Online music stumbles are always 50/50. Sometime the music is amazing and your iTunes library is thankful, other times, there is no luck. This past spring I was fortunate to have one of the positive chances of listening to Empathy Test. Since then, they have been an active musical part of my library and a worthwhile addition into the music space. I reached out to the British gentlemen of Empathy Test, Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf, who were kind enough to share with me, their work in music.
To change things up a bit, I started out asking what have been some of their favorite works to date. “Out of the tracks we’ve released, our favorite is probably Hope For Me. It’s a track that doesn’t scream out for attention. It has a cool self-confidence about it. It also has a more modern feel than some of our earlier tracks; acting as a taster for the direction we’re heading with the new ones. Our favorite new track is Sleep, which has a similar vibe to. It envelops you and carries you along with it. Sadly, no one’s stuck a live performance of it up on YouTube just yet.” C’mon people, get that stuff out there!
Performance-wise, the fellas have some high hopes for their next venue. “For us Brits, an appearance on ‘Later…with Jules Holland’ would definitely be a sign we’d fully ‘arrived.’ … A performance on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage would be the icing on the cake of course… What we’ve discovered, as many bands do, is that it’s really tough playing big stages; you often can’t hear what’s going on. The mid-size stages like the one we performed on at BAS2015, a synth pop festival in the birthplace of Depeche Mode, are really where it’s at.”
As every band experiences, there have been difficult performances along the way. I was curious to hear about their stories on the road in this regard. “Definitely Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany in May, where we couldn’t hear ourselves properly on stage. We were playing to at least a thousand people in a gigantic venue, by far the biggest venue any of us have ever played. It’s really scary trying to hold everything together when you’re not quite sure you’re playing in time or singing in tune! Everything’s bouncing back at you with a few second’s delay. We need to get in-ear monitors. Anyway, when we came off stage and went to the [merchandise] stand we were swamped by people wanting to buy CDs and have them signed, so it can’t have been that bad.” In the end, it all worked out for them. Their music is just THAT good.
Empathy Test elaborated a bit on their views on the current music world. “In some ways it’s awesome, you can do pretty much everything yourself without spending a lot of money and the Internet has put the power back in the hands of the musicians… At the same time, that has meant that anyone can do it and so there’s not much in the way of quality control either. There’s a billion other voices out there clamoring to be heard and it’s hard to stand out. You can’t get by on talent alone. Luckily, we’re pretty good at social media!” That is very true; after all, that is how I got hooked on them.
Beyond music the duo have a bunch of other talents. “Adam is an illustrator and does all our artwork. He’s kind of created a visual world in which our music lives. We’d really like to create some music videos to build on that. We just need the budget that will require! Although we’re not really up for gimmicks or concept albums, the idea of creating a sci-fi mini-series that tied in to the music and artwork would be really fun. We’d love to create a few movie soundtracks too.” I, for one, am going keep my eyes out for that mini-series.
Where I Find Myself is my favorite tune of theirs. I was interested in seeing what they would do to progress their sound… “We might tinker around with some of the production on the first EP, bring up the synth hook in Kirrilee for example, as it’s a bit lost in the mix… We’re not going to do a George Lucas and add random CGI Jabba the Huts to our old tracks… As we hinted before, we’d like to move away from the retro ’80s sound that has dominated our first two EPs to create a more modern, progressive electronic sound. It would be great to break out of the fully electronic realm as well, and start adding some acoustic instruments into the mix.”
“Robert Smith is hands down Isaac’s favorite songwriter, singer and lyricist. His voice makes everything sound cool, even when he’s doing a cover of Paul McCartney’s Hello Goodbye. We loved the track he did with Crystal Castles too, proving he’s still relevant after a ridiculously long career. For Adam it would be a film score composer like John Williams or James Horner, who sadly died in a plane crash just the other day.” That was a very tragic day, for those of you who are unaware; Mr. Horner created some of the most memorable soundtrack in film history. One of his most famous would be the score for the film Titanic of which he won an Academy Award. Other than their fellow musicians, Empathy Test finds inspiration everywhere. “We’re fans of art in all forms really, be it painting, sculpture, literature or cinema. The influence of cinema, particularly sci-fi, is obviously a strong one, our name having been borrowed from Blade Runner and our artwork also being sci-fi inspired.”
The boys remain busy. “We are in the middle of a UK tour and working on new songs for our début album, although at the moment we aren’t sure when that will drop. We want to make sure we’re totally happy with all the tracks and the sound before we even think about releasing it… Then we need to find a label to release it too… Before then, there’ll be the Throwing Stones Remixed EP, a collection of remixes of our tracks by some talented friends from around the world. That’s out August 18th.”
To end, Empathy Test shared their most enjoyable and anticipated upcoming movies. “It was ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ Adam [has] seen it and liked it, I (Isaac) [have not] got round to it yet. Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ should be good. Obviously we’re crossing our fingers J.J. Abrams doesn’t mess up the new Star Wars movie, but we won’t get too excited, just in case!” Now listeners can get a good idea of what amazing music and work these two will be doing in the coming years. Give them a listen and then re-watch Star Wars to be on top of things!
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