Band of the Month – International Teachers of Pop
PHOTO CREDS: Duncan Stafford
For centuries it has been known that when the shit hits the fan the Northerners revolt, but what if this time instead of trying to overthrow the monarch or occupy enemy lands they are rebelling against the mundane in effort to create hyperreal disco that makes it hard to tell where their songs end, and you begin.
Wielding keytars and synth-pop motifs all the way from Sheffield are the International Teachers of Pop who seemed to have arrived from another planet to bring you hearty funk and irresistible grooves.
Made up of Adrian Flanagan (The Moonlandingz / Eccentronic Research Council), Dean Honer (Moonlandingz / All Seeing I) and Leonore Wheatley (The Soundcarriers / Whyte Horses), the trio come together like a disco transformer – taking unsuspecting musical elements and turning them into something completely uncanny and new. That’s why these retro-pop renegades are Underground’s band of the month for February 2019.
Sounding like so many who came before them, such as the likes of Kraftwerk, The Human League and many more, but at the same time as no one else you’ve ever heard before, the band play around with archetypal pop motifs and elevate them to a higher realm.
And while lots of indie bands in the current socio-political climate aim to make some kind of political point with the same disgorged aggressive anecdotical style, ITOP wants to entertain and slip you into a disco-frenzy trance that evacuates you from the reality we all complicity live in.
Founding the genre of ‘nerd-pop’ their writing inspo is taken from the dorkish side of life and played by techie hands, they fill a vapid void in the market with upbeat rhythms and electronic overtones creating discotheque worthy of another dimension. Having only formed early last year, this threesome hasn’t had the quietest birth.
On the contrary, from their first breath the likes of Jarvis Cocker and BBC Radio 6’s Marc Riley have been gagging for a piece of their throbbing analogue synth sounds and beefy drum machine beats. It therefore is no surprise that they within a year have begun to occupy the hearts of many, putting on live performances up and down the country.
However, while they might be in their early phases as a trio, their musical timeline is easy to follow at this stage having only a small portfolio of music online.
Their first track to hit social media like a disco ball to the face was their cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
Sung in German and doused with a heavy-handed sprinkle of electronic psychedelia, they add their own flare bigger than a pair of bell bottoms to the iconic track. The cover breaks open the techno flood gates that mimics the opening of the original but played as if its been translated through a super computer.
Listeners are then met with cool Germanic lyricism amongst jangly notes and futuristic pangs of a drum pad. As their first online release it’s certainly a testament to the extremities that these musicians can take retro-pop genre to, pushing the boundaries of disco chic as far as they can go.
The second release was their single ‘Age of the Train’ that opens with a familiar sound of a train horn that is enough to send shudders down regular commuters’ spines. Nonetheless it doesn’t take long before the track breaks into an electronic release, with droning electronics and echoing melodies that are almost reminiscent of Tom Tom Club’s ‘As Above So Below’ or even ‘Lorelei’ in some ways.
The song works to encapsulate the deterioration of the soul and your bank balance as perpetual use of the national rail seems to be ceaseless in the “age of the train”. Regardless of its complaints, Leonore’s lyricism is both relatable and ethereal backed up by layers of techno textures that makes it a perfect jam for anyone who’s experienced the pains of public transport.
The next release that was to follow, ‘After Dark’ is a continuation of a glossy avant-garde take on pop stylings. Asking after all the curiosities about the goings on after dark, the track effortlessly combines Europop motifs influenced by non-other than the disco father Giorgio Moroder with Englishness of cheesy EDM tropes taken from bands like The Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode.
With mesmerising visuals to go with it, its video in no less kaleidoscopic than their sound is. Taking us to the heart of madness, the video materialises the songs grooves with Maxine Peake taking a staring role as the viewer follows her adventures in a club dressed in an American flag onesie, clutching onto a fake baby and dancing to the performing International Teachers of Pop, all after dark. It’s weird, whimsical and not suitable for the epileptic, but seems to embody the mix of fun and fantasy that ITOP epitomise in their pop universe.
Their most recent release came out only this year and is epically titled ‘The Ballad of Remedy Nilsson’. While their other tracks have understated layers of nerdiness to them, this song really works to embrace their inner dork.
With the track an apparent “lament for the modern cat lover” and a music video full of dancing sock puppets overlaid with synthpop facts their nerd disco is taken to another level.
Wildly energetic and drenched in iridescence the ballad looks as if you’ve taken a psychotropic and ended up in a sock draw and sounds as if they took the Fred Penner track ‘The Cat Came Back’ and shredded through a synthesiser to make a disco track about the fickle nature of felines. It’s certainly electronic, and Art Attack-esk, craftwork at its finest, what’s not to like?
This year seems to be promising even more teachings from the ITOP with more to be learnt from this bunch of nerds.
Having already embarked on their UK tour, this month will also see the release of their first debut album, on the 8thof Feb to be precise, which will be a self-titled glory no doubt. With so many buzzing to be part of the menagerie that is the world of ITOP, and such an exciting month ahead everything seems to be coming up Milhouse for this nerd-discoing trio.
So, watch out for these disco dazzlers, as they will soon be taking over a town near you:
Friday 18thJanuary @ Hebden Bridge Trades Club
Saturday 16thFebruary @ Glasgow Broadcast
Sunday 17thFebruary @ Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s
Monday 18thFebruary @ Newcastle The Cluny
Tuesday 19thFebruary @ Manchester YES
Wednesday 20thFebruary – Bristol Exchange
Thursday 21stFebruary @ London Oslo
Friday 22ndFebruary @ Sheffield Leadmill
Saturday 23rdFebruary @ Liverpool District
Pre-order their album here: https://itop.tmstor.es/
Word By Aimee Williams-Maynard