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How the Last Dinner Party Became Britain’s Hottest New Band

One drunken evening in 2019, Abigail Morris and Georgia Davies rushed into a discount store in Brixton, south London, and bought a cheap notepad to write down their band’s manifesto.

At that point, the rock group, then called the Dinner Party, only had three members, and had never actually rehearsed any songs. But Morris and Davies — the singer and bassist — knew exactly how they wanted to look and sound: “Gothic,” “Indulgent” and “Decadence” were at the top of their list.

As the English literature students went from pub to pub, they added to their proclamation, including modest ambitions (playing shows with hip British bands) and more grandiose aims (“We want to be role models for younger girls”).

Later in the evening, Morris accidentally cut herself on a broken glass, and dripped blood onto the notepad. “I was, like, ‘This is perfect!’” Davies recalled in a recent interview. The splatters emphasized the pair’s vision for a band teetering between the beautiful and the grotesque.

Some four years later, this meticulous yet playful approach has helped Davies and Morris achieve some of their goals. Now called the Last Dinner Party, the theatrical rock group — which also includes Emily Roberts (lead guitar), Lizzie Mayland (rhythm guitar) and Aurora Nishevci (keyboards) — has this year become Britain’s buzziest new band.

In January, the group — whose sound is often compared to the sweeping pop of Florence + the Machine — topped the BBC’s Sound of 2024, a much-watched annual poll, which has previously anointed Adele and PinkPantheress.

At a time when rock bands often struggle for attention, the Last Dinner Party has broken through by taking a surprisingly traditional route, prioritizing touring, rather than producing social media-targeted hits. A North American tour starts Thursday, including sold-out dates at New York’s Webster Hall on March 26 and Brooklyn Steel the following day, as well as the Coachella festival in April.

Morris said this approach, with which the band has gone from playing pubs to selling out 5,000-capacity London theaters, would help them sustain a career. “There’s no longevity in having a viral song blow up,” she said. “That’s not how you build a community.”

A striking visual aesthetic, though, can help. The band’s fashion sense is magpie-like, taking inspiration from various historic eras and fantastical styles. Last fall, the group set dress codes for a British tour and although it’s stopped that practice, at a recent London gig, dozens of younger audience members donned outfits including floral headdresses and corsets, inspired by band’s theatrical imagery.

Even those who didn’t dress up seemed all in. The comedian Kerry Godliman, 50, said she’d become a fan after her daughter came back from a festival raving about the group. “I love the grandeur of it, the camp archness of it, the theatricality of it,” Godliman said. The fact that the band is made up of women and a nonbinary person is “still such a rare thing,” she added.

After releasing its debut single, an expletive-filled love song called “Nothing Matters,” in spring 2023, the Last Dinner Party’s ascent has been so fast in Britain that, on social media, some observers have accused its members — who are all in their mid-20s — of being “industry plants,” brought together by record label executives.

Roberts, the guitarist, said she found such suggestions “quite sad,” as if people “don’t want to believe that a young female and nonbinary band can be successful.” The reality is less dramatic, Morris added: She has been an aspiring rock star since her teens at a Catholic school, where she developed “a crushing need to be adored by everyone at all times at whatever cost.”

She met Davies at college in London; the other three band members were also music-obsessed students in the British capital, who Morris and Davies gradually brought into their fold.

With Britain in and out of lockdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic, the nascent band initially couldn’t play live, and honed its sound instead: moody, grand indie-pop, topped by Morris’s swooping vocals. By the time of its first show in November 2021, Morris said the members had “rehearsed so long, we were fully formed.” By its fourth show, at an out-of-the-way venue on a south London industrial park, record labels were deluging the band with messages. (It eventually signed with a major, Island Records, and made a 70-page presentation to explain its vision to the label’s marketing team.)

James Ford, who’s worked with Depeche Mode, Jessie Ware and Blur, produced the group’s debut, “Prelude to Ecstasy,” which arrived last month. He said in an interview that when he walked into the studio and saw the band members with a full string section and horn players, he thought, “I haven’t seen this kind of belief from a band, and also from the people behind them, in a long time.”

“In the back of my head, I was like, ‘This is either going to go really well or be a total disaster,’” he added.

Tara Richardson, the band’s manager, said the group’s theatricality gives fans a release from the bleak political and economic climate in Britain at the moment. “People want escapism,” she said: “They need an out.”

In interviews at a Mediterranean cafe in North London, four of the group’s members stressed that even if their music is escapist, it isn’t removed from contemporary concerns. The album includes “The Feminine Urge,” with lyrics sneering at men who think women exist only for their entertainment, and “Beautiful Boy,” attacking male privilege. “This isn’t just corsets,” Morris said. “It’s Trojan horse pop music.”

A swift ascent in music can be bewildering. Mayland, the guitarist, said that some recent experiences like attending award shows had felt like living “inside a TV, this isn’t real.”

But Morris and Davies, the band’s first two members, said they remain focused on the artistic vision they imagined on that drunken night in Brixton.

“It’s fun to commit to a bit and follow it through to its logical extreme,” Davies said. For now, it’s becoming the world’s favorite new band.

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