The indie-rock band top the annual BBC poll, which has a track record of predicting breakout success
Indie rock band The Last Dinner Party have won BBC Radio 1’s Sound Of 2024.
The five-piece join the likes of Adele, PinkPantheress and Sam Smith as winners of the prize, which has a track record of predicting break-out chart success.
They were told the news by former nominee Florence And The Machine, who praised their “fierce and ferocious” sound and “joyful” live shows.
“This doesn’t feel real,” said lead singer Abigail Morris. “Has anyone got a pillow I can scream into?”
“We’re going to have to do a collective sob,” laughed guitarist Lizzie Mayland.
The annual Sound Of list was first conducted by BBC News in 2003, when 50 Cent was the first winner. Since then, it has championed acts as diverse as Dizzy Rascal, Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Frank Ocean, Franz Ferdinand, Stormzy and Wet Leg.
The Last Dinner Party are the first guitar band to win since Haim in 2013. Read our full interview with them below.
Dressed like Victorian-era punk rockers, and armed with ragged, theatrical rock anthems, The Last Dinner Party have quickly become one of the UK’s most talked-about new bands.
The quintet met during fresher’s week in London three years ago and, before long, they’d shunned university for a nightly diet of live music and cheap beer.
Inspired by London’s underground music scene, they’d just started writing together when the pandemic forced them apart.
The pause gave them time to develop their sound, drawing on 70s art-rock albums by Sparks and Roxy Music, while channelling the fiery femininity of Siouxsie Sioux and Florence Welch.
“It was a really long incubation period, but by the time we emerged from the chrysalis, we were fully formed,” says Australian-born bassist Georgia Davies. “If anything, we were over-prepared.”
Their first gig took place at London’s George Tavern in November 2021, where they drew an audience of just 20 people.
“It felt like loads, though!” says Abigail. “I remember standing on the stage and being like, ‘I’m the king of Glastonbury!’
“And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, your friends and family are full of energy’,” adds keyboard player Aurora Nishevci.
But it was their third gig at Venue MOT, a stone’s throw from Milwall FC’s stadium, that really put them on the map.
“It was just another grotty venue,” recalls Abigail, “There wasn’t even a stage. I had to bring out a soapbox to stand on – but there was this guy in the front row with a camera.”
That “guy” was Lou Smith, a film-maker who documents London’s underground music scene.
When he posted The Last Dinner Party’s set to YouTube, their inboxes suddenly blew up with messages from record labels, managers and PRs.
They signed to Island Records in early 2022, supported the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park that summer, and started working on their debut album with Arctic Monkeys’ producer James Ford in the autumn.
“They’ve been very candid about the opportunities that unfolded for them after my video did the rounds, which is pretty rare amongst artists,” Smith tells the BBC.
“I knew I’d stumbled across something quite special when I edited the footage from that MOT gig and got goose-pimples at how good the songs and performance were. I’m so happy for them.”
The BBC Sound Of 2024 was voted for by a panel of more 140 industry experts and artists, including Olivia Rodrigo, Jorja Smith, PinkPantheress, Chase & Status, Tom Grennan Mahalia and more.
The Top Five acts were:
Florence Welch is another big fan.
For her, the band embody an ideal of femininity in rock music that she’d written about in her 2022 song Choreomania.
“You said that rock and roll is dead / But is that just because it has not been resurrected in your image? / Like if Jesus came back, but in a beautiful dress / And all the evangelicals were like, ‘Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes’.”
“I think the nuances of femininity almost always get lost in rock,” she tells the BBC, “but when I saw The Last Dinner Party playing in their dresses and their chiffon, while being so fierce and ferocious, I was like, ‘This is it!'”
That’s why she chose to announce their Sound Of 2024 victory on Radio 1, while offering the band moral support and motherly advice on dealing with success.
“Don’t drink your way through it,” is her main takeaway.
Afterwards, the band are all a-flutter and woozy with disbelief. For Georgia, in particular, the endorsement of her idol means the world.
“I discovered her music when I was nine on [Australian radio station] Triple J, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I feel understood and connected to this person who lives on the other side of the world,” she says, choking back tears.
“So for her to say that she’s proud of us? It’s insane.”
Her bandmates pull her close for a hug, an instinctive act of camaraderie that indicates they’ll be strong enough to survive the stormy waters of the music business.
They’ve already sailed through their first controversy – a scurrilous rumour that they were “industry plants” manufactured by shady industry svengalis. As if a focus group would ever create an all-female rock band who look like Adam Ant at a Pride march, singing gothic ballads about repressed Catholic guilt.
“If this is what it means to be an industry plant, I think the industry should keep on planting stuff,” joked The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins, reviewing the band’s debut single.
That song was Nothing Matters, a scorching declaration of lust that burst onto the radio last April.
Surprisingly, Abigail originally wrote it as a ballad, before the band added guitar solos and trumpet salvos, turning it into a massive, singalong anthem.
That’s been their writing process ever since.
“That’s the fun part,” says Lizzie. “You write an idea or a little demo and you have no idea where it’s going to end up.”
Their debut album, Prelude To Ecstasy, has been ready for almost a year but the band held it back while they built up a following.
For diehard fans, the wait’s been too long.
“There’s a whole bootleg black market in our songs,” says Georgia. “People download the audio from live videos and put it on their Spotify or SoundCloud.
“It’s quite retro, like the old days of pirating cassettes. It’s amazing that people want to go to that effort.”
The fervour is reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ early days, when eager disciples swapped bootleg CDs months before their music was commercially available.
And like the Monkeys, The Last Dinner Party feel like they’ve arrived fully-formed, with a panache and an aesthetic that’s uniquely their own.
Their goal is to put colour back into an indie scene that had become very self-serious.
“That whole wave of post-punk was very focused on Sprechgesang and spoken word, which is great,” says Abigail, “but I think the pendulum has swung and people want melody and intricacy and something more interesting.”
Fans have latched onto their look, turning up to concerts in willowy ball gowns and elaborate headgear. And there’s nourishment in the band’s lyrics, too.
The single My Lady Of Mercy holds a particular sway amongst the faithful for its story of sexual awakenings.
“I had a very strict Catholic upbringing,” explains Abigail, “and not being straight in a Catholic school causes a lot of turmoil.
“I remember grappling with those feelings, but finding immense comfort in looking at images of martyrs and sexuality in religion.
“And instead of closing myself off, I thought it was a really good way of exploring sex and desire [and] re-writing my upbringing in a way that’s not homophobic.”
Unbeknownst to Abigail, her bandmate Lizzie had faced similar struggles growing up in the small Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.
It was only when she turned in a parallel song, called Sinner, that the connection was made.
“We’d never had a conversation about it until we wrote these two songs. And suddenly it was like, ‘Ohhhhh!'”
Like everything with The Last Dinner Party story, there’s a sense of serendipity to the story. It’s almost as if the band was meant to be.
In just two short years, they’ve gone from an audience of 20 to support slots with Lana Del Rey and Hozier.
After the Brits Rising Star prize in December, the BBC Sound of 2024 is yet another milestone, but they’re too fresh to be jaded just yet.
“It’s so surreal,” adds Lizzie. “Every day, I get the feeling, “Oh I’m in a band! I can’t believe I get to do this as a job!'”
“When we won the Brit, I panic-bought a Kinder bar!” laughs Aurora.
It’s been a “weird year”, Abigail concludes.
“Coming into this industry, there’s a lot of things we’re not sure about – but meeting people like Florence, who are a lot further ahead in their careers, but still maintain a humanity and gentleness, makes us feel like, ‘Okay, it’s possible’.”
And how will they celebrate their latest victory?
“Shall we go for a drink?” asks Aurora.
“Yeah! We’re off for a pint!” laughs Abigail.
Florence’s advice didn’t quite sink in, huh?