“The best pop music makes you dance first, then the melody and chorus locks into your soul, then the lyrics connect and you then realise you’ve been cheerily dancing to a song about royal nonces or the decimation of the working classes”
Sheffield has a long stretching and deep-rooted electronic heritage. From the effervescent, pop-tastic nature of the Human League to the pioneering industrial chimes of Cabaret Voltaire – the holy affliction with the synthesizer is one of innovation intertwined with the underlying desire to make great pop. So, it is indeed fitting that ‘International Teachers Of Pop’ should carry that very torch into the present day. Their latest album ‘Pop Gossip’ released in the calamitous lockdown year of 2020 dazzles and grips hold of the brain in equal measure with infectious hooks and intriguing lyrical themes, ranging from institutionalised misogyny to nightclub culture and royalty. Made up of Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer (of The Moonlandingz and Eccentronic Research Council) alongside Leonore Wheatley, the trio are set to hit the road in August with an extensive UK tour (see dates below).
I spoke to Adrian to get an insight into the world of ITOP – from ‘Pop Gossip’ to the upcoming tour.
What inspired the name ‘International Teachers Of Pop’?
I wanted a name that would both aggravate any haters and something that sounded important. I think I hit a poetical jackpot with the name ‘International Teachers Of Pop’ … but like all teachers we are not necessarily inventing the wheel – we are teaching the classics!
There is a fascinating contrast between humour and the tackling of serious societal issues on your latest album ‘Pop Gossip’ – what is the driving force behind these contradictions?
Pop music has been forever mainly the occupation of idiots, albeit rich idiots, and it’s almost seen as a crime if you try and insert either something wildly intellectual, political, feminist, artful or humorous into Pop Music. The best pop music makes you dance first, then the melody and chorus locks into your soul, then the lyrics connect and you then realise you’ve been cheerily dancing to a song about royal nonces or the decimation of the working classes.
Did you carry a vivid imagination of a dance floor situation when recording tracks such as ‘Don’t Diss the Disco’ and ‘Flood the Club’?
I think in ‘serious music’ circles disco has often been sneered at as a bit of a joke, or something that only cowboys with handle bar moustaches listen too whilst self fellating themselves… but if anyone wants to tell me ‘I feel love’ by Donna Summer isn’t 1: the greatest single ever made, 2: the sexiest record ever made, 3: the most futuristic and still the freshest sounding record ever made then I’ll fight them very hard with nun chucks!
‘Don’t Diss the Disco’ is our sonic tribute to ‘Homoelectric’ (a club night in Manchester) … the kids who go to that know their music and are truly locked in to all the freshest sounds. I came up with the chorus vocal on ‘Diss the Disco’ and ‘Flood the Club’…with Flood I originally envisaged clubs getting really clean – the dirtiness of the underground becoming all safe and boring and me going around turning all the taps on in the toilets and flooding the gaffs, but then Leonore went and turned the verses in to being about global warming. I’d have turned it in to a song about slut dropping over a bottle of vodka whilst twatted on microdots.
How frustrating has it been being unable to perform the new album live yet?
It’s been really frustrating. To put a year and half in to making a great album, for its release date to be rescheduled (twice) due to a worldwide pandemic and when it does come out, it came out the same weekend as bloody record store day, which impacted on us hard; as what would have been a top 10 in the indie charts but turned in to a top 30, so all that pre-work in heavily touring and smashing it at festivals falls by the wayside. Ultimately, we got smothered by Daniel O’Donnell & Rick Wakeman reissues. Plus, the full U.K. tour to promote the album I had to reschedule 3 times, which was really annoying and a real lot of work to organise. Touch wood everything will be cool for the tour in August/September – Just got to hope people turn up. Though I totally understand people’s worries and trepidation’s in them going anywhere at the moment when for the past year we’ve been fed lies, misinformation and total stupidity by our so-called murderous leaders. I think people just need to do what they are comfortable with, come out if you want to let your hair down and have a lot of fun and a boogie to some electro bangers, just don’t be a dick if someone next to you wants a bit of space or wants to wear their mask. Just be thoughtful and spatially aware when you are throwing shapes or doing a windmill!
Jason Williamson from Sleaford mods features on the track ‘I Stole Your Plimsoles’ – how did this particular collaboration come about?
I’ve known Jason loosely for a good few years now. I think we are cut from a similar cloth, we are both ‘men of age’ that like a good rant and a wind up and are quite happy taking on the establishment and hipster bands for sport – plus we are both incredibly stylish too. I just asked him if he’d guest on the ITOP track & he said yes. Though ITOP isn’t something Jason would be sat at home listening to, the collaboration worked pretty well I think. The success of it was that it actually happened and that it is funny as fuck. I was at a wedding party in a tent in Wales at new year in 2020 and the dj was playing ‘I Stole Yer Plimsolls’ – it really went off all these teenagers bouncing around the place, whilst I say nonchalantly in a corner chewing my own jowels – off me twat on mushroom juice!
Are there any particular current electronic acts that have recently inspired your latest work?
Not really no. Being in 5 separate projects that permeate various sub genres of electronic music – and being of an age, there’s not much I’ve not either touched upon myself already or that I’ve not heard before. There’s loads of new independent electronic artists I love such as Audiobooks (Heavenly records), Jockstrap (Warp records) and a new artist called Jessica Winter – I think they are all doing something a bit different and on the right side of wonky… so I approve of their existence. I’m also just setting up a little digital label for a few of the more eccentric electronic artists that Dean Honer and I have been producing tunes for during this past miserable year. We’ve got a great new artist called Wet Man his stuff is sounding somewhere between early ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ and old Sheffield band ‘Fat Truckers’. I’ve also been working on a few tracks for Sheffield based eccentric solo artist ‘Dimitri’, which is sounding like electronica for people who like making sweet love on the back of a yacht moored off one of the Greek islands. Also just done a few tracks with a kid from down London who looks like he’s fallen from Victorian Britain. He’s got quite a unique vibe too, goes under the name ‘Damp Carpet’. We are trying to make electronic music eccentric again. We will not fail!
What can we expect from International Teachers of Pop as a live entity going forward?
After this tour, we are gonna have a little break to do a few other things for a bit, scratch a few musical artistic scabs that we all have – then next year maybe start writing some more music. We will still probably do the odd live show or run of dates every now and again, as in reality we’ve not played the new album at all yet. Which is why I didn’t want to get straight back on the treadmill of writing another album so soon, certainly after the experience of putting the second album out during a pandemic. ITOP have a small but hardcore following across the U.K. – the live shows always go off and to the fans who get us we are the ultimate party band, so I don’t think writing a whole new set of songs just to keep our profile ticking over is needed. We are not careerists, leave that to all the indie bands who think they are edge lords. Like I said, we only teach the classics!
‘Pop Gossip’ is available across all major platforms. View the video for the latest single ‘Drive All Night (We Love EU)’ here: https://youtu.be/EIpKGPYi1bM
Also find the new digital EP available for purchase here: https://eccentronicresearchcouncil.bandcamp.com/album/drive-all-night-ep
All live dates below and available from SEE/DICE/SKIDDLE/LEADMILL: