In February 2020, Sophie Ellis-Bextor visited Japan for the first time.
The 43-year-old had just written a song called Tokyo with long-time collaborator Ed Harcourt, the first steps towards a tentative seventh studio album.
Less than a month later: lockdown. “Everything went woosh,” Ellis-Bextor says today.
Of course, what happened next doesn’t need retelling. Not even, really, in career terms for Ellis-Bextor, who for the most casual observer became a joyous and much needed mainstay during those first pandemic weeks via her Kitchen Disco live streams.
“Richard [Jones – Ellis-Bextor’s husband of 17 years] and I are both musicians, so obviously went from busy diaries to tumbleweed,” she says, sitting outside of a cafe in West London some two and a half years removed. “The Kitchen Disco felt like an outlet.”
Taking the form of a weekly house party, during which Ellis-Bextor, Jones, and their five sons, would dance and sing underneath a glitter ball, the Kitchen Discos became an opportunity to rattle through “a lot of music that really comforted me”: Abba’s Dancing Queen, Madness’ Our House and Baccara’s Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.
More recently, the Kitchen Disco has become a glorious, giddy live show, calling at festivals (Latitude, Wilderness, Victorious, Wychwood) as well as theatres such as Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and the London Palladium (the final night now an equally glorious live album).
In Harcourt’s words, Ellis-Bextor is “like a glorious pinball machine that never pauses. Not stopping until the canines touch. A cornucopia of curveballs, chaos, beauty and glitter.” Listening to Hana, as that seventh record has finally become known, it’s hard to argue.