International Teachers of Pop Q&A
ITOP on tour!
Having been not only Underground’s band of the month this year but released a debut album and embarked on a tour to celebrate International Teacher of Pop seem to be as relentless and a freight train that not running out steam anytime soon.
Boogying into your ears from an out-of-this-world disco, ITOP has graced this Earth only to educate us on the ways to indulge in the sweet sounds of synths and have a little fun – something some uptight characters find impossible to do. Full of discotheque rhythms combined with darkish subtext, ITOP are purveyor’s nay founders of the ‘nerd pop’ genre that sounds like the love child of the Tom Tom Club and Giorgio Moroder – turns out they make a beautiful musical baby.
Rich in drum machine beats and electro-pop style, ITOP is a disco-ball of sound that makes you move whether you want to or not. They are the perfect spoonful of a sugary sweet dose of comedy and revived Euro-pop that helps the dire state of the country’s political climate and socio-economic struggles go down.
Tongue in cheek and practically impossible to like in every way, take the current grayscale landscape of Britain, full of Brexit tribulations and moral panics, and paint it iridescent while gagging it with glitter (and psychedelics, no doubt). In their sardonic injection of fun, we all need right now, there’s nothing to fear… ITOP will sooner put a dunce hat on the government and give them a good caning before they do you. They are best listened to with an open mind and readiness to let go of daily distress and let disco into your heart.
Underground was lucky enough to have a chat with Adrian Flanagan, the founding member of the trio, about ITOPs origins, Maxine Peake’s friendship with the band, how the governments are gone and lost their minds, and the message that ITOP is truly trying to emanate through their sound.
Feast your eyes and open your ears… because this interview may just make history.
Underground: How did you all meet?
Adrian Flanagan: At an AA group therapy meeting for reclusive spinsters!
What is the personal favourite track from your debut, self-titled album?
AF: My favourite tracks are Side A and Side B!
The north of England has become pretty much synonymous with great music, ITOP, of course, being included in this notion, do you think there is a reason why this part of the country is rich in luminary musicians?
AF: It’s probably because it rains all the time so out of boredom, they form bands and do whatever they need to do to escape their cold miserable, wet lives … I personally love the rain…can’t get enough of it, it’s the petrol for my tank!
Are there any musical figureheads that have influenced your style of music?
AF: For ITOP specifically- Mainly music producers like Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer), Martin Rushent (human league), Bobby Orlando (pet shop boys)!
Maxine Peake is a recurring figure in ITOP’s visuals, how did this come about?
AF: Maxine is one of my best friends, we share a funny bone and basic anger at the way people in this country are treated. I also do a music project with her (along with ITOP synth man, Dean Honer) called the ‘Eccentronic Research Council’, we’ve made 4 or so concept albums together. It’s kind of a spoken word narrative thing with weird synth music…We are going to start writing our next album in the next few months!
You’ve just finished your album release tour; how did you find touring together?
AF: We all get on great, the tour went down amazingly, everywhere… sometimes it’s important though to keep everyone on their toes. you don’t want to ever get complacent or blasé about playing live otherwise you just become shite. It’s not a summer camp…it should feel more like a prisoner of war camp before you hit the stage, then you let all your freedom & Joy out on the stage…accompanied by a disco beat!
That said, did you have a road trip soundtrack that you listened to while touring?
AF: Strictly no music, no talking and no fun are allowed on the tour bus…. though I may put some Wagner on if they’ve been good, just as they are falling asleep!
Ah, of course, endurance is key. For you, what makes the perfect gig?
AF: The audience having a great time, hun!
From one tour to the next, and next month you guys are going to embark on breaking out to Europe tour. Stopping at some exciting destinations, are ITOP buzzing to get going?
AF: Yes, we can’t wait to leave Britain!
In your promotion for your next tour you’ve said you’ll be negotiating with the EU through the magic of disco, it seems like you guys will be more successful at ensuring a more effective Brexit deal than the current government are…
AF: A dead pig could negotiate a better deal with the EU than this current shower of withered ball bags. Fucking useless the lot of them. May doesn’t give a shit about every day working people, all she cares about is buying Tory support, wanking off the DUP and strapping on a giant dildo and fucking the life out of the country. She makes Thatcher look like Gandhi!
Does the current political climate have any prominent effect on the music that you make?
AF: We make this music in actual spite of the current political climate!
Two of you make music with The Moonlandingz, which obviously has quite a different sound, how have you found making music as International Teachers of Pop different to that of other projects you’ve worked on?
AF: There’s no real difference in the making of the music really, all the songs for all the projects pretty much start with Dean & I am writing a tune electronically, arranging it then getting together with each project lead singer and coming up with lyrical ideas and getting a good vocal performance from them. ITOP is predominately an electronic music project – and with the Moonlandingz, we bring in more organic instrumentation like guitars, drums and panpipes (laughs) to augment the electronic foundations. Once we have all the elements – Dean & I start mixing the tracks and producing them up.
Both projects are born out of an intense struggle and a hatred for everything else that’s around whilst finding interesting ways of expressing something either important – or by and large ridiculous!! ITOP is a much quicker process to write and record with as it’s quite a streamlined team of just Leonore, Dean & I.
With the Moonlandingz it takes a lot longer to do anything as the frontman, Lias is also in another very popular group who are about to release their next album and pretty much tour the world relentlessly with it, so recording and writing with him can only be done in ‘stolen moments’ of wild eroticism. We have started writing some new Moonlandingz material together, but it’ll be some time before we put anything out. ITOP have started recording album number 2 and it’s sounding great so far, hoping to have it done by the start of the summer!
The Notorious Moonlandingz, PHOTO CREDS: Mehdi Benkler
As far as educating goes, what do the International Teacher’s of Pop aim to teach their listeners?
AF: I just want people to listen, dance and be inspired enough to do their own thing and run with it, do something great!
Bask in the strobe lights of ITOP here:
Learn from the teachings of ITOP for the greater good this way:
Buy their gospels here:
Words by Aimee Williams-Maynard