Empathy Test Q&A

If you've been reading here, you'll know I'm a fan of the group Empathy Test and have written about them a few times.  The London based 2 piece synthpop band features long time friends Isaac Howlett on vocals and Adam Relf composing the music.  As a relatively new band, they're polished on all fronts, not just the music, from the artwork for their singles to the website, they've checked all of the boxes.  And, yes, the music is great too.  Their tracks, Losing Touch and Last Night on Earth have been in constant rotation around my house since the debut EP was released a few weeks back.    

To boot, the band seem to be really earnest in their effort to reach the masses with their music.  They've taken to social media, Twitter and Facebook, and have gathered a devoted following.  And those numbers grow each day.  They're a band on the cusp.  Jump on board right now and enjoy the ride.

I reached out to the band yesterday and asked if we could have a Q&A session.  No excessive begging on my part at all, I promise, I just asked nicely.  The band had been real appreciative of some comments and a review I'd posted here, in fact, the main reason for a huge spike in traffic around here.  Speaking of such traffic, much to my surprise, the next morning after posting my review, when I checked my email, I had many Twitter emails for favorites and re-tweets.  Someone had found my blog and the review.  Okay, okay, enough about me, I'll shut up now.  Here's what Adam and Isaac had to say.

Who is Empathy Test and how did the group come about?

Right now, Empathy Test is two friends; me (Isaac Howlett) and Adam Relf. We've known each other since we were kids. I'm a singer/songwriter and have been playing in various bands for years. I write the majority of the songs, while Adam is a digital producer/composer and is responsible for creating all the music. He also does all our artwork.

Empathy Test came about one cold January morning when we were sat in Adam's room talking about the film Drive, which I had seen for the first time a few days previous. It turned out we'd both enjoyed the movie and had both loved the 80s electro pop influenced soundtrack. 

As he often does, Adam pointed out that we could "easily make a track like that". I said okay, let's do it, and we did, right then and there. That track was Losing Touch, the title track from our debut EP. We thought long and hard about a name and chose Empathy Test because it came from another film we love, Blade Runner. It also fit nicely with the style of music we're doing.

What influences your music, not just other music, but other forms of art as well?

Both Adam and I are consumers of all kinds of art and share a love of science fiction in particular. I did a hell of a lot of reading when I was a kid. We both loved comic books and collected stuff like Batman, X-Men, Spiderman. We also watched a lot of science fiction films. 

Adam is a massive fan of movie soundtrack composers like Brad Fiedel (Terminator), Vangelis (Blade Runner), James Horner (Star Trek, Aliens etc.) and I think that basically all of that goes into Empathy Test. 

A few years ago all of that would have made us sound incredibly uncool, but times have changed, hopefully!

What's a good day for you as a musician?

Adam came to the realisation (musically anyway!) not long ago that things are best kept simple, and if something takes too much messing around it's probably not going to work. He used to layer tracks up until his computer burnt out (literally - at least two or three have exploded). 

When something works it works almost effortlessly and that's a good day for us - when everything falls seamlessly into place. You can usually tell within the first half an hour if something is going to be brilliant. That buzz when a track goes from being just a dry vocal and a few chords to something magical is one of the best bits about making music.

How has social media helped the group reach a larger audience?

The internet is one of the best and worst things to happen to musicians. Social media means that the world is on your doorstep. After a month of promoting ourselves online we have fans all round the world; that's truly amazing. But at the same time, if you don't keep up you'll be forgotten in a few days-there's just so much music out there and it's all available at the click of a mouse. It's quite a lot of pressure!  

Best piece of advice you've ever been given about the music industry?

The best piece of advice I've been given is to be selective about the advice you take and what you do with it! Everyone has an opinion and at first it's very easy to try and react to everything anyone says, but you can't please everyone, it's impossible. In the end, as long as you're happy with something, it's all you need to worry about.

What will a live show be like?

I think the live angle will develop as we go, we'll start small and build up. It's the only way really. We've put this EP out there without even really thinking about how we'd perform it live. But we've had a great reaction and of course, the next question is always, when can we see you perform? 

In the past, I've always performed with a guitar, but there's no guitars in this project. I think it'll be two laptops and two synthesisers plus me on vocals. We'll be recruiting another member to play one of the synths. I think you can expect an intense, atmospheric performance the songs dictate!

What's next for Empathy Test?

Live shows and a second EP, which we hope to release through an independent label. It looks like the EP will be called "Making Worlds", as we have a feeling that that track, which is a joint effort writing-wise, is going to be huge. 

The other two tracks in progress are Throwing Stones, a stripped back number reminiscent of College & Electric Youth's Real Hero and Everything Will Work Out, which is as close to Chvrches' The Mother We Share as we'll probably get. 

We've also collaborated with an animator called Richard Swarbrick, who's used Kirrilee as the soundtrack to his latest promo video. That should be appearing on YouTube very soon.

Name 3 songs for a rainy Sunday.

I'm not sure Adam would agree with these choices but he's not writing this so I'll indulge myself. If it's a rainy Sunday and you need cheering up, you can't go wrong with Passion Pit's Little Secrets. 

Another track which can't fail to raise my spirits is Noah & The Whale's Life Is Life. I went to see them at the end of last year and it was one of the best gigs I'd been to all year. But I'm a sucker for a sing along.

However, if you want to wallow in your rainy Sunday gloom, you should check out the fourth track from our EP, Where I Find Myself, with its refrain of "these terrible silence these, horrific injuries are, simply where I find myself now"!     


And, that folks was Empathy Test in their own words.  If you'd like to know more about the band, follow these links -- go now, buy their EP, Like them on Facebook, and Follow them on Twitter.  And be sure to tell them hello.