It all happened so quickly. One minute The Last Dinner Party were indie hustlers on the rise, and the next they were the only words on social media’s lips. Within hours of their debut single ‘Nothing Matters’ hitting streaming services literally everyone on the internet seemed to have an opinion about them. Wall-to-wall press adoration ensued: NME dubbed them “the best new band you haven’t heard yet” while Rolling Stone UK said they “might just be your favourite new band”.
In hype terms, however, what goes up must come back down. With plaudits fluttering underneath their wings, cynics emerging online to bring the band back down to Earth. The rollout was all too slick, too planned, too finessed – something must be amiss. “Aha – they’re an industry plant, don’t you see…?”
The case – or so the naysayers believe – is open and close. The Last Dinner Party are managed by a huge company – Qprime, who also look after a plethora of rock gods, from Metallica to Muse, and back again. They’ve just signed to Island Records. They gained the front page of BEAT without releasing a single note of music – surely a sign of Machiavellian conversations. And they supported the actual Rolling Stones last summer.
This last point is the easiest to refute. The Last Dinner Party were booked to play BST Hyde Park, which is in essence a festival. They were bottom of the bill, and appeared alongside such heavyweights as Vista Kicks, JJ Rosa, and Kelly McGrath. It’s an opportunity a lot of other groups have grabbed with both hands – Clash saw sleaford mods play a very similar support slot to The Who in 2015, and nobody calls Jason Williamson an industry plant. Plus, who goes to a Rolling Stones show to see a bottom-of-the-bill support act? You spend half the day queuing at the bar.
It’s all part of a wider conversation on privilege, one amplified by the lack of opportunities. Recent statistics showed that around 75% of musicians lose money on their releases – from just-about-breaking-even to thoroughly bankrupting themselves in pursuit of a dream. Media outlets have tumbled – PAPER Magazine shuttered overnight, for instance – meaning that there simply isn’t the press landscape required to filter all this music. It’s no surprise that people are angry – they’re losing money hand over fist, while some seem to rise effortlessly out of the darkness. It is – absolutely – a broken system. The Last Dinner Party received a much-needed hand of assistance from their management company, and most don’t.
And perhaps this is the part that sticks. For many bands, spending 12 months touring, rehearsing, working on your music is a dream almost beyond belief. For most musicians, the art becomes something they attend to in the wee small hours, when the hustle and grind of the day-to-day has been dealt with. It’s working shit jobs, on low pay, and trying to find an affordable rehearsal room with electrics that actually work which becomes the issue.
Some poked fun at their rise, and the associated social media bluster. Yet others aren’t as charitable. Some of the vitriol and venom aimed at The Last Dinner Party by online accounts feels woefully over the top, long since detached from facts. Indeed, the term ‘industry plant’ itself is hopelessly vague, and more a criticism of opaque marketing, and a general, undefinable sense of inauthenticity, than any actual intersection with the music. It’s reminiscent of old rockist thinking – we mean it, man! – and as such it’s little wonder that this libel is so frequently lobbed at young female musicians.
Wet Leg – another group whose explosive rise sparked a cynical pushback – have suffered more than most from this accusation, the idea that two women coming out of nowhere (well, the Isle of Wight) can construct an album of delicious indie pop bangers seemingly proving to be too hard to believe in some quarters. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2022, the pair dismissed the insult as “misogyny” and there is certainly a grain of truth there.
The Last Dinner Party themselves have been quick to push back against this, citing 12 months of relentless gigging, and the organic way they came together. Just this morning (April 27th) they wrote on Twitter: “we weren’t put together like a kpop girl group, we’ve known each other since we were 18 as we met during freshers week, there are videos of us playing live as an unsigned band all last year and we got signed from those…”
Ultimately, scrolling through social media it becomes apparent that the conversation itself is now in danger of over-shadowing the actual music. Clash wrote that ‘Nothing Matters’ is “unstoppable” and we stand by that – its dramatic, theatrical, and has a killer chorus. Yet it’s only one song. If their next single stiffs, if their album falters… what then? Connections can only take you so far – at some point the music has to stand or fall on its own feet. And The Last Dinner Party – just like any other band in the country – deserve that shot.
Words: Robin Murray