[PREMIERE] Future Pop Duo Empathy Test Releases New EP Demons/Seeing Stars
I’ve heard of synth pop — it’s one of my favorite genres if you’ve seen my main playlist on Spotify. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a synthesizer, so when Empathy Test came my way, and I heard the dark dramatic sonic swoons of synthesizers on their single “Demons,” you know I was in.
This, however, was the first time I’ve been introduced to a genre that is referred to as “Dark wave future pop.” After taking a listen to Empathy Test’s new EP, I could see that we share the love of growling 80s synthesizers, easy-to-sing-along-to choruses, and melodic top lines. Add in the bonus that their name was inspired from the 80s futuristic sci-fi film “Blade Runner,” I can now officially tell you that I’m super into Dark Wave Future Pop, thanks to Empathy Test.
Empathy Test releases their newest EP today with “Demons, “Seeing Stars” and remixes of both tracks included. The tunes have a sexy vibe, and may make you feel like you should be dancing in a vinyl cat suit in a dark club inside the Matrix somewhere. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Another thing that seems to make Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf of Empathy Test truly interesting, is that Empathy Test makes their music a whole package. Including artwork, music, and concept inspired by a whole idea, focusing on the basis of consciousness and the relationship between humans and technology, the mix of elements makes for perhaps some interesting type of musical performance art.
Regardless, dark wave future pop. Listen to it. Press play. And check out our Q&A below with Isaac Howlett of Empathy Test!
EP Track Listing:
DEMONS (Sidewalks and Skeletons Remix)
SEEING STARS (MNYNMS Remix)
We need the origin story – where did you come from? How did you realize you could make music and how did you meet?
We grew up together in a school for children with special abilities. It was run by a man called Charles Xavier. You probably know him as Professor X. He taught us to control our powers and harness them for the greater good.
Where did the name Empathy Test come from?
Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi movie, Blade Runner. In the movie they use an “empathy test” to work out if someone is human or android. They are just about to make a sequel and will probably ruin the franchise, like they did with almost everything. Sadly, no one has got in touch with us to do the soundtrack, but it’s probably for the best.
What are some of your influences? If you were to describe your sound, like Cyndi Lauper meets Guitar metal, what would it be? If you were to tell someone about your music that hasn’t heard it – how would you want it described?
I think Cyndi Lauper meets guitar metal is spot on. Or maybe, “Cyndi Lauper has a terrible break up and buys an analogue synthesiser”. How would we want it to be described? How about, “dark, cinematic electronic pop wrapped delicately in a soft shroud of prevailing melancholia”?
If “Demons” were on a movie soundtrack, set to a specific scene maybe, what would it be and why?
Something with vampires maybe, in a scene where the female vampire makes love to her partner by candle light and then waits until he is fast asleep before feasting on his blood. It’s a dark, atmospheric track which deals with jealousy and how it can eat away at a person and a relationship. I think it would all work perfectly.
What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
It’s about a girlfriend I had at university who I always thought, or was made to feel, was out of my league. It’s a cry for help, as always.
What inspired “Seeing Stars”?
“Seeing Stars” is about a mixture of things. On the surface it may seem to be about falling in love, but really it’s a reaction to this internet culture, particularly on Instagram, of cultivating this perfect image of oneself as one would like to be seen. We take a hundred photos of ourselves in order to get the perfect shot, we delete the ones we don’t like and we try and make our lives look perfect and successful. It’s about falling down hard and learning to get back up again.
Do you pull inspiration for your music from any other visual artists or mediums?
Our artwork, which is produced by Adam, is inspired by sci-fi in general. It explores our relationship with technology and the nature of consciousness. Adam, as well as being a music producer and composer, is a freelance illustrator. He’s interested in creating narrative through art and music and draws his inspiration from all kinds of places; art, design, film, etc.
Is this EP a concept album in any way? What ideas does it encompass?
Is this a concept interview? Haha, no, it’s just two original songs about two completely different things.
Do you think it’s easier to be an artist in the day and age of digital music and Spotify? Do you think it’s harder to connect with people in terms of getting the music out there?
It’s harder to make money, but it’s a lot easier to get your music out there and connect with fans. These days you have to nurture your fan base; find the people who are willing to support you financially, by coming to shows, buying merchandise etc. and look after them. Because they’re the people that will pay your wages in the end, or at least supplement your equally poorly paid day job!
How important are visual elements to you in your live performances?
It’s not something we’ve put a lot of time into just yet, but would really like to. At the moment, the focus is on the performance and the music, but as the stages and audiences get bigger I think it will become more important. We have some visuals we sometimes project behind the stage featuring Adam’s artwork, but I’d like to experiment with some onstage lighting. I have this idea to get a neon sign made of the “E” from Empathy Test as it’s a really interesting shape.
Do you believe that every song is about something? Or do you think songwriters just write what sounds cool?
The first album I knew all the lyrics to was Oasis, “What’s The Story Morning Glory.” I was utterly disappointed when I heard Noel Gallagher say there was no such girl as “Sally” (Don’t Look Back in Anger). I think songs may not mean anything literally, but they’re always about something, whether it’s a feeling or abstract thought process, just like poetry. And people find their own meaning in things.
My girlfriend, for example, thought that Empathy Test’s Here Is The Place, a song literally about choosing a place you’d like to be buried, was about growing up and leaving your childhood behind. And when I thought about it, that made just us much sense as my version, so why not?
What’s next for you? Is there an upcoming tour?
We go on a tour of the UK and Germany from the 16th of September, for two weeks. We start off in Bristol and finish up back in London on the 2nd of October. I literally cannot wait.
Where can we find out more about you? Social media links?