Empathy Test

Stream “Throwing Stones” EP

Stream “Losing Touch”

Stream “Kirrilee”

Tour Dates


The empathy test in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is based on the premise that machines, no matter how advanced, lack compassion. But for childhood friends, Isaac Howlett (vocals) and Adam Relf (production), Empathy Test is about finding emotion in the machine. With soaring synthetic chords, precision beats, and jubilant 80s melodies — all coated in soft, irresistible melancholy — the London-based duo takes inspiration as much from modern acts like CHVRCHES and Purity Ring, as it does from Vangelis and Depeche Mode. But, instead of sounding like a mere update of 80s’ electro, Empathy Test produce a mesmerizing and immersive identity which sets them apart from pretty much everything else currently on the scene. Shadows envelop hymns, a note sustains too long, a lyric confesses too much: It’s the heart of darkness, not compassion, that beats slow and steady.

Despite their childhood acquaintance, the Kent boys grew up in vary different directions. Isaac embraced acting, writing, and singer/songwriter music, while Relf studied sculpture and illustration at Kingston University, becoming immersed in house music and dance production. Such radically different approaches to music became an asset when the two realized their mutual love of 80s electro-pop soundtracks. Beginning with Winding Refn’s Drive, Empathy Test began to head backwards, drawing from Brad Fiedel (Terminator), John Williams (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and James Horner (Star Trek, Aliens). In particular, Relf was intrigued by the way these composers would draw out single notes to the point where the drone took on an off-key quality. Unusually for an electronic band, Howlett writes the songs on an acoustic guitar, with Relf reproducing the harmonics of the guitar on a synthesizer, sustaining some notes to the point of maximum tension, then burying the emotional swell beneath. When this soundscape is mixed with bright arpeggios and Howlett’s powerful and romantic voice, the result is mnemonically alien, yet emotionally familiar.

While the lingering nighttime aesthetic that Relf conjures up provides the initial hook, Howlett’s vocal mastery pushes the stakes ever higher, providing the urgency and romanticism to Relf’s crystalline production. Little wonder that the duo has amassed a sizable and passionate online following: With an insistence on glorious hooks and instantly memorable vocal lines, Empathy Test are refreshingly unafraid to be pop music. Since self-releasing their debut EP “Losing Touch” in February, Empathy Test have picked up thousands of fans via sheer word-of-mouth and late-night tweets, and collaborated with Richard Swarbrick on numerous viral animation videos for ESPN and Liverpool FC. Empathy Test signed to Brooklyn’s Stars & Letters Records in the spring of 2014, with their follow-up EP “Throwing Stones” having released December 9th, 2014.

Press Quotes

“Gorgeous, sumptuous future pop”CLASH


“Genius”IX Daily

“If you haven’t heard about London electropop duo Empathy Test by now then it’s time to do so. Losing Touch is comprised of sensual, enigmatic vocals over dreamy, haunting synths, and all coated in soft, irresistible melancholy. An absolutely mesmerizing debut…”Against The Odds

“Instead of sounding like a rehash of 80s’ electro, Empathy Test have produced a mesmerizing and fantastic identity which sets them apart from pretty much everything else currently on the scene.”Twisted Space

“Haunting evocative electro pop at its finest.”The VPME

“An impressive debut and this is surely a group to keep looking forward to”Pray The Music

“The best soundtrack for your next spring, to chase your next love, to enjoy your next moments of loneliness. Absolutely, definitively magic.”Hotmag

9 out of 10!U & I Magazine

“Like M83, Purity Ring and CHVRCHES, Empathy Test draw from pop and cinematic scores in equal measure and come up with a big dramatic sound that swoons ecstatically between the nostalgic and immediate.”KCRW

“Tonight’s record of the week.”BBC Introducing

“Empathy Test are set to become your newest obsession”Earbuddy

“Mesmerising and immaculate synth pop, where everything is in its right place. It’s layered without ever feeling dense; precise without ever feeling clinical.”Record Rewind Play

“Awe-inspiring and emotionally powerful”Wonky Sensitive

“Remarkably unafraid to be pop music… gloriously full of hooks and strong vocal lines…”Vader Evader

“This is dark, brooding cinematic electro pop, think Fiction Factory meets Purity Ring with a dash of Depeche Mode thrown in for good measure: it may take inspiration from the past, but is very much looking to the future.”Sabotage Times

“An Electronic-pop duo that will blow-up soon…”Sodwee

“Nice soundz. Well done y’all :-)”Ian Cook / CHVRCHES


Empathy Test – Throwing Stones EP

Empathy Test – Losing Touch EP

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