Last Living Cannibal is the musical project of Hastings-based songwriter Allister Kellaway. Something of a veteran of the UK music scene as both a producer and the band leader of The Mantis Opera, it was back in 2021 that Allister shared his debut album under the Last Living Cannibal moniker, 7 Years. Wasting no time in getting back to it, Allister quickly returned to the studio, and in November he teamed up with Nothing Fancy for the release of the six-track EP, On A Perfect Earth.
Known for his genre-pushing creativity, when creating On A Perfect Earth, Allister made a conscious effort to get back to something more immediate, “I wanted to go back into more traditional chords and structures…to write songs focusing on lyrics and subtle changes”. The record sets its stall out early with the spell-binding title track, it arrives with a fuzz of static-laden electronica before unfurling into a hazy, rhythmically complex guitar line reminiscent of Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead, lyrically the song is a cathartic burst, trying to write about our, “irrational thoughts and feelings as a way of showing how ridiculous they are“. From there it slides into the early single, Wicked Hands, a beautifully deranged pop song, where Midlake-like vocal harmonies collide with jagged slashes of guitar and pounding primitive drum beats. Other highlights include the emotionally wrought Samson, a song about watching your world crumble around you, Allister sounding prone to paranoia, as he sings, “someone’s watching us through cameras in the lights the man who lives above is howling every night”, it’s a song that ebbs and flows from the fizzing synths to the Neil Young-like guitar breakdowns. By the time the record reaches the end, on the fittingly titled Full Circle, Allister seems to have settled into a sort of melancholy acceptance, with the repeated refrain, “there’s no end to this” , tying the various sections together, as he seems to be battling through life like an explorer in quicksand, the layered instruments growing in intensity, almost feeling like they’re weighing him down. I’m well aware that this record is sounding fairly heavy, yet for every moment of struggle there’s a triumph, for every moment where Allister’s voice sounds like it’s being knocked back, his music is picking him up and driving him forward. Is this a perfect earth? Well maybe not, but for Last Living Cannibal this is a huge leap forward, a talented songwriter, who is very much on the rise.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Last Living Cannibal?
Last Living Cannibal is me most of the time, and a band some of the time. It started out as a little side project adjacent to my band The Mantis Opera, for which I was writing these jittery, angular songs that I suppose you could call avant-garde. I started Last Living Cannibal as a break from that, I wanted to have a go at something a little more conventional, something I could do in my bedroom. I also started to write more personal lyrics, in a way it made me fall in love with songwriting again.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I did a 2 day workshop when I was about 12, we got put in bands and there was a gig on the last day. We did a cover of seven nation army, and I’m pretty sure we did smells like teen spirit, classic first rock show, though I don’t really consider it my first gig. A few years later my band played our first proper show with original songs in my hometown’s community hall, there was a raffle between acts. It went so well that I’ve basically been trying ever since to get that feeling back when I play live.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I think because music is one of the only things that I can act on with certainty. I’m not a terribly confident person and struggle to make decisions about anything creative, but I can write and record a song and be certain that I can do nothing more to improve it. I also get so much joy and satisfaction out of the writing and recording process, It affects my mood so much I could not imagine life without it.
FTR: What can people expect from the Last Living Cannibal live show?
Currently I am playing with a full band set up, we’ve kept it pretty clean but with some power behind it. As the album and EP are either more electronic or more acoustic we’ve had to rearrange the songs to fit a rock band line up. I have confidence enough in the songs that I don’t feel that the live show should feature perfect recreations of the recordings, and I couldn’t ask for a better band. It’s our last show for a while with this line up on Feb 2nd at Servant Jazz Quarters.
FTR: What’s next for Last Living Cannibal?
I’m trying to get back into writing/recording mode now that On A Perfect Earth EP is out. I have a couple stray ideas that have been lying around for a while so I’ll probably see where that goes. I’ve been messing around with odd, flawed sounds, I think I want to make something insular and chaotic. Once we do the gig on 2nd Feb I’m going to have to reconfigure the live set up too.
They Listen To…
Steeleye Span – The Dark-Eyed Sailor
This album gets better with every listen, this song in particular sticks out. The chords with the vocal melody are gorgeous. I love how Steeleye Span marries old-timey folk with a contemporary rock aesthetic, the drums and bass give this song so much power.
billy woods – Asylum
The production on this song is so bizarre and so heavy, I love how there’s barely even a beat, you get most of the rhythm from the piano sample and billy woods’ verse, which sounds more like spoken word at times.
Alex G – Ready
Great chords and melodies, so many wonderful combinations in one song. Alex G always toes the line between simple and complex in his songs.
Jackson C. Frank – Box Canyon
I love this song so much, It’s got beautiful lyrics and great guitar parts, I find Jackson C. Frank’s voice so soothing, I usually listen to him as a way to come back to earth and clear my head.
Low – Congregation
I cry nearly every time I hear this song, Mimi Parker’s voice is so beautiful in it, and she carries the whole thing from beginning to end, repeating this melody again and again, like a chant. I saw Low play this in a church last year and it just destroyed me.
On A Perfect Earth is out now via Nothing Fancy. For more information on Last Living Cannibal visit https://linktr.ee/lastlivingcannibal.
Last Living Cannibal play Servants Jazz Quarters for Nothing Fancy’s Third Birthday on February 2nd – Tickets are available HERE.