Empathy Test

After spending some time wandering around the bone-dry deserts of drone, the damp mists of ambient, and the frankly unnecessary territories of ambient-drone, Empathy Test come as something of a tropical oasis for these tired ears… Scantily-clad women prance about playing covers of your favourite 80’s alternative pop tunes on ukelele, waterfalls cast rainbows left right and centre; there are even monkey butlers (in tiny suits).

Later, when the effects of eating out-of-date yoghurt had worn off, I resolved never to listen to them again – in case doing so induced flashbacks hazardous to health. Luckily, curiosity started a small but determined online petition, and after achieving the requisite number of signatures I was forced to reconsider. The technicolour daydreams did not recur, you’ll be interested to hear – but in the sober light of day, I was forced to consider the possibility there was something inherently refreshing about the music this London-based duo make.

The novel part about it is that it’s remarkably unafraid to be pop music. There’s little that says the duo think pop is a dirty word, necessary to obscure under distancing layers of irony, or found sounds manipulated into polyrhythms. It is, in fact, gloriously full of hooks, strong vocal lines and (one imagines) would sound great on the dance floor.

Now before you switch off, I’d like to stress it’s alternative pop here – think The Cure, Chvrches, Purity Ring, Depeche Mode – and wherever we go with them over the course of the EP there’s a core of integrity. We haven’t just decided to feature an unfamous Miley Cyrus. No, this is music with as much depth as it has accessibility – and doubtlessly, if you like any of the above acts (bar Miley) chances are you’ll find something to love here.

This marks one of the first posts in a new format for the site: The Q&A. Not the most experimental idea, to be sure, but not everyone has the inclination to write their own press, shocking as that may be. Through the magic of the internet, we catch up with Empathy Test to chat about their new EP ‘Losing Touch’, just out in Feb – and we even broach some other subjects, too.

For example, the band are adept at creating their own artwork as well as their own tunes – and I’m hoping that if I ask our esteemed editor Mr. Evader nicely he’ll dot some of it throughout, as it’s great – and the two have a long history before even starting the group.

Anyway. Enough babble.

Here’s Empathy Test’s Q&A:

Empathy Test

So first up, just put me at ease about something… The name ‘Empathy Test’ has nothing to do with Dianetics does it?

Yes, we’re Scientologists (we’re not).

The EP has only just been released, but the friendship between you two (Isaac and Adam) has been fairly long-term. How did you first come to make music together? Any musical train-wrecks before you managed to arrive at a sound you were both happy with?

Let’s just say we’ve scoured the internet with a fine-toothed comb in order to erase all traces.

What kind of response have you been getting to the tracks now they’re out there?

Great! As far as we can tell, everyone loves them. Apart from one guy, who kept tweeting that he “didn’t like our band”. We ignored him, and eventually he went away. Best feedback? Iain Cooke from Chvrches tweeting that he loved Losing Touch. No wait, best feedback was from @BreatheIvania, who tweeted  “I love your music! You guys are hella rad. I fancy YOU”. We found that very funny. We haven’t even released any photos of ourselves yet. We wanted to retain some mystique, it’s not that we’re horrifically scarred or anything. Well, not physically anyway.

As electronic musicians, what obstacles have you had to overcome in getting your tracks to sound and look as exciting on stage as they do on record?

As a band that’s still only a couple of month’s old, we still have that obstacle to come. In fact, we’re still looking for a keyboard player. They appear to be a dying breed, or at least everyone is looking for one right now. We have our concerns about taking what is a wholly digital project into the live arena, but we’re hoping our good looks and charisma will overcome all obstacles. That and a MASSIVE light show.

Empathy Test

The artwork is great by the way – who’s behind it?

That’s Adam. He’s a pretty successful illustrator too.

Was it always the intention to do something which drew from both your visual and audio talents, or did the two mediums evolve in tandem?

We’re a band, we needed some artwork and luckily we have an artist in the band. However, we do hope to tie the artwork, music videos etc. together into a unified “world” that sits around the music. We’d like to create some animated music videos with a science fiction theme, but we need a reasonable budget first, so keep an eye out for a kick starter campaign in the near future!

So I’ve tuned in with my headphones on, and nothing but your album artwork and some mind expanding substances (very strong coffee for any overtly PC readers) for company. What kind of world would you want your music to transport me to?

We could say our music is very much a reflection of the post, post-modern world we live in, where startlingly futuristic technology rubs shoulders with an almost obsessive nostalgia; where communication is easier than ever but no one really talks any more, where the person who cares less has all the power. It’s bleak but there’s glimmers of hope; the human spirit will prevail, at least until technology eradicates it completely. But really, we just want to make some great music you can lose yourself in.

Quick-fire question #1 – Mac or PC?


Quick-fire question #2 – Analog or Digital?


Quick-fire question #3 – New Order or Depeche Mode?

Depeche Mode

Final one, #4… The Cure only got the chance to make one album – which one would you prefer it to be?

Disintegration. Obviously.

If the band were reincarnated backwards in time, to an era before electronics, what sort of genre do you think you’d be making music in? Historically accurate or fictional accepted…

Adam would be a classical composer, Isaac would probably be a wandering minstrel of some kind. And by that, we mean the traditional English meaning, not the American one. Obviously.

And finally, what do you hope to see happening here on out for the band?

We’ll sign with a cool, independent electronica label, probably in Brooklyn. We’ll then release a second EP, probably sometime in August, which will be championed by the likes of Pitchfork, Stereogum and Under The Radar, before beginning work on our debut album, which we’ll put out in February 2015. In the meantime, we’ll be honing our live show, playing a few warm up gigs at warehouse parties and smaller London clubs, before setting up a showcase for a major booking agency.

By the time the album drops, that agency will hopefully already be booking us tours and festival slots in order to promote the album. From there, it’s onwards and upwards, The Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury being the Holy Grail, of course.

Keep up with the latest Empathy Test news here
Introduction and interview hosted by Wes Freeman-Smith

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