In INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP’s world of academia, eccentric Northern electronic pop would be compulsory on the curriculum.
With a vibrant and impressive self-titled debut album featuring great songs such as ‘On Repeat’, ‘After Dark’, ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’ and ‘Age Of The Train’, already under their belt and a darker second album promised featuring a collaboration with Jason Williamson of SLEAFORD MODS, the intelligent musical escapism of INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP has struck a chord with audiences.
In an amusing interview with The Electricity Club earlier in the year, the band’s Adrian Flanagan said: “I guess we live in pretty miserable times, the news is miserable, the political climate is completely off its tits – and ‘mankind’ itself is being treated – on the whole – like a piece of sh*t!! We are all desperate to have a good time, to have a laugh, escape velocity and dance to some fun music – ITOP are that kind of night out… embrace it before you’re hit by a driverless bus!!”
The latest single released from the album is the bubbly ‘Love Girl’, a luscious cross between DUBSTAR and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Directed and filmed by Adam Sinclair, the accompanying video sees frontwomen Leonore Wheatley and Katie Mason out on the town in the Trafford area of Manchester, on their skateboards and busting moves in a state of cosmicity. “Smile at the neon and the mirrorball” as Flanagan stated in one of the INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP manifesto declarations.
With Flanagan playing a dodgy dealer geezer and fourth member Dean Honer in a blink or you’ll miss it moment, the video concludes with a charming acapella rendition of ‘Love Girl’ performed by She Choir.
INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP really are what the school nurse ordered for these unsettled times, with luscious vintage synth sounds, witty observant lyrics and catchy danceable tunes, perfect for the summer holidays.
With their vibrant and accessible self-titled debut album, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP have struck a chord with their brand of intelligent musical escapism.
Comprising the core trio of Leonore Wheatley, Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP come from the gritty eccentric Northern English lineage that gave the world acts like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, SOFT CELL, PET SHOP BOYS, PULP and DUBSTAR.
With luscious vintage synth sounds, witty observant lyrics and above all, catchy danceable tunes like on ‘On Repeat’, ‘After Dark’, ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’, ‘Time For The Seasons’ and ‘Age Of The Train’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP are just the tonic for these unsettled times.
Just before boarding the tour bus to Europe, Adrian Flanagan chatted to The Electricity Club and outlined the curriculum that INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP would be following…
You’ve all had a number of projects and vehicles like THE MOONLANDINGZ, ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL, THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW, THE SOUNDCARRIERS, ALL SEEING I, I MONSTER etc but INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP seems to have steadily gained significant traction among music fans, why do you think this has happened?
Your question seems to suggest that all of a sudden we are now doing something that is deemed popular? *laughs*
THE MOONLANDINGZ are quite a popular group right across Europe, before that project went on sabbatical we were headlining pretty big 700 – 1400 capacity venues, our singles were regularly a-listed – all our tours sold out, all on our own terms!
The ALL SEEING I had three or four Top 20 singles in the proper charts in the days when people actually bought records, ASI had been on ‘Top of the Pops’ several times, they practically put themselves in the firing line of paedophile disk jockeys for the love of music, that’s success!!
The rest of our projects cater for our more pioneering and musically adventurous sides of our personalities – but to answer your incredibly rude question *laughs*
I guess we live in pretty miserable times, the news is miserable, the political climate is completely off its tits – and ‘mankind’ itself is being treated – on the whole – like a piece of sh*t!! We are all desperate to have a good time, to have a laugh, escape velocity and dance to some fun music – ITOP are that kind of night out… embrace it before you’re hit by a driverless bus!!
Given that Sheffield bands were notable for their manifestos, do INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP have one, all be it unwritten?
1: Always wear incredible socks
2: Smile at the neon and the mirrorball
3: Cows not goats
4: Fear Vegan Wind
5: Embrace your accountant
6: Use psychic powers to taunt poundshop Chris Brain’s
7: Instigate culture in exchange for commerce
8: Women of the world take over by Ivor cutler
9: Death to all jugglers, unicyclists and the stench of ‘tops off’ whining middle-class minstrels
10: Lee Scratch Perry for President
When NEW ORDER performed at a televised Glastonbury in 2016, there were comments on Twitter that they looked like the teachers band playing the sixth form disco… INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP seem to have very much embraced going out and doing gigs?
NEW ORDER can do or look however they want – a great band… people on Twitter need to watch their finger prints – their psychic data is diminishing by the second!
You now have a fourth member in Katie Mason and there’s even dance routines?
We have five members in the live group – Richy Westley plays drums, electronic pads and controls the sequencers; he plays in THE MOONLANDINGZ too.
Katie is our secret weapon. Whilst Leonore is singing Katie is in the audience picking the crowds pockets – bumping up our cash for performance fee. But yes – we’ve now got Katie singing on the next album – along with Leonore. The new material is sounding pretty exciting actually, we’ve definitely stepped it up!
Given Dean’s background and the band’s location, it’s hard not to imagine INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP as being how THE HUMAN LEAGUE might have mutated had they carried on making records?
THE HUMAN LEAGUE were the sound of the future – a lot of it still sounds very fresh and very modern to me, I don’t see us as anything more than an extension of the rich family tree that is ‘eccentric Northern electronic pop’. THE HUMAN LEAGUE are also good friends of ours – Philip Oakey has been really good to Dean and I over the years, borrowing us gear and synths.
When we did ‘The Culture Show’ on BBC2 with ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL a few years back, Philip loaned us THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s old tape machine for our filmed performance – even recently with ITOP – the keytars used in the ‘After Dark’ video were given to us by The League.
Whenever The League are playing in town, we go to their shows and Philip comes to ours. He was at the ITOP show in Sheffield a few weeks back, actually he said he thought it was “very lovely”! – THL are undoubtedly an influence but there are many nods to many of the music pioneers and legends – we teach the classics!!
How is the synth collection looking these days?
Dean’s synth collection is pretty much covering four walls now – floor to ceiling – my little home studio is a lot more modest, nay pathetic!
For anyone of a certain generation, the phrase ‘Age Of The Train’ has all sorts of connotations, some sinister… what was behind the inspiration of your song?
It’s mainly about the uselessness of Northern Rail… rail travel in this country is so expensive and so unreliable that it’s rendered itself as being known simply as a not very funny joke. I thought holding a 1980s mirror up to their faces using their own advertisement campaign – with a slight nod to Mucky Jackson was a work of undoubted genius and subversive pop finesse. By the way – I’m not suggesting Northern Rail mess with kids, however – they are doing EVERYONE up the arse on a daily basis!!
So what do INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP get up to ‘After Dark’?
Tending to our broken and torn bum holes!!
‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’ is about cats, or is it a metaphor??
Yes – it’s about a Pussy… a very unruly one!!
‘On Repeat’ appears to be one of those real-life observations that makes for great Northern English pop?
The spacey synth theme of ‘Intastellar’ sounds familiar, can you shed any light as to where it may have come from?
It came from Sheffield on the back of an army of dying cockroaches!!
‘Time Of The Seasons’ has something of a gloriously spacey quality…
Your Remoaner mix of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ in Deutsch makes a bold musical and political statement?
I hope that statement is “I hate PINK FLOYD but love KRAFTWERK” and / or – “I hate you but love the EU”…
It is funny how some British electronic music will happily singalong to KRAFTWERK ‘Europe Endless’ and ULTRAVOX ‘New Europeans’ yet be staunchly pro-Brexit, it’s rather like when the BNP leader Nick Griffin declared his favourite food was curry…
I’m so bored of halfwits, honestly – they are everywhere – in every walk of life, religion, race and culture – and they all look the same … and WHY? Because I’m their Dad!! *laughs*
What the world need now is some cool escapism, how about INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP and CONFIDENCE MAN do a double bill together??
I’m pals with CONFIDENCE MAN and I really don’t think the world is ready for so much fun… we are like two sides of the same coin… we are the cerebral ‘heads’ side and they are the ‘tails’ side … with their bits hanging out!! *laughs*
So what’s next for INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP?
Just writing / recording the second album (seven tracks in now), off to Europe this week doing shows, then finishing the album in May, with a few festivals over the summer… during any downtime, Dean and I will be working on another few album projects and Leonore is tapping away at new music with THE SOUNDCARRIERS too – but mainly – and with much passion – I’ll be self flagellating for Jesus!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Adrian Flanagan
INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP 2019 live dates include:
Brighton The Hope & Ruin (15th April), Amsterdam Cinetol (16th April), Zürich Stall 6 (18th April), Paris Supersonic Club (19th April), Ghent Trefpunt (20th April), Cardiff Wales Goes Pop Festival (21st April), Long Division Festival (1st June)
One may learn many things, but the Brexit-crazy country requires a breather.
So let’s all go back to school and study the one thing that can give us some respite: POP Music. And who is better at lecturing about the said POP, than INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP.
The South Yorkshire city of Sheffield has been home to many a great music act over the years, such as THE HUMAN LEAGUE, ABC, HEAVEN 17, ARCTIC MONKEYS, CABARET VOLTAIRE, DEF LEPPARD or PULP, amongst many others and this winter, another one surfaces with their eponymous debut album, and they’re the ones to teach the public the qualities of pop music.
The first single from the self-titled album was ‘Age Of The Train’, where Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, accompanied by Leonore Wheatley on vocals deliver a rather captivating approach to modern synthpopia, a little bit like THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Credo’, which was co-produced by Honer himself. The train which is running late may be the subject of the song, but it’s the musical extravaganza of sound that draws one in.
With the qualities of DUBSTAR almost mixing with LADYTRON, ‘After Dark’ ushers analogue sounds alongside a bubbly beat, that’s guaranteed to make you put your dancing shoes on.
‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’ waltzes in utilising sci-fi gaming elements, arpeggiating away into a quasi-disco fashion, describing the theme of naughty cats. You say “what!?”, Wheatley says it is “a lament for the modern cat owner, destined to live a life of frustration and unrequited love. You invest all that time, energy and money into them, nurturing and building up what you think is a solid relationship, just for them to struggle out of your arms and rip you to shreds… little sh*ts!”
Enter Italo disco meet the clubs of Detroit in ‘On Repeat’, depicting the obscurity of everyday life of all work no play to “keep on working”. ‘Time For The Seasons’ was the first song the trio wrote together, calling to “burn your technology”, yet it’s the technology that brings this piece to life, before we play Tetris on ‘She Walks’. This summertime ballad turns trippy and quite peculiar over sequenced inserts of contemporary sound, plugging in vintage elements when necessary.
Channeling her inner Sarah Blackwood, Wheatley goes ‘Interstellar’ with a lyric nearly challenging the WTF feeling on THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Night People’ from aforementioned ‘Credo’: “here we go again – defying gravity, where stars are ignorant – a floating cup of tea!” Yep, this totally makes sense… NOT! But who cares, when the package is so good musically, plus Britain was built on cups of tea, right!?
Where practice makes perfect, no, wait… ‘Praxis Makes Prefect’, there’s no room for messing around, just dance, dance, dance! Clever hooks, grand arpeggios and a generous amount of weirdness come to package the ‘Love Girl’.
Meanwhile ‘Oh Yosemite’ takes a leaf out of the latest DUBSTAR album, introducing a rather melodious waltz. The lyrical content describes an inability to pronounce words properly as per the talk of the new generation. But this very generation joins Wheatley on vocals in the chorus, leading away into nothingness.
Certainly a capable offering, given that Wheatley did her homework with THE SOUNDCARRIERS, while Flanagan and Honer, previously of THE ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL and THE MOONLANDINGZ, are no strangers to decently produced tunes.
This isn’t a minimalistic record, like what you would normally expect of vintage analogues and skippy drum machines, and that’s what makes it special. The knowhow is there in plenty and if you want to dance, go ahead; just do what the teacher says.