the record starts in high gear with ‘Burn Alive’, a rousing gothic stomper, before settling into its slow burners and winding back up for the euphoria of the crowd favourite ‘Nothing Matters’.
The project wears its broad range of influences proudly, with shades of their art pop idols Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine mixed with tinges of theatrical rockers like Sparks and David Bowie. As bassist, Georgia is key to holding together what could’ve otherwise been a divergent sonic brief, something she credits to both her background in piano and listening to Joy Division and New Order’s Peter Hook.
“I brought that kind of sensibility from my love of Peter Hook as a bassist to the more theatrical Kate Bush-y vibe that other people were bringing to the record,” Georgia says. “I approach bass lines with a piano player’s mind, like what would I be playing in the left hand of the piano? … I’ll translate it onto the guitar and see what happens from there.”
The Last Dinner Party’s sound fits well with their songwriting, an intriguing blend of classic literary allusions juxtaposed with modern touchstones — a Keatsian nod (“A sailor and a nightingale”) preceding “Love tender in your Chevrolet” on ‘Nothing Matters’ or a Sartre quote (“Je ne veux pas penser”) 30 seconds before longing for a lover to “talk about Red Scare and how they get it right” on ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’.
Georgia, who met bandmate Abigail Morris while they were studying literature at King’s College London, points to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando as a “sister piece to what we do”.
“[Woolf’s] work has been incredibly influential in terms of not only gender but also, most of us identify as queer in the band, so experiencing and finding solace and similarity in a historical writer who just yearns for women, hearing someone so explicitly write about that a hundred years ago is so validating,” Georgia says. “Hopefully, young queer women and non-binary people will find a sense of identity in our work the same way that people have found with Virginia Woolf. I mean, if that’s not too pompous to say.”
Blossoming In The Spotlight
It’s understandable why the women of The Last Dinner Party are wary of how their words are perceived. They’ve already been subject to the storm of internet discourse, which arrived swiftly after a slate of strong press accompanying ‘Nothing Matters’. It’s a familiar story: a young band springs up with major label backing and a hit single, and the conspiracies start.
Any chance of meaningful discussion about the intersection of privilege and access to the music industry was swept away, overrun by “industry plant” allegations and fruitless hunts to uncover proof of nepotism to explain the sudden success. What people instead found when they went digging was the opposite — footage dating back to February 2022 of gigs in small London clubs, demoing early iterations of the songs that go on to form Prelude to Ecstasy.
“We knew that it was going to happen and, even though it did happen, it was nowhere near as bad as we’ve seen for other female artists,” Georgia says, name-checking fellow Londoners Wet Leg. “At the time, it was like, ‘Oh shit, people are making stuff up about us’, but we then had to go back to ourselves and think, ‘Okay, well we’ve got to this position not by anything except that we have written good music; that’s the genesis of why we’re here’ … there’s nothing beneath that at play, it’s literally just what we’ve done and so, I say thank you to the naysayers for making us feel like, ‘No, we actually are quite good’.”
It’d be a convenient narrative to say that the saga helped The Last Dinner Party believe in one another, but Georgia is effusive about the “immense trust” they’ve had prior to the band existing. The five friends have been “each other’s confidants”, bonding through university and sharehousing, which carries through to their “group therapy” approach to songwriting (“it’s not very Gallagher-esque,” Georgia deadpans).
So, it’s not like The Last Dinner Party are relying on outside validation. Still, the recognition is coming in abundance. The biggest so far: the BBC Sound of 2024, an annual survey of industry heavyweights aimed at predicting the next breakout star. Previous winners earmarked for greatness include PinkPantheress, Adele, HAIM and Sam Smith. But Georgia, born in Canberra and raised in Sydney, has her attention on a poll closer to home — the triple j Hottest 100.
Speaking ahead of the 2023 countdown, Georgia speaks hopefully about The Last Dinner Party getting their first entry: “The Hottest 100 is a beautiful thing and I hope we feature on it … I mean, I voted for myself.” Sure enough, ‘Nothing Matters’ landed at 89, sneaking in one last accolade before the page turns on chapter one. Georgia “won’t say” whether The Last Dinner Party has an Australian tour in the works, but her smirk and exaggerated side-eye suggests we may hear more soon.
“I’ve been pestering my manager literally since I met her to get to Australia, so I think if she doesn’t give in soon she will kill me,” she says. Assuming Georgia’s manager chooses tour over death, there’s a few errands to tick off when she makes it back: “I’ll be seeing all my friends and family, and be able to say to the girls who were mean to me in high school, ‘Guess who’s back?’”.
Musicians: they’re just like us.
The Last Dinner Party’s new album Prelude to Ecstacy is out now.
Image: Supplied / Cal McIntyre